Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly commentary feature on some of the best contemporary haiku and senryu written in English. This week’s poem, proposed by Harrison Lightwater, was:
where nobody bothers wildflowers
— Meera Rehm
The Heron’s Nest Volume XXIV, Number 1, March 2022
Introducing this poem, Harrison writes:
This plain one-line haiku of only four words stirs up a range of thoughts without making any fuss or trailing the personal emotions of the poet. Seems to me that it’s in a true spirit of haiku. What do other readers think?
Just four well-chosen words leave much space for a reader to think about. The pivotal word is “bothers,” which can be read transitively or intransitively, and the joy of this monoku is the many inter-related notions it conveys. At face value we have a picture of wild beauty undisturbed by any human presence. Then, we have the thought that wild flowers may be relegated to the places nobody uses for other things, in places nobody cares about. Or that wild flowers will just grow whether or not humankind gets involved, so there! For a gardener, there’s the contrast between culivated plant varieties and their wild relatives, although anyone who tries to follow the current horticultural fashions for meadow gardens or re-wilding will know that they too entail quite a bit of “bother.” A charming and likeable monoku that … grows on you.
This wonderfully evocative monoku by Mera Rehm leaves the meaning to be filled in by the reader. We are given no specific setting which allows for two possible readings. Is it where no one cares for the land that the wild flowers grow? Are we in an abandoned city lot full of rubbish where wildflowers have taken root to beautify that little spot? Or are they the only memory of a long-ago disappeared farmhouse where they follow a path that no longer leads to a door? However, as we look again at the poem we see that it can be read as one phrase, telling of a place where nobody bothers the wildflowers, a place where they grow with wild abandon since no one comes to pull them up or cover them with sod or asphalt. Lucky the trekker who stumbles upon this corner of Eden where nature has free rein, unencumbered by bothersome humans. Either way it is read, this poem speaks to the resilience of wildflowers and the jolt of beauty wherever they are found.
An extremely economical monoku. Almost lyrical. And beautiful. It draws you in to ponder. I could read it in two ways: one, with a pause after “bothers”, and two, without any pause, to be read seamlessly. The nuance of meaning is close between both these ways.
1. where nobody bothers (pause) wildflowers
It’s obviously pointing to a locale which is isolated, and perhaps that’s the reason it will do, whatever that is. It’s almost like a direction. The last word “wildflowers” then is an additional landmark, added with perhaps a smile, for bringing beauty to nature. The four words are almost like a brief answer to a question the poet has been asked.
2. where nobody bothers wildflowers
This reading of the monoku also points to a surrounding, but here there is an additional lauding of this fact. It’s where wildflowers are left alone. They are not cut, or pruned or destroyed. The word “bothers” immediately shows the poet on their side. She wants them to be ‘not bothered’, and is happy they are in this state. She seems to strongly support natural beauty in solitude that is unspoilt by human interference.
Could there be a third implied meaning where the poet is comparing wildflowers to humans? There is no sure way of knowing of this.
For me, Wordsworth’s neverending line of golden daffodils flashes to mind. These wildflowers too seem to be plentiful, growing perhaps also near a lake… or a river or in fields or near a mountain or moor …or somebody’s estate? I wonder what colour they are? Or are they a riot of colours? Are they too “dancing in the breeze”? Lingering on the four words, let us awaken our “inward eye” …
A four-word monoku that opens up into multiple possible readings. On first reading, I sensed wildflowers as the direct object of bothers, which makes the entire poem one cohesive phrase. On further readings, I treated wildflowers as a fragment separate from the rest of the poem (this reading might be more obvious if the poem were “wildflowers where nobody bothers”). Focusing on the phrase “where nobody bothers” reveals additional layers of possible meaning. For example, “nobody bothers” could imply an unstated object (“nobody bothers me”) or it could mean a more general not-bothering (“nobody cares”). While this sense of not bothering might usually carry a negative connotation, in this case it results in the positive of wildflowers. Bravo!
Radhamani Sarma is enchanted:
Meera Rehm encompasses a comprehensive view of reasons, schedule, place and point of view as to why “where nobody bothers wildflowers”. Me hailing from India, it now being summer, I view from the balcony a spiralling growth of wildflowers opposite my home, all colorful, copious, in a way, to be candid, enchanting.
“Where nobody bothers wildflowers” – the accent being where but not why: one viable inference is that wildflowers, fragrant or not, don’t require meticulous planting, pruning, watering or tending with man’s individual scrutiny and care. Spontaneous, uncared for, they nod and smile, unmindful of the fact, whether anybody comes to pluck or admire. Do wildflowers in their totality denote a state of unwanted growth where even careless trampling could be condoned? A wonderful monoku with many a connotation.
Meera Rehm – the author’s comment:
Many thanks to Harrison Lightwater for selecting my monoku, and to the host of re:Virals, Keith Evetts.
It is said, a haiku comes to you if you keep your eyes open. That’s exactly what happened to me. Just outside the perfectly maintained Abbey Garden in my town, my heart was captured by a patch of colourful weed flowers under a tree leaning to the Thames. That made me think over and over.
I look forward to the readers’ thoughts
Thanks to all who sent commentaries. As the contributor of the best commentary this week, Radhamani has chosen 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, which take their place in the THF Archives. Best of all, the winning commentary’s author gets to choose the next poem.
Anyone can participate. Simply use the re:Virals commentary form below to enter your commentary on the new week’s poem (“Your text”) by the following Tuesday midnight, Eastern US Time Zone, and then press Submit to send your entry. The Submit button will not be available until Name, Email, and Place of Residence fields are filled in. We look forward to seeing your commentary and finding out about your favourite poems!
ruffled by the wind
— Garry Eaton
tinywords, 19:2, October 28 2019
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Meera Rehm lives in Abingdon-on-Thames, usually known simply as Abingdon, UK — 80 miles upriver from me… Her haiku are widely published and successful. Recent examples:
understanding the way
— Meera Rehm
2nd Prize, Autumn Moon Haiku Contest 2021 (Autumn Moon Haiku Journal, November 2021)
the tensile strength
of my hope
— Meera Rehm
First Place, Vanguard Haiku, World Haiku Review Winter 2021/22 (March 2022)