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re:Virals 30

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

     along the roadside
     Dixie cups
     of summer wind . . .
          — Michael McClintock, Nest Feathers: Selected Haiku from the First 15 Years of The Heron's Nest (2015)

Marion Clarke had her eyes opened by this poem:

I must admit, I thought a Dixie cup was a type of flower — I’ve obviously lived a very sheltered life here in Ireland!

Despite opening with an ominous setting that could have progressed to a tragic image, such as a homeless person or an animal that has been run over, this haiku progresses with those rolling cups to reveal a bright and breezy ending! Enchanting.

And John Stevenson considers it an old friend:

Since this is a favorite of mine, I can’t let it pass without comment. I love poetry that is precise about measuring the unmeasurable. Are these Dixie cups half full of the summer wind or half empty? It seems to me that this is exactly how seriously we should take ourselves. Some may encounter these as unsightly litter, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Others may see in this a moment of unutterable beauty, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Perhaps these are escapees from a child’s lemonade stand. Perhaps these are discarded refreshments for marathon runners. More likely, we have to encounter them as mostly unexplained; the kind of secondary things that Wallace Stevens identified in “Man Carrying Thing.”

Peter Newton has a darker take:

The haiku begins casually enough with an observation of an almost overlooked scene “along the roadside.” But its pivotal second line “Dixie cups” interjects man not necessarily in nature but ON nature and through it. Man as a polluter. And further than that we have “Dixie cups/ of summer wind” as if McClintock is rebranding the summer wind itself. In other words: the summer wind brought to you by Dixie cups. Perhaps a sad commentary on our awareness of nature in the sense that we overlook it until we see the Dixie cups. As Earth Day approaches (April 22) here is a poem about why we need such a day in the first place. A day that ought to function as this poem does — more as a reminder rather than a remembrance.


As this week’s winner, Peter 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!

re:Virals 30:

     radiation leak moonlight on the fuel rods
          — Melissa Allen, Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (2013)
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