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re:Virals 325

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

     varied thrush
     between notes
     the unwavering light
          — Jeff Hoagland, tinywords 20.1 (2020)

Keith Evetts offers a medley of thoughts:

The thrush is surely among the top ten songbirds. In English poetry, the song thrush was immortalized by Thomas Hardy in his moving poem, “The Darkling Thrush”; also by Browning in “Home Thoughts From Abroad”: “Oh to be in England. . . he sings each song twice over, Lest you should think he never could recapture, The first fine careless rapture!”  George Orwell, in 1984, refers to a song thrush that enhances Julia and Winston’s secret meeting: “. . . The music went on and on, minute after minute, with astonishing variations, never once repeating itself, almost as though the bird were deliberately showing off its virtuosity.” In America, where the author of this featured haiku is an environmentalist and naturalist, there are eight species. You can listen to the British song thrush, and the North American hermit thrush,  Swainson’s thrush, and the wood thrush, on short YouTube tracks. They all sing so very sweetly  —  it is a delight.

In this haiku, the author juxtaposes the musical variations of a thrush’s song with the contrasting constancy of the light in which, and to which, the bird is singing. At least, that is what I suppose: for the words “varied thrush” might just be intended to mean any of a variety of thrushes — variations on a theme. A variation is music that is based on the original refrain but is somehow different in rhythm, harmony, or ornamentation. But the light, whether it is dawn, day or dusk, is (fairly) constant for the moments when a thrush is deploying its repertoire.

For me, this haiku succeeds in invoking a number of thoughts in a reader: that we know a thrush’s song, although each bird has variations upon it; that for each dawn there may be (if we are lucky) one thrush or another; that through the years the song of thrushes is a recurrent feature of a dawn, a day, or a twilight, while each bird may live only a few years. Just as our own songs, our own lives are similar but our variations unique, while the things that we sing endure and outlive us.

no bird lives
that sang at my birth —
but the song!

From Theresa Cancro, re:Virals editor:

It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to step down from the position of editor with this issue. Over the past two and a half years, I’ve truly enjoyed all aspects of working on this feature: reading all of the in-depth commentary and making selections, preparing each post, as well as corresponding with the many contributors who’ve submitted their reactions. The good news is that Keith Evetts is taking on the position beginning with next week’s issue, re:Virals 326. I’m confident re:Virals will flourish under Keith’s watch. His bio follows. Please join me in welcoming him!

Retired after living in eight countries, Keith gardens, daydreams and writes in Thames Ditton, UK. He graduated in Natural Sciences at Cambridge, publishing postgraduate research in Nature, the Journal of Physiology, the Journal of Neurochemistry, and the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. More recently, his poems have appeared in The Oxford Magazine and The Linnet’s Wings, with haiku, senryu and sequences in Wales Haiku Journal, Prune Juice, Asahi Shimbun, Cold Moon Journal, Failed Haiku, Heliosparrow, Haiku In Action, Cattails, World Haiku Review, and at The Haiku Foundation; and cherita in The Cherita. Married, with five children, a grey parrot, and a sense of humor

As this week’s winner, Keith has asked me 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 326:

     lattice window —
     the lacemaker pauses
     to gaze at the moon 
          — Hortensia Anderson, tinywords (2004)

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Oh! Its so heartening to say goodbye. But, I enjoyed every moment of our conversation, dearest Theresa and may all the good wishes and happiness come your way.
    Congratulations to the new Editor Keith and looking forward to more of re:Virals.

    1. Thank you, Lakshmi, for your kind words; much appreciated! It *won’t* exactly be “goodbye” as I will serve as Keith’s backup should he need assistance or someone to fill in for him. So, you might hear from me again :> I may well submit some of my own commentary in the coming weeks.

  2. Thank you, Jo, Dan, Shalini, Sushama, Nick T, Carol R., and Alan for your very kind words and comments. I’m truly honored and humbled!
    Best wishes to all this holiday season!

  3. Thank you Theresa for making Re:virals possible all these years. I have enjoyed it and learned so much.

    Welcome Keith. Thank you for the link to the thrush songs and for continuing Theresa’s work. Congratulations.


  4. Thank you Theresa, I looked forward to this column each week and welcome Keith, I look forward to learning from your creativity and knowledge of haiku.

  5. Thank you Theresa for steering Virals with such enthusiasm. I will miss our conversations and your incisive feedback. Keith welcome on board as the new moderator for this feature. I look forward to our interaction.

  6. Thank you Theresa for your hard work as editor of re:virals. I always enjoy the opportunity to discover new poems as well as reading the commentary of other poets. A warm welcome to Keith as the new editor, I look forward to reading your weekly selections.

    1. Thank you Therese for your work. I feel so lucky to have a daily connection with all the offerings of THF including re:Virals. I am always in awe of the depth of peoples interpretation of just three little lines.
      Welcome Keith and I have already made my new year resolution to try and expand my haiku experience by submitting to re:Virals when my imagination is sparked.

  7. Thank you, Radhamani, Peggy, and Keith for your very kind words. It’s wonderful to read them. Keith, I wish you all the best as you take on the role of editor.

  8. Thank you Theresa for all your work keeping this page alive. I’ve enjoyed reading the poems and the responses each week whether I participate or not. Welcome to Keith! I wish you luck as you pick up the reins of re:virals.

  9. e:Virals 325:

    varied thrush
    between notes
    the unwavering light
    — Jeff Hoagland, tinywords 20.1 (2020)

    Thanks to Jeff Hoagland, for this haiku about varied thrush variety.
    Varied thrush is a song bird seen in forests, ferns and fields, jump and joy
    and singing mood. Very colorful and pleasing, these varied thrushes migrate
    in winter; for birds, this migration especially is a boon and necessity.
    Obviously, the second line, “between notes” gives us a clue, expanding
    into a varied context, the thrush while singing, its notes vary with rhythm
    and quick move of capture. The vibration of its song, breaks the silence,
    solitude, creating a new space, a new color, adding a new dimension to forest
    atmosphere, its ambience.
    Name varied thrush itself is attractive, impinges upon a new array of meanings. Could be multicolor like, brown, orange line across the belly;
    The last line “the unwavering light” forays space for readers for more
    and more speculation/ in fact, all the three, varied thrush, notes and “the unwavering line”, are inter connected.
    Though notes, the modulations, vibrations vary, the bird, flies, sings
    amidst “unwavering light “meaning, brightness, sparks in winter, are
    the same, do not waver. A significant contrast between the voice and light,
    former vibrates, the latter does not.

  10. A hearty welcome to Keith Evetts , Congratulations.
    Wishing you Merrry Christmas and Happy and prosperous NEW YEAR 2022.
    God’s blessings on you/
    with regards
    Radhamani sarma

  11. Dear Theresa cancro,
    Subsequent to your following note, I would like to mention we had a wonderful time, through out new learning process.
    Wishing you merry Christmas and Happy NEW YEAR. All God’s blessings on you.
    with regards
    Radhamani sarma

    “From Theresa Cancro, re:Virals editor:

    “It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to step down from the position of editor with this issue. Over the past two and a half years, I’ve truly enjoyed all aspects of working on this feature: reading all of the in-depth……”

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