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
rumors of war I spin the globe — Roberta Beach Jacobson, Cold Moon Journal (2021)
Donal O’Farrell takes close a look:
My first reaction to this poem is an image of the poet consulting the globe to locate the rumored war, perhaps following a news report. Then I’m drawn to reflect that the roots and seeds of war are not so remote after all, but are closer to home: war “over there” because of my/ our behavior here. Further reflection brings the image from Voyager as it leaves our solar system and looks back at this fragile planet — a tiny blue fleck caught in sunlight — and the global wars our species is waging against the planet and its biodiversity. Not so remote after all! Final thoughts: What wars did I wage today and who is suffering as a result? Tomorrow, I’ll try to wage more peace and loving kindness.
Nick T focuses on the spin:
Reading this poem, I imagine a scenario where a politician or a “spin doctor” is trying to influence public opinion across the world at a time of crisis. This could apply to many recent conflicts where propaganda from all sides has played such an important role, especially with the emergence of social media. There is an element of misdirection and distortion associated with the use of “spin,” and this gives the poem a dark undercurrent. Also, I feel the brevity of the poem makes it very stark and adds to this sinister nature. A fascinating haiku which has lodged in my subconscious.
Lakshmi Iyer comes across a solution:
All the unsaid words and expressions fill in the rumors of war. Are they the false headlines of today’s news? Or perhaps the only news that is spreading like fire? Yes, rumors can destroy peace. Rumors can bring mishaps, differences, protest and even war! The poet is obsessed with these falsehoods spreading tiny sparks of fire that collapse a huge wall of peace. She has beautifully found the solution for that: “I spin the globe.”
Something so easy to say and do, but can we escape “bad weather.” Spinning the globe cannot prevent the rumors from spreading. But, it will definitely reduce our mental stress and fatigue. On the other hand, the poet wants to just wipe off even the storm of rumor by spinning the magical globe, which represents the entire manifestation of earth, air, fire, water and ether.
Who doesn’t love to spin a globe? Our hands automatically spin the globe when we first see it. This is what the poet wants us to do — an action that relieves the pressure, that just wipes off all negative energy around us.
Peggy Hale Bilbro examines the hearsay:
Do they ever end, those rumors of war? Roberta Beach Jacobson doesn’t say where the wars might be, or where the rumors come from. It may just be political bluster, or she might be hearing the distant sound of cannons and gunfire. She doesn’t indicate how near or how far in the future the rumors suggest, only that there are those disquieting rumors of war. But then she immediately follows with a gesture we have all made — a spin of the globe. Spinning the globe is often associated with spontaneous plans for a vacation in some far-off land, a desire to escape the reality of our everyday lives. But when coupled so closely with the first half of this monostich, the need to escape takes on a more serious and immediate nature. Where in the world can I go where there is no war, or even rumors of war? Is such a place possible? This poem is filled with a foreboding sense of anxiety and even fear, and the urgent need to escape to somewhere that peace reigns. Is there hope in this poem? Yes, but each reader must decide which is stronger: the hope expressed in a spin of the globe or the fear in those rumors of war.
As this week’s winner, Peggy 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!
The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy.
candlelit shadows we forget we are mortal — Tia Haynes, Acorn, Issue 44 (2020)