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
solemn night how carefully words exit — Richa Sharma, Prune Juice, Issue 33 (2021)
Lakshmi Iyer considers words and actions:
The poet starts her conversation by pointing out that she experienced a “solemn night.” Is that an expression indicating a very serious manner or attitude, a mood? Or maybe it was just a remark that brought out a person’s facial expression, their grave speech, tone, perhaps one of reverence. Is that what the poet experienced one night?
Let’s read the second and third lines and consider what the poet meant by “how carefully/ words exit.” Doesn’t this clearly state the reason for a solemn night? I feel she must have experienced a very serious night and one of reverence, which may have created a respectable silence, to earn a special place for the speaker. A very serious matter may have come up, and this is the reason she cautions that one be very careful when words exit one’s mouth, “how carefully words exit”!
Most of the time, there is a natural tendency to overreact to our thoughts, which is reflected in our actions. This is very easy to say, but quite difficult to act upon. Words flowing from one’s mouth need to be measured in size and sentiment. One needs to balance the circumstances to react appropriately.
Here, the poet has brought a beautiful senryu with a human element: the control of words, actions and thoughts — a state of equilibrium of one human personality.
Nick T takes the opportunity to use his imagination:
I like this poem because it leaves a lot unsaid and so forces me to use my imagination. The first line sets the scene. I associate the night with “dark” subjects, so a solemn night indicates this is a serious, perhaps sad, occasion. The second and third lines really make me ponder. The phrase “words exit” could be a reference to speech. In that case, I imagine a meeting or gathering where someone is having to be very careful what they say. Perhaps they don’t want to cause offense or have their words misunderstood. Or does the phrase “words exit” imply the words are being overheard? Could this be through an open door or through a wall or window if voices are raised, in which case perhaps care is being taken to talk quietly or to use words which would not be understood by someone eavesdropping. This is an interesting poem which leaves me with a sense of foreboding.
Radhamani Sarma takes us through a few connotations:
A close reading and interpretation of “solemn night” leads to many a connotation. This denotes a serious, sober and sad occasion, and also possibly a platform of religious ceremony, especially in the stillness of a night of sobriety. It could be singing a song for the embalmed, performing rites around a coffin; overall, a solemn occasion. At times, one might be looking and addressing the person who is bereaved, his past achievements, shortcomings, etc.
When one is in such circumstances, the situation is so tense and serious, especially when a dismal dark prevails and words are of no jubilation or merriment. In short, words: words to console or appease, even soothing words of wisdom, exit carefully. “Exit” could also possibly mean that words do escape from the mouth of a person, in all earnest, in all sincerity and with concern.
Again, another viable inference is that, as one’s breath goes out, words also exit from the dying or from the surroundings, so carefully that they should not be amiss.
Florin C. Ciobica senses a precautionary air:
The first verse introduces us to a ceremonious atmosphere and makes us wonder what is happening. Maybe it’s a meteor shower or a procession related to a certain religious holiday. Likewise, it may be about a night of vigil. You can feel between the lines the strong emotion, the precautionary veil that envelops everyone who participates in the event.
The adverb in the middle verse seems to convey to us that it is obligatory to choose your words carefully, otherwise the spell will break and everything can have disastrous consequences.
Somehow, this poem transports me to the roots of our origin and causes me to say nothing but a prayer, because “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God…”
In conclusion, this is a poem that attracts us through what it does not say, allowing us to unleash our imagination.
As this week’s winner, Florin 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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rumors of war I spin the globe — Roberta Beach Jacobson, Cold Moon Journal (2021)