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re:Virals 318

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

 
    his death
     added to her litany
     of complaints
          — Tom Painting,  tsuri-dōrō, Issue #5 (2021)

Lakshmi Iyer encounters a complete scene:

“litany of complaints” — What a striking phrase that gives a complete picture of the image built up in the poet’s mind. “Litany” is a persistent list of grievances constantly mentioned. And when it is said as “litany of complaints,” it can be experienced as well.

What made the poet come to such a conclusion? Line one says, “his death.” Doesn’t this sum up the haiku? The litany of complaints continues, endlessly talking about the deceased person’s life, his highs and lows, his journey. “his death” adds more fuel to the fire. And including the word “added” gives the ‘ku a perfect shape. Isn’t this even more sarcastic? A perfect senryu!

Nick T ponders the possible circumstances:

For the death of a person to be added to a litany of complaints implies the death did not register as an important event, but rather is seen as just another problem or annoyance. Under what circumstances could this happen?

Because of the reference to “his” and “her,” I wonder, perhaps, if this relates to a married couple in which the marriage has broken down to such an extent that the death of one party is viewed dispassionately by the other. I can imagine the surviving spouse having a long list of complaints relating to their husband/wife which remain or have increased with the passing. Perhaps “adding his death/ to the litany of complaints” is as simple as adding the word “deceased” after the dead spouse’s name.

Poems about death can descend into sentimentality, so it is refreshing to read one which, dare I say it, has a more cynical and possibly irreverent approach.

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As this week’s winner, Nick 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.

re:Virals 319:

 
     powdered snow—
     a crow’s eyes above
     the no parking sign
          — Alan Summers, Does Fish-God Know (2012)

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Re:virals 19:
    What a beautiful juxtaposition elevated in this haiku which evocates a feel of crow which is INA state of dilemma. The imagery of pondering crow is very clear that appears in the mind of our eye. The fragment enlightens us a pleasing climate with a fine snow for enjoying. Here the phrase of crow’ eyes are above the no park sign board set a mood of crow whether to settle on sign board or to keep mum going in it’s way. A human attitude also reflected in a beautiful manner in the pondering posture of crow looking at the sign board. One side the powdered snow which is the favourite sporting material tempts the crow to perch on or touching snow to enjoy. But the sign bard of no parking put the crow in delimma. Human nature and mood also elevated and reflected in the dilemma situation of crow. Human nature and nature beautifully juxtaposed and set wonderful imageries to the reader for an enjoyable moment. My appreciation to the poet and also to Mr. Nick who has chosen such a splendid haiku for a review in revirals.

    – Chittaluri satyanarayana

  2. Dear Nick T,

    Many thanks for nominating my haiku! I still remember where this occurred! 🙂

    powdered snow—
    a crow’s eyes above
    the no parking sign

    Alan Summers, Does Fish-God Know (2012)
    https://tinyurl.com/doesfishgodknowusa
    https://tinyurl.com/doesfishgodknowUK

    .
    I am really chuffed that this haiku was selected, and that it won a special Japanese contest! 🙂

    .
    powdered snow—
    a crow’s eyes above
    the no parking sign

    Alan Summers
    Joint Winner, Haiku International Association 10th Anniversary Haiku Contest 1999

    Published:
    Haiku International magazine (Japan 1999) and The Mie Times, Japan (1999)

    Collections:
    The In-Between Season (With Words Pamphlet Series 2012);
    Does Fish-God Know (YTBN Press 2012)

    .
    And now, forthcoming…
    re:Virals 319
    The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature
    on some of the finest haiku ever written in English.

    1. Dear Alan,

      Just to explain my choice…. during the first UK Covid lockdown I read a lot of haiku. This was before I started putting pen to paper myself. Two of your haiku really resonated with me and, as it happened, they were both about crows! One was the poem I have just chosen for Virals 319 and the other was:

      a hooded crow
      pecks just outside
      the penalty area

      In the end I chose ‘powdered snow’ for Virals but it was a close thing!!

      Reading these poems together with your other work was my inspiration to start writing haiku and I am thoroughly enjoying the start of what I hope will be a long and enjoyable journey. Thank you so much.

      1. Dear Nick T,

        Ah, another Bristol haiku, to me, and just up from the street from the crow on a no parking sign! Though different season, as it was Autumn for the hooded crow.

        a hooded crow
        pecks just outside
        the penalty area

        Alan Summers
        Publication credit: Watermark: A Poet’s Notebook – Crows (2004) ed. Sharon Brogan
        Feature: THF Per Diem series Look To The Sky (2013)

        Glad you enjoyed both of them! 🙂

        Keep enjoying the journey, it’s a never ending destination I don’t mind.

        warm regards,
        Alan

  3. .
    tsuri-dōrō – a small journal of haiku and senryū
    Tony Pupello, Editor
    Issue #5 – Sept/Oct 2021

    Featured Poet – Tom Painting:
    https://tsuridoro.org/issue-5-sept-oct-2021

    .

    his death
    added to her litany
    of complaints
    — Tom Painting, tsuri-dōrō, Issue #5 (2021)

    .
    I wondered that along with the long list of mishaps and incidents, that ‘his’ death was yet another horrible addition to all the ill luck that kept on occurring? I should really ask Tom! I had the fortune to be in a small group where he was the only American. 🙂

    .

    And it’s well worth checking out the other haiku in his guest poet feature including…

    .
    detour
    she returns my hand
    to the wheel

    Featured Poet – Tom Painting:
    https://tsuridoro.org/issue-5-sept-oct-2021

  4. I picked this senryu for the scope it has for meditation and personal reflection.

    We all know the stereotype of the complaining woman; who thinks she is put-upon, that her life is miserable, her husband terrible; who likes to tell everyone about it. And (as I pointed out in introducing it) the roles could easily be reversed: some men are just as picky, just as boring. These days, it may be fashionable automatically to accept the woman’s case, that her man is terrible (and by extension, other men) . But notionally putting the roles the other way round exposes that unbalanced approach. Lastly, how very boring it is for others to have to listen to one-sided monotonous complaints….

    The verse very neatly takes us beyond that simple and perhaps cynical picture by making the husband’s (or wife’s) death itself a thing to complain about. Aha! – so, now he’s gone, perhaps he’s missed. Now the reader brings further thought to the situation. The couple presumably loved each other at the outset of their relationship. Now one is dead, the other’s complaint may reveal how much they are missed. Probably the love is still there. It is a big thing. Yet in the intervening period together, they allowed it to be overcome by acrimony, in the cumulative bitterness of many small complaints. How many of us, in long term marriages or relationships, forget the underlying love and allow picky, petty matters to surface, eroding it? Even a little criticism from one’s partner, or of one’s partner, can hurt, or be taken the wrong way. It is surely not worth allowing petty complaints, like the straws accumulating on a camel’s back, to lead to breakdown. In our own marriages we’re no saints, but when we want to point out something we’d like to be done differently, perhaps we should take great care, curb our irritation, and be constructive. Often, I tell myself first that this or that ‘little thing’ is not a marriage-breaking issue! For we don’t want to end up like Tom Painting’s couple….

  5. Congratulations dear NIck T for your wonderful analysis. Going through the following, so meaningful, appreciate.

    “For the death of a person to be added to a litany of complaints implies the death did not register as an important event, but rather is seen as just another problem or annoyance. Under what circumstances could this happen?”

  6. e:Virals 318:

    his death
    added to her litany
    of complaints
    — Tom Painting, tsuri-dōrō, Issue #5 (2021)

    Many thanks for giving us a write by Tom Painting, senryu, though the theme
    a sorrowfully twined, really painful one. The bereaved sees many reasons
    attributing to her loss. Not necessarily, the woman’s husband, anybody who
    was close with her, with whom she had affinity, or long-standing relationship,
    whom she could not forget;

    “ his death” is irreconcilable loss. His death could be due to debts, imprisonment, love failure, impulsive decision to end up his life, may be
    Short life, away from house, maintaining distance due to bitter feeling, or
    difference of opinion, even suicide , even frustration leading to heart failure etc; what ever may be , persona refers to “ his death”….
    Second and third line leading on to “ added to her litany /of complaints/
    expansion could be thus: afflicted woman, putting all these or his death rising
    out of immediacy or unpleasant moment, added her pain to her prayers, appeal to the Supreme, seeking his intervention, may be for recovery of his soul, rejuvenation, or ‘ may his soul rest in peace’
    But, the last line, “ of complaints” culls out many a reference; added to her
    Prayer of complaints, could be the lack of Mercy of God, could be the victim’s
    Bad habits which could have been rectified, a moment of his bickering, leading a void to their lives and many such similar conjectures.

    A litany, storehouse of her prayer, mourning, complaints, grievance cell etc,
    Well crafted here.

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