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
midwinter the emptiness of acorn caps — Bryan Rickert, Wales Haiku Journal (2021)
Greg Schwartz scans a desolate scene:
Bryan drops us right in the middle of this poem with no fanfare. “Midwinter” evokes a sad, desolate landscape — barren trees, very few birds or other animals to be seen, and everything shaded a dull gray or dirty white.
This desolation is amplified by the empty acorn caps. Acorns contain seeds, which traditionally represent hope and rebirth. However, the lack of seeds here reinforces the theme of barrenness — the winter landscape is dead, with no rebirth in sight.
It’s not uncommon for haiku to lack punctuation, but in this case it accentuates the narrator’s forlorn tone, enriching the image. A fully fleshed-out scene in just six words.
Nick T combs through the sensory details:
An interesting poem which really appeals to my senses. As it’s set in midwinter, I can feel the cold and picture the bleakness, perhaps a woodland covered by a blanket of snow. I can hear the crunch of acorns underfoot, and there’s the damp, musky smell of trees in winter.
There is a melancholy about this poem, with the phrase “the emptiness/ of acorn caps” suggesting something which has no value and has outlived its useful purpose. Perhaps the poet is grieving following a loss or suffering distress for some other reason.
Although it is a sad poem, there are also signs of hope. As winter gives way to spring, the acorns which have dispersed from their caps will germinate and take root, and nature’s cycle of life will resume. Hopefully, the poet will also be able to move on from his grief and sadness to happier times.
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!
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varied thrush between notes the unwavering light — Jeff Hoagland, tinywords 20.1 (2020)