Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English. This week’s poem was
the dance of periwinkle buds it’s a boy — Isabel Caves, The Haiku Foundation's Haiku Dialogue (April 2020)
Lakshmi Iyer appreciates the surprise:
While reading this poem, it took time for me to get to the actual framework of the image the poet has in her mind.
Who or what are these periwinkle buds? And what is the dance she is talking about? Line three has a surprise element: it’s a boy!
So far as I have learned, periwinkles are beautiful ornamental and medicinal plants that grow along the ground. Their sparkling color — white to dark pink — attracts all.
But, this is not what I felt the poem meant. I had to google and read and read until this picture of a cat called Periwinkle came to light: a male kitten in the television series, “Blue’s Big Mystery.” He loves to do magic tricks and is very mischievous; very close to the main character, Blues. Well, maybe there’s a juxtaposition with the periwinkle flower that symbolizes friendship, new beginnings, and also pleasant memories of our family members living with us or even those who are no longer living. Somehow, I feel the poet seems to be attracted to this figure of the magic world tied in with reality. I appreciate the poet’s cleverness of placing a twist in this haiku.
A yearning for childhood days amidst our growing up is what every soul on earth likes to reminisce on. This is a beautiful way of bringing out an unusual thought in a minimalist way. In years to come, Periwinkle will live in everyone’s hearts.
Florin C. Ciobica discerns a revelation:
The first part of the poem brings to the fore the image of periwinkle buds that dance in a breeze. It is likely that the ecstatic admiration of these flowers that are ready to bloom suddenly leads the pregnant woman to believe that the baby to be born soon will be a boy. More precisely, I think that due to the color of these flowers, the blue ones, the woman determines to live an epiphany, to have a kind of revelation. In some cultures, if mothers know in advance what sex the baby will be, they buy clothes before the birth — if it’s a girl, pink clothes; if it’s a boy, blue clothes.
At the phonetic level, it can be seen that certain sounds in the poem, fricatives for example, seem to be consistent with the idea that this is about something masculine rather than feminine.
Let’s hope that the woman will give birth easily, without complications.
Peggy Bilbro teases out a lively connection:
Blue, blue, so much blue! This poem creates a beautiful image of blue periwinkles waving in the breeze, their open blossoms resembling the swinging skirts of joyous dancers as they twirl and spin. But wait! Isabel wrote “buds,” not blossoms, leading us to the final line connecting it all together with the human story of birth. Perhaps this is a gender reveal party and that baby is still just a baby bump, or perhaps the baby has just been born and is being presented to the world with those precious words, “It’s a boy!” No matter, because this poem offers a moment of pure joy. Blue for boy, bud for baby, dance for the excitement over new life, whether of a tiny human or a tiny flower. Eight words full of love of life. Thank you Isabel Caves!
Terri French finds nuance in shades:
On the initial reading of this haiku, I felt the celebration that both dancing and flowers imply. I saw the not-quite-open buds bouncing on the warm breeze as a new life, a boy, was brought into the world. Or. Perhaps, the family had just learned of the child’s gender via sonogram.
The shade of periwinkle blue is not a true blue, but rather sort of lavender — a mix of blue and pink. This lead me to think about the child and what it means to be male or female. We are only now beginning to learn and accept that gender is not always an either/or thing. When our children are born, we really have no idea who they will become. What will they look like? Where will their interests lie? Where will they be on the gender spectrum? They are but buds, waiting to open and we, their parents and loved ones, should celebrate their many shades of being — blue, pink and every color in between.
As this week’s winner, Terri gets to choose next week’s poem, which you’ll find below. We invite you to write a commentary to it. It may be as long or short, academic or spontaneous, serious or silly, public or personal as you like. We will select out-takes from the best of these. And the very best will be reproduced in its entirety and take its place as part of the THF Archives. Best of all, the winning commentator gets to choose the next poem for commentary.
Anyone can participate. A new poem will appear each Friday morning. Simply put your commentary in the Contact box by the following Tuesday midnight (Eastern US Time Zone). Please use the subject header “re:Virals” so we know what we’re looking at. We look forward to seeing some of your favorite poems — and finding out why!
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moss-muffled the woodland stream unravels my secret — Peter Newton, The Searchable World (2017)