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
into a wild boar’s dream the thud of an acorn — Réka Nyitrai, while dreaming your dreams (2020)
Donal O’Farrell senses much energy:
The array of dualisms and the symbiotic relationships between the various elements sets the poem spinning with such generative energy. Also, I find these such evocative images: When I see the wild boar the whole forest comes to life. Wild boars have been often reintroduced as rewilding efforts to stimulate and protect forests. And the wild boar needs the forest, too. Then there is the acorn and the oak! The interdependencies hum like a Möbius strip seamlessly switching from boar to forest, from acorn to oak, but also from dream to reality — I love the idea of the boar’s dream.
Then, too, there is the shadow of the dream — the nightmare of what is happening with the destruction of forests. The poem’s gyroscope just keeps on spinning!
Lakshmi Iyer is wonderstruck:
I just couldn’t relate much to this senryu or haiku, whatever the poet had in her mind about it. But, I’m wonderstruck with a wild boar’s dream and connecting that with the thud of an acorn! Sometimes, the most serious matters are conveyed in such a light vein or a very light topic is shown in a very serious manner. Either way, the poet has spoken of the mighty boar’s dream when it heard the sound of an acorn. Sound, sight, perception take us very deep into the poet’s imagination.
Can the sound of an acorn bring any difference to a wild boar? Or perhaps, that’s the reason dreams are mentioned.
The fall season and then the hibernation: Does this bring any connection? Well, it actually doesn’t matter at all. Hence, the line starts with “into a wild boar’s dream”; and then “the thud of an acorn.” Is that the actual sound of an acorn, or is it “Plop!” — getting squished or getting ready to bloom into an oak tree. This speaks of strength, of grit, of determination.
The “thud” is that of a wild boar, isn’t it? And to give that sound to an acorn is quite humorous and ironic, too!
Well, I loved the poem on the whole.
Alan Summers embraces the surreal:
First of all, I’m immediately reminded of this famous haiku:
shishi ga kite kuuki o taberu haru no tooge
wild boars come
to eat the air
English version by Alan Summers
Haiku as Life: A Kaneko Tohta Omnibus: Essays, an Interview, Commentaries and Haiku in Translation, by the Kon Nichi Translation Group (Red Moon Press, 2019) Note: The front cover of that book has a photograph of the stone memorial of the wild boar haiku.
Both poets are embracing animism, an ancient religion respecting all forms of life (inanimate and animate), not merely humans. And the use of a single line where both author and reader enter “into a wild boar’s dream” and hear “the thud of an acorn” makes us both the protagonist of the poem and the dream itself.
Here, the dream makes us one with another wild animal (yes, haven’t you heard, humans have not been “tamed” as such), and we are enabled to go back to the basics. Both boars and humans are huge consumers of food, on a scale where we might take from other species.
The single-line haiku places us most likely into the acorn hunting season of October in Japan or September to October elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.
The single line dynamics work well here, in this haiku by Réka Nyitrai, as this reader feels like they are inside the dream, becoming alive with reality with a thud of an acorn.
The blurb I wrote for this wonderful book called while dreaming your dreams (Mono Ya Mono Books, 2020): “I appreciate these haiku that can go beyond the present moment: Everything is ongoing, it’s simultaneously past, present, and future. Sometimes we need to turn to surrealism as a way to embrace uncomfortable truths.” Alan Summers
Sushama Kapur winds her way through the boar’s dream:
The preposition “into” with which the monoku begins may have more than one function: Not only does the acorn thud “into” the animal’s dream to fall down, but we, the readers, find our way “into” the dream to listen to the acorn thud! Also “into” suggests another kind of movement, somewhat internal in the reader, as we appreciate the two juxtaposed images: a wild boar dreaming/ an acorn falling with a thud.
The onomatopoeic quality of the word “thud” could be noted here, too, as it adds collectively to the physicality of the monoku. It’s the only auditory word in the one-liner and thus grounds it in the otherwise intangibility of a dream world.
But can wild boars dream? We grapple with this strangely quaint idea or thought (although the possibility cannot be discounted, according to some research), and we quickly fall into a “what if” area ourselves. What if they can dream? And what if the readers could see this dream? That would surely be more than a surreal experience!
In the natural world, it’s a fairly well known fact that acorns are a favorite food of wild boars. Perhaps that is why an acorn makes an appearance in this boar’s dream. Imagine a boar sleeping under a tree in a nest of leaves of its own making or in the shrubs away from all predators. And then it starts dreaming of a food it loves. It can hear an acorn fall on the ground, which would make the nut accessible to it. Or perhaps the boar has recently feasted on an acorn or two and is dreaming of getting more. Or, indeed, perhaps it hasn’t and misses the food so much that it manifests in its dream. Or maybe an acorn actually does fall nearby, and we could then visualize the animal waking up alertly to possibly trot off warily towards the spot in order to gorge on it.
Incidentally, the minuteness in the choice of words can be applauded here as we note “a” wild boar and “an” acorn. Not more than one acorn, but just one! Makes you appreciate the poet’s sensitive awareness of the heightened sense of hearing present in animals.
This thread of thought in the monoku, of a wild boar dreaming of a falling acorn reminds me, for some reason, of a story for children, Ferdinand the Bull. Probably so because its creator (Munro Leaf), too, has endowed endearing human-like qualities upon an animal who loves to smell flowers in the pasture rather than take part in bullfights.
And here we have this wild boar who has fallen into a dream, which oddly is so human-like, too. Wild animals, or all animals really, are usually alert even as they sleep. This boar is sleeping deeply enough to be dreaming of its favorite food. The thought is so very heartwarming.
Now doesn’t that make you want to gift it with a bag of the finest acorns?
Joshua Gage enters the synesthesia:
What I like most about this poem is the synesthesia. We have a wild boar — a distinct visual image, to be sure, but one that contains elements of olfactory imagery. This is juxtaposed with the sound of the falling acorn.
The size is important here, too. We have a boar, which is over 200 pounds, juxtaposed against a tiny acorn. However, Nyitrai makes this even more successful by subverting our expectations of everything. Boars are known for being instinctually aggressive and angry. However, this boar isn’t even conscious, so we have the natural elegance of a fierce creature in a moment of rest and quiet. Acorns, on the other hand, are not known for their noise. Certainly, during autumn, one might hear acorns falling on the concrete or car roof of a city or suburb, but they are not normally known for being loud. Nyitrai subverts this by giving the acorn a sound, and not just a sound, but a thud. This is a loud, dull sound and one that creates a new image for the reader.
Sonically, this poem is quite subtle and beautiful as well. The “oar” of “boar” resonates against the “or” in “acorn.” This soft internal rhyme is not made too obvious, but it also serves to create an aural connection between the words and their denoted meanings. These sounds seem to bookend the haiku and create a soft moment that’s very surprising but delightful.
As this week’s winner, Joshua 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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exposing the stamen fuckboi — Lori A Minor, ant ant ant ant ant (2020)