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re:Virals 362

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 Amoolya Kamalnath, was:

sugar season
a boy with his ear
to the bucket

— Brad Bennett
The Heron’s Nest, Volume XXIV, Number 2: June, 2022

Introducing this poem, Amoolya writes:

Is sugar season about Christmas or is it just about any sweet or is it something else which is a delicacy but not had everyday? This boy seems to be very fond of this sugary temptation. On an another level, is he eagerly awaiting some good news? I’d like to revel in the different interpretations this sugar season might bring about.

Opening comment:

Given that the author resides in Massachusetts this must be the extraction of syrup from the sugar maple, acer saccharum, generally in spring when the sap rises. The poet has caught the anticipation, perhaps the impatience, of the listening boy to taste the syrup and/or take pride in the achievement of its collection. It might even be the first moment of his first attempt to tap the maple — a skill satisfying to a young hunter-gatherer. He will want to show his Mom. Well composed, concise, sweetly alliterative seasonal reference, enough information and suggestion for the reader to make deductions, with no verb needed. Ting!

Radhamani Sarma:

Nice to read and know about sugar and the sugar season. Here in India, during January, the beginning of year, sugar cane — a prosperous symbol of religious festivity in every household, an auspicious start. Starting from September the sugar season abounds in activity related to the sugar industry.

Brad Bennett interestingly weaves a write with a boy in the center. In the sugar season, it’s needless to mention impact on human beings in general. Here in the second line, a boy is mentioned and how he puts his ear to the bucket: with candid vigor and humor, the poet takes the boy to the bucket, leaving the conjecture to the readers’ fertile imagination.

Maybe the boy drinks sugarcane juice, abundant, beyond surfeit; perhaps his loving mother enjoys the scene, caring dad gives an allowance for some more sugar cane juice, cups more and more into boy’s mouth, overpouring beyond his ears; from mouth all though to his ears, imagine the impact!
Another conceivable inference is that the boy filled with desire dips his face almost with his ears touching the bucket where sugarcane juice is stored to the brim. Young boyish thrills, boyish pranks, and buoyant.

Some quotes in general on sugar: “There’s no problem too large that sugar can’t solve.” “Call me cute and feed me sugar.”

Wendy Bialek:

I’m guessing that sugar season has something to do with getting that sappy substance from maple trees to make the sought-after syrup poured on hot pancakes on cold mornings. And that this places the haiku in the colder seasons in my hemisphere…(northern). Though I have never gone tapping, I have studied and painted watercolour scenes and hung calendars on my walls with images depicting buckets hanging from trees with blue shadows and heavy leather boot prints in deep snow… now going to wiki to help the journey into Brad Bennett’s haiku…

What is the “sugar season”? — In the USA, synonymous with maple season, the time to tap specific trees for sap.

When does the season begin? — February-early April

Best time and conditions to tap? — Right before the target trees go to budding. March is considered the ideal month for sap flow; in general when the day temps are no more than 40 F(5 C) and nighttime temps no lower than 20 F (-5 C). The maple season can last one day to one in a half months and may be intermittent.

How is tapping accomplished and what tools are required? — A drill to drill the hole, a hammer to tap a spile gently into hole, (a spile directs the sap into a bucket while insulating the hole from contaminants and provides the hook to hang the bucket) a bucket often made of metal these days holds the sap, and its cover keeps debris
out during collection.

Can any tree be tapped for syrup? — Any species of maple tree, birch, beech, walnut, alder, box elder, butternut, Japanese walnut, buartnut, sycamore, linden, ironwood, hickory, elm, palm, poplar.

Tapping into Bennett’s haiku: a boy is placing his ear to the bucket… he is listening for a sound, the sound of the run of sap to begin… those starting plink, plinks of drops into a metal bucket… and the time between them, to get an idea of the rate flow of sap. For me the moment captured here reflects the current tender spiritual state of the universe…. aren’t we all waiting to hear good news? Something good to make it easier to feel our inner calm… something to fill the sweet tooth of our collective consciousness and widen our enlightenment while tapping into our souls! Haven’t we all been having our ears to the bucket? I don’t think so! Is Bennett telling me through the boy’s behavior to hang up my bucket and just wait? I don’t think so!

Tapping in deeper, I believe a message is how do i go about finding truth: do I first find the best time and the best source, have adequate tools… then do I become more active and informed about reality; listen, experience the truth for myself… hearing the story first-hand from nature (or the original source) and engage myself on relying and being directed by truths from life experience not trickled down from rumour?

Bennett’s haiku, written in shasei style, a sketch from life, to me becomes a model for life. If I had personally gone collecting sap myself, I wouldn’t have had to go to wiki.

Sandra Regan

As I read this, I find myself with a list of questions. What is “sugar season”? Where is this taking place? Why? What’s in the bucket? How big is the bucket? What colour is it? Does it have a lid? Who carries it and empties it? Where is it emptied? Where does it go? What happens then? Why is the boy listening to the bucket? How old is he? What does he expect to hear? Does he hear it? If not, what does that mean? Who else is around? All I know is that it relates to sugar somehow – sugar cane being harvested maybe, somewhere hot? Or sugar beet, somewhere colder? Or some kind of cooking activity involving sugar? How is it possible for 3 lines to prompt so many questions? I’m really hoping for answers as I feel I want the whole story of this teasing snapshot!

A. J. Anwar:

I really enjoy reading commentaries in re:Virals, listening to the colorful minds of the commentators about the way haiku arrive to them. Having said that, I usually prefer to just read the commentaries instead of writing one. This one is an exception.

Reading this haiku brought me back to childhood moments, particularly the playful part. I have to admit I am not familiar with any “sugar season,” the context of this haiku. But I imagine this has to do with sugar cane harvests. Or is it more about “maple sugar season” in Massachusetts, the state where the poet resides?

Nevertheless, when a haiku is offered, a reader is free to experience it the way the haiku speaks to him/her. That’s why I am picturing more of a boy helping his family’s home industry business in sugar processing. Perhaps, he is tasked to transport the extracted juice from one place to another, by using a bucket.

Now, picture a boy with a bucket over his shoulder walking carefully, his right ear to the bucket wall and the sugar liquid inside swayed in a rhythm. He has to measure his pace in order not to spill the content. For me, trying too hard to dissect this haiku is not necessary, because the imagery I prefer is simply about a boy listening to an unlikely music of the sugar season.

As a boy, I myself might not be happy doing that kind of work. And yet, if one must, one has to find something to make a joy of it one way or the other. A lot more other things may have been in the boy’s restless mind, as a life of growing up is upon him, and he is doing the best he can, even if reluctantly.

I have read some other haiku by Bennett online and always love them. Like other seasoned haiku poets, he has an awesome skill to make things simpler yet deeper and deeper the more you come back to them. A good choice for re:Virals by Amoolya Kamalnath, a delight to anyone who reads it.

Madeleine Basa Vinluan:

I see a person remembering his young days especially the pleasures of his own sweet season. Putting his “ear to the bucket” he digs into himself and remembers his good harvest memories that he has preserved in this bucket. But when he remembers he also recalls the temptations, and even hardships, that came with his sweet season. This is the result of having “his ear to the bucket” which also hints of his desire to gain back the happiness of his “sugar season” in whatever way he can and whatever the cost. Somehow, he still sees himself as that boy enjoying his youth! The poem, to me is an expression of the yearning for happiness common to people past their “sweet” days. Beautiful, expressive poem.

Sharon Ferrante:

This haiku is a pleasure, it sets you in a very original time, sugar season, the great imagery with the boy with his ear to the bucket has you joining him, waiting for the sweet stuff. A wonderful haiku, sweet all around.

Jan Stretch:

When a first read doesn’t grab me it is often because I need to sit with it a bit longer. I am so glad I returned to this lovely haiku to give it a chance to take me on an interesting journey.

My journey began where it often does, with a literal look, and I wondered why a boy would have his ear in a bucket? Fortunately the first line “sugar season” took me elsewhere and I was in Quebec, Canada for the Maple Syrup run. I imagined a young lad from many years passed being charged to “keep his ear on” or check the buckets that were attached to the tapped tree to make sure the precious golden syrup did not overflow. These days I expect they rely on newer technology and not child labour.

I recalled a recent experience of seeing an older woman hugging a tree – she told me that if she breathed slowly with the tree and connected deeply enough for long enough she could sometimes hear the sap flowing inside it.

And with that memory I wondered if the boy in the haiku also had the gift of hearing the sap flow. I imagined it was very serious work for him with the great anticipated reward of pure sweet gold on his hotcakes!

Finally I see and feel the gifts of this haiku. I ponder the lessons learned by the boy and me: lesson of work and reward; that sweet things are worth waiting for; and especially that communicating with the trees is a sweet and precious gift!

Thank you for this lovely haiku and the journey it took me on!

Lorin Ford:

Though at first I imagined “sugar season” as indicating the season for cane-cutting, when sugar cane is harvested and sent to the mills and local kids get to suck the sugar juice from the freshly cut canes, I thought again and considered the 4th line + that “bucket”. I’d say “sugar season” here in context is definitely a Northern North American “season” : that of extracting sap from the indigenous maple trees and then concentrating it by boiling it down

The boy may be listening to the drip, drip of maple sap from a tree into the bucket, and I imagine he’s looking forward to the time when the sap is processed to maple syrup (which is sweet). It’s as likely, though, that he’d be listening to the thicker liquid that’s been boiled down. This process happens in what they call a “sugar shack”, which is warm from the boiling process. I imagine the boy is looking forward to the time when the sap is processed to maple syrup (which is sweet).

A very nicely done haiku which says just enough for readers to enter and infer the natural season (winter/spring edge) and the boy’s happy involvement in the whole process of making maple syrup. Pancake day isn’t too far away, I imagine.

Rupa Anand – unstated yet vivid sensory scope:

Thank you, Amoolya, for choosing this rather unusual poem.  It opens with a kigo, the traditional seasonal reference that defines the season the poet wishes to highlight. It almost immediately catapults the reader into what is happening here. The two words of L1 took me, presumably, to sugarcane harvesting in India, as we have a lot of that in this part of the world.

However, L 2 and 3 were the real indicators of getting the geographical location right. I read in his interview with the Haiku Foundation in October 2021 that the poet, Brad Bennett is a member of the Sugar Maple Haiku Group. Bingo! So, that set the location in the US and the period of the maple syrup season as February to March when most sugar makers begin harvesting sap from maple trees.

Pure maple syrup is a natural and nutritious sweetener, a smart choice to use for topping off pancakes, ice cream or as an addition to family recipes. Did you know it takes 30 to 50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup? Maple syrup is boiled down and concentrated sap. To tap a maple tree, you will need, among other things, a bucket with a cover (to keep things from falling in). Google videos depict traditional galvanised buckets hanging from maple trunks. The procedure for sap-tapping has many technicalities. Warm days are essential for the sap to run up from the roots and cold nights for the sap to run down back. It is this up and down movement that enables sap collection into containers or buckets. Then, later there is the method of boiling the sap to convert it into sweet maple syrup.

Lines 2 and 3 begin in the middle of things, so to speak, activating the experience of the moment. By way of language, there is brevity, simplicity, and an everyday charm to a hobby, obviously well understood and enjoyed. The tone is sincere, and there is both the subjective presence of the poet and the objective observation that I felt in this poem. The boy with his ear to the bucket could be a hired hand, or the farmer’s son assisting in sap collection. Perhaps, he has been instructed to put his ear to the bucket to determine the flow of sap? I’m a little unclear on this as he can open the lid and peep in. The sensory possibilities are vivid in an unstated manner. I can visualise the drip-drip of the sap into the bucket! Pancakes, anyone? On the flip side, I may be wrong.

Author Brad Bennet comments:

The Ipswich River Audubon Sanctuary in Topsfield, Massachusetts, USA is one of my favorite places to walk. It’s a great spot for birds, and I’ve seen deer, coyotes, muskrats, beavers, and otters there. They also tap sugar maples and boil their own syrup in a sugar shack on site.

One morning during late winter, I was walking past a stand of tapped maples when I heard the plink of a drop of sap in the nearest bucket. I started wondering if they all sounded the same. So, I walked around the grove, listening to each bucket’s sound, noting that they did, in fact, make different tones, perhaps because of the varied levels of sap and the angles of the buckets. The music of sugar maples. I first came up with this haiku:

sap season
a singular pitch
to each bucket

But I wondered if it left too little dreaming room for the reader. Later that morning, I walked past the maples again. I observed a family checking out the sap buckets, enjoyed one boy’s curiosity and glee, thought of different kigo (perhaps “sugar season” might be a little more novel and alluring than “sap season”), and came up with the haiku published in The Heron’s Nest:

sugar season
a boy with his ear
to the bucket

Perhaps the boy in the poem is following Basho’s advice to tap into the dynamic, creative energy of nature, otherwise known as zoka. Thanks, Amoolya, for choosing my poem!


Thanks to all who sent commentaries. As the contributor of the commentary reckoned best this week, Rupa Anand 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. All with respect for the poet. Out-takes from the best of these take their place in the THF Archives. Best of all, the chosen commentary’s author gets to pick 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!

heirloom tomato
finally comfortable
in my own skin

— Annette Makino
Frogpond 40:2, 2017

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.


Gratitude to all the readers who contributed such enjoyable commentaries this week.  Hard to choose.   Such valuable and rare feedback to a poet.

Brad Bennet, an elementary school teacher in the Boston area for over twenty years, is The Haiku Foundation’s co-chair of Education resources and also haiku and senryu editor for Frogpond. He won a Touchstone award for his first chapbook “a drop of pond” and his second, “a turn in the river” was nominated. His bio and some of his haiku may be read in THF’s Haiku Registry.

Brad’s views and advice on haiku appear in the series New to Haiku (October 21). In March last year he presented a workshop for Poetry Pea on Euphony in haiku (a subject I was pleased to see given some prominence).


Now for a little ramble. Readers’ reactions to Brad’s haiku, as with several verses that we’ve had in recent weeks, illustrate the importance that context may have. Sugar season means different things to different readers around the world. In North-east America, early spring and maple sap. In East Anglia, UK, autumn and the sugar beet harvest. In India, sugar cane and the winter season. In the Caribbean, all year sugar cane. A verse where readers outside the region, unfamiliar with maple syrup and the “bucket” clue, may have to do some research to arrive at the poet’s moment. But we all know about boys, and about sugar.

Taken to extremes, there are several examples of haiku in the literature where a less-than-universal meaning or appeal for readers is altered, diminished or lost without notes on the context — and whether a poem should need, or stand without, notes is an interesting subject. For me, a prime example is Shiki’s:

kaki kueba kane ga naru nari Hōryū-ji
persimmon eat bell of comes right after Hōryū-ji

There are various finished translations of this, often billed as Shiki’s greatest (with splendid alliteration in the romaji and no cutting-word, as far as I can see, but an implied pause before the final placename).   For example:

I bite into a persimmon
and a bell resounds –
(tr. Janine Beichman)

as I eat a persimmon
the bell starts ringing
at Hooryuuji Temple
(tr. Susumu Takiguchi)

I confess it meant little to me before all the context of the haikuist’s reputation, his liking for persimmons (and eating a ripe one myself), his ailment and approaching bedridden death, and the Buddhist temple of Hōryū-ji. What if a healthy Fred Bloggs submitted:
“right after I bite into an apple a bell sounds — Wells”
… would it be acclaimed best-of-the-net?
… would it do better with a note that Wells, in Somerset, home of the cider apple, has a fine cathedral?

Leaving you with the questions…


This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. Keith writes:

    Readers’ reactions to Brad’s haiku, as with several verses that we’ve had in recent weeks, illustrate the importance that context may have. Sugar season means different things to different readers around the world. . . .A verse where readers outside the region, unfamiliar with maple syrup and the “bucket” clue, may have to do some research to arrive at the poet’s moment. But we all know about boys, and about sugar.

    A question: how important does one take a “poet’s moment” to be? I think it is very important, and while one can never fully know what it is, and one may have one’s own associations and understandings, that does not give the reader the license to take the poem
    off in his/her own direction. A collaboration, as haiku are sometimes said to be, goes both ways.

    I am not directing these comments at those who, very understandably, thought this poem might relate to the sugar beet harvest, etc. The point I wish to make is that a haiku is not an ink blot test. One brings one’s own experience to it, but not, hopefully, to the point of eviscerating the poet’s moment/experience/intention.

    To be honest, I am thinking mostly of some of the responses to the haiku by Cherie Hunter Day which was featured recently. Some of the “interpretations” went wildly, and disrespectfully off the mark. Again, one is free to indulge one’s own associations. And yet, one has a responsibility, talking about another’s work, to focus attention not only on context, but when possible, on the individual who
    wrote the poem. Nothing in the poem, I would say, and nothing in what I have seen of Day’s other haiku, would lead me to come
    to the speculations that some writing for re:Virals did. Or if I did come to them, I hope I would quickly see them as unhelpful.

    I don’t mean to be harsh. After all, in discussing poetry one should be able to look a poem any way one wishes, trying out this possibility or that, and sometimes coming across something that opens the poem up in ways that even the poet hadn’t seen. But, and forgive my own ramble here, once certain “interpretations” have been tried, if they prove to be off the mark, they should be cast aside, and maybe never even be spoken.

    1. Meg, I’m completely in agreement with you in this:
      “The point I wish to make is that a haiku is not an ink blot test. One brings one’s own experience to it, but not, hopefully, to the point of eviscerating the poet’s moment/experience/intention.” – Meg

      When Dennis Garrison coined the phrase the phrase “dreaming room” in relation to the cut/break in haiku I’m pretty sure he didn’t intend it to be taken as “Rorschach Test room”, that is, it’s ok for the readers to make anything they want of a haiku.

    2. To me, art is about subtle communication. I think feedback on the ways readers interpret a verse is invaluable to the poet, and to anyone studying the subject. Where several readers interpret meaning that the author may not have intended, that may indicate a gap in communication. I would be glad, as an author, to know of it.

      If a free-standing poem requires notes or research, or knowledge of context or of the poet, how to assess it? If a poet has made it mysterious, is it any mystery that different readers find different meanings, of which in some cases the author may have been unaware?

      In the case of the poem by Cherie Hunter Day, the author wrote: “While the details that spawned the poem remain hidden, there is an open invitation to the reader to invest the poem with their own experiences. I’m curious to see what the other readers have to say about the connections conjured up by this haiku.” The poem was consciously (and delightfully) mysterious. No less than three readers out of five commenting were struck, on research, by an interpretation that some, including perhaps the poet themself, found unpalatable. I’d value that as useful feedback on the choice of words and context.

      Between the extremes of crystal clear image and inkblot, of conveying meaning or abandoning it to readers, is where poets operate, is it not? The point of balance varies.

      1. Keith,

        I’m not clear– are you saying a reader’s comments about a word or poem being “unpalatable” are useful as feedback?
        Don’t mean to be obtuse here– just would like to know. Thanks.

        1. No, I’m not saying that the poem may be unpalatable, but that readers’ interpretations of it may not be what the poet had in mind, and may even be unpalatable to some; and that if their interpretation is not what the poet intended, there may be a gap in communication; and that that feedback is, or could be, of value to the poet.

        2. By the way, I find that it helps to have the number of comments posted at the the top of the page, as it was before. Helps to
          quickly see if something has been added.

          1. So do I prefer to have the comment count at the top! But alas the system has lately changed.

          2. Meg, when we run a search for re: Virals Archives – The Haiku Foundation, the latest re: Virals serial number with the number of comments appears on top.
            However, I don’t know how it used to be before since I’m new here.

  2. Thank you all for participating in the wonderful lively discussion here!

    Thank you Brad for your simple and vivid haiku! I didn’t go deep initially. Since you were from the U.S, I assumed the sugar season was about Christmas. I’m relatively new to haiku and I didn’t know that ‘sugar season’ was a kigo. (I did not do my research which I should have, I think). I confess I was ignorant about the maple season.

    Thank you Keith for the little note on the context of poems and discussion about Shiki’s persimmon poem and the comparison to the apple one… It’s definitely food for thought.
    I’m trying to understand utamakura what Lorin has mentioned.

    1. “I didn’t know that ‘sugar season’ was a kigo” – Amoolya

      It’s not kigo, Amoolya. A kigo is a Japanese thing. For a seasonal reference to become a kigo there is a process:
      1. Someone writes a haiku with a seasonal reference he/she hopes might become a kigo. 2. A saijiki editor approves the new seasonal reference, enters the haiku in a saijiki along with details as to where the new season word or phrase fits in with the culture and publishes it in an updated saiijiki. Upon publication, the seasonal reference/ season word or phrase becomes a kigo. Before then, it’s not.

      You’ll find many people prancing around declaring this or that word or phrase is a kigo for a region or even for a whole country, but the fact is that it ain’t a kigo until it’s in a published saijiki, so you can safely ignore them. Even William Higginson called the nearest E.L. thing we have to a saijiki (beyond Japan) an ‘almanac’.

      1. Dear Lorin,
        Thank you for your clarification regarding the Kigo! 🤗
        I now understand that the use of sugar season was not from a Kigo list but based on context. However, sugar season refers to maple season I have found out on searching.
        I read again and understand that you mentioned in your earlier comment about Higginson’s ‘almanac’ and not a kigo list.
        I’m new to the haiku world and I’m trying to assimilate all that I can. Thank you again for guiding me! 😊

  3. “What if a healthy Fred Bloggs submitted:
    “right after I bite into an apple a bell sounds — Wells”
    … would it be acclaimed best-of-the-net?
    (No, in my opinion – Lorin)

    … would it do better with a note that Wells, in Somerset, home of the cider apple, has a fine cathedral?
    (No, in my opinion – Lorin)

    Leaving you with the questions… ” – Keith
    I think you’re opening a discussion about Japanese “pillow words” – “utamakura’, Keith. I don’t think Fred is in the running but the late and much-missed Martin Lucas, one of your fellow Englishmen, wrote this ku on the subject and it’s never failed to work for me (after I’d googled and found out that the improbable place names really are place names)

    Giggleswick and Wigglesworth
    I am uninspired – Martin Lucas (Global Haiku, 2000)

    Upon which I wrote a short piece for a group, in March 2019:

    “Compare the mood and tone of this haiku, and especially the way Martin uses the place names in droll allusion to the classic Japanese haikai use of Utamakura/ ‘poem pillow place names’ with the typical moods and tones of classic Japanese poetry and even the haiku in Basho’s travel diaries. Consider utamakura such as we find in Basho’s ‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’: they denote places of religious and historical significance, places where battles were lost, places of romantic rendezvous and places of exile. In Lucas’s haiku, set in North Yorkshire in the U.K. in the 21st century, a bus leaves Belle Hill in Giggleswick and arrives, 3 bus stops and 7.9 kilometres later, at the Plough Inn, Wigglesworth. This happens twice a day, week in, week out, all year round. Compare the journeys. Compare the differences between the old Japanese and the contemporary Yorkshire cultures. Compare the verses within the text of Murasaki Shikigu’s ‘The Tale of Genji’ with Philip Larkin’s brilliant, sad and convincingly true poem, ‘The Whitsun Weddings’.”
    Perhaps this of mine might pass as containing something like ‘utamakura’ ?

    Uluru –
    barefoot children
    kick at stones Lorin Ford – 10th ‘paper wasp’ Jack Stamm anthology, Oct. 2009

    1. Thank you, Lorin. Excellent. We agree about Bloggs and notes. How about the Shiki?…

      Yes, utamakura, and third axis, ‘depth’ – but they can, as with several kigo, risk narrowing down the universal scope/appeal of a poem that requires Googling.

      1. I agree with you, Keith, regarding Shiki’s temple, as far as all of us not well-versed in Japanese history, folklore and culture. go.
        Needless to say, without Google, I would’ve thought Martin Lucas was fabricating place names for a laugh. (Giggleswick and Wiggelsworth , indeed! )
        Of course anything resembling ‘utamakura’ or ‘pillow words’…words, historical place names and the like that ‘everyone’ in whatever world region knows & has the same associations with is impossible.

          1. “Adelstrop — the place” ” . . . ” What I saw / was Adelstrop —only the name..”

            How it lifts from the dull, the mundane & the seemingly irrelevant to a hint of something larger than an unimportant station on the way to somewhere else when we get to L3, and the author’s ears open to a blackbird’s song and the expansion of that to “all the birds/ Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.”

            I’d not been familiar with this or other poems by Edward Thomas, and am glad you’ve pointed it out for me. I like it a lot. I imagine that Martin Lucas was aware of it and Philip Larkin before him.

          2. Edward Thomas was a fine poet. Adlestrop in particular has many haiku-like qualities… So glad you like it!

    2. Dear Lorin
      It was very interesting to read your comments.
      I understand “ utamakura” to be Japanese words referring to pillow talk / love talk.
      Uluru is Ayers Rock, significant / sacred to the Aborigines, am I right? I have an Indian friend who used this image for her meditation + dance + dream research.

      1. Hi Rupa,
        Re “ I understand ‘utamakura’ to be Japanese words referring to pillow talk / love talk.” Yes, that’s what first springs to mind, isn’t it? 🙂 But it’s a misinterpretation. A “pillow word” or phrase in Japanese haiku means a word or phrase that the poem (figuratively) rests on.
        “A central feature of traditional Japanese poetry (waka) is the use of utamakura— a category of poetic words, many of which are place-names or the names of features associated with them—to cultivate allusion and intertextuality between individual poems and within the tradition.”
        Wikipedia –

        1. ps, yes, Uluru is the indigenous name for what was called ‘Ayers Rock’ .

          “On October 26th 1985, the government of Australia finally returned ownership of Uluru to the Anangu people. The return was part of the acknowledgement of their place as the original custodians of the land. However it wasn’t until 1995 that the name change officially took place. In this year, the name of the national park changed from Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

          The change was put in place to show respect for the Anangu people and, specifically, to acknowledge their ownership of the land.” –

        2. …and I am wondering whether the origin of “pillow” words is The Pillow Book, Sei Shōnagon’s secret diary that the poetess inadvertently left resting on a cushion over a thousand years ago, and which became a celebrated work. Lorin?…

          1. We’d need to understand Japanese to figure it out ourselves, I think. “The Pillow Book (枕草子, Makura no Sōshi)”
            ‘Makura’ certainly appears to translate to “pillow”. Whether the origin of utamakura is in that diary resting on a literal pillow is something for a Japanese historian to say, I imagine.

  4. sugar season
    a boy with his ear
    to the bucket
    I think “sugar season” is just right, Brad. It’s that bucket plus ‘the 4th line’ (your name. which leads to your whereabouts) that shows maple syrup rather than sugar cane.

    Rupa declares: “The two words of L1 took me, presumably, to sugarcane harvesting in India, as we have a lot of that in this part of the world.” Similarly, being Australian, my first thought was of our cane fields up North:

    stubble fields
    an old cane cutter
    rubs his chin – Lorin Ford, paper wasp Spring 2008

    but your bucket, along with your 4th line, showed me otherwise. 🙂 )

    Just now, I’ve found that there is a reference to this season in Higginson’s ‘Haiku World – An International Poetry Almanac’. (first edition, 1996) : “Sugar moon”, and also “Sap Moon”, refer to “the time when sugar-maple sap runs. Tapped, the sap is boiled down to maple syrup, and may be further reduced to maple sugar. ” p 46
    The seasonal reference is under the title: “Spring – The Heavens” and the following haiku is included:

    Sugar Moon–
    stirring ghost stories
    into maple fudge – Carol Purington, MA, (k)

    Just now, I’ve looked up Carol in the THF Registry. Sadly, she passed away toward the end of 2020, but some of her lovely haiku are there for us on her THF page.

    My immediate favourite:

    As the crow flies . . .
    the crookedness of its shadow
    crossing the snow drift — Carol Purington, – Modern Haiku vol. XXIX:2 (1998)

  5. Shilpa Barti sent a comment today via the submission form (Shilpa: thank you for contributing. Once the deadline for commentaries has passed, you may post directly in the comments here once the post appears.):

    “Magical realism” is something which is profoundly exhibited by this piece of writing. Boy’s attempt to build a magical world in this very reality which can’t be questioned by the fellas. If ponder upon the narrative technique, the use of word sugar along with season is a fragment of fantasy combined to the word season. Magical realism often draw a reference from the magical or fantasy added to reality of world surrounded by the intangible deeper themes related to society. The fantasy in magic realism is extravagant though it is depicted as rudimentary without seeking the attention of being odd. Here, the boy with his ear to the bucket might sound natural but rather holds a strange connotation as if he is willing to create something not peculiar and ordinary even though he is in the process there is no one in the narrative who is there to question the act of “the boy with ears to the bucket”. Apart from everything mentioned above the haiku touches upon vast theme of childhood-exploration and overall cognitive growth. “

  6. I live, as some of my neighbors know, in Vermont, from whence, as the whole world knows, the best maple syrup comes. I worked for two very different sugaring operations: one involved moving as quickly as possible (at times) through deep snow to get to the buckets, maybe three on a big tree, before they overflowed and carrying them, with as little spillage as possible, to the tank in a dray harnessed to a very substantial, ghost-breathing horse. The other involved maintaining miles of green tubing tapped into hundreds of sugar (or rock) maples, which, on warmish days after cold nights would bring the only faintly sweet sap down many slopes and into a large vat in the sugar house, to be boiled in the arch: sugaring off. Hard hot work.

    I imagine a boy could have his ear to a bucket in two ways: one from a distance, listening for sugaring season to begin. The other, right up against it, letting the sound deepen and resonate. Coming back again and again to hear how the sound changes as
    the bucket fills. At some point, maybe when there was an inch or so of sap, the sound of it dripping would sound like “bucket”.

  7. Congratulations
    Dear Rupa Anand, Going through your comments, very interesting and the
    following so arresting;

    “The boy with his ear to the bucket could be a hired hand, or the farmer’s son assisting in sap collection. Perhaps, he has been instructed to put his ear to the bucket to determine the flow of sap? I’m a little unclear on this as he can open the lid and peep in. The sensory possibilities are vivid in an unstated manner. I can visualise the drip-drip of the sap into the bucket! Pancakes, anyone? On the flip side, I may be wrong.”

    1. Dear Radhamani,
      Nice to read your comments here.
      I’m still learning the technical nuances of Haiku.
      But for me – I go more with my common sense and intuition.

  8. Dear Keith Evetts,
    Thanks for this feature, regular, giving us so many enlightening comments; further, your mentioning,
    Beata Czeszejko commented after the deadline:

    ” And it is precisely my discovery that the boy was very well informed, having learned from the rain tapping on the bucket about all that was important and what was beautiful – what was sweet and what was good. This haiku helps you discover all the rain melodies … “
    Very interesting

  9. Beata Czeszejko commented after the deadline:
    “I always thought that “sweet season” refers to July and August, when my mother used to cook jams, preserves, plum jam and compotes for Christmas. Huge amounts of sugar brought home during this time – I will not forget it!
    But the “sweet season” in Europe is the season that starts in October, when so much rain is drumming on buckets, gutters, boots, on the ground. And that’s when I discovered that listening to this music was a miracle! It is a sweet melody for a child. Hearing the drops drumming, the windows tapping, the drops telling stories … that is pure sweetness. And it is precisely my discovery that the boy was very well informed, having learned from the rain tapping on the bucket about all that was important and what was beautiful – what was sweet and what was good. This haiku helps you discover all the rain melodies … “

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