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 Sébastien Revon, was:
uploading to the cloud dandelions
— Marilyn Ashbaugh
Wales Haiku Journal Summer 2022
Introducing this poem, Sébastien writes:
The first time I read this monoku I smiled genuinely. It made me feel warmer in a way and that’s already something I’d value. I then tried to go deeper and re-live that gentle moment of the first reading. The more I read it the more my mood shifted to something not so happy. I really appreciate haiku that produce a shift in the reader’s mood. From sad to happy or the opposite in that case.
I am curious to find out if you felt the same. Maybe other readers will have a complete different approach to this monoku and that would be very interesting.
Felicitously, this is placed by editor Joe Woodhouse directly under the WHJ’s section heading, “Summer Breeze,” which makes an effective title. On first reading there is a clear visual of the blown dandelion seedhead becoming a cloud of seedlets. The five words of the verse invite readers to consider and compare dandelions with the digital world as, perhaps, we blow and make a wish.
If you are a hermit who missed the internet revolution, the line’s pleasing juxtaposition, of dandelions releasing their seed and us uploading packets of data to distant servers, might need a little interpretation. The word that joins these two worlds is “cloud.” Its inspired use in the context of remote data storage is attributed to the then Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt at a conference presentation eighteen years ago. The DNA in the seeds is also a compact packet of encoded data, the discrete seeds dispatched along many routes. Both the evolved system of daffodil propagation and the invented system of internet packets rely on the principle of redundancy to ensure a robust, successful process.
I am keen on verses that embrace the technical and the scientific for poetic purposes. They are under-represented in the arts. If you don’t know about the functional beauty of DARPA’s TCP/IP packets, the fabulous simplicity of Tim Berners-Lee’s Hypertext Transfer Protocol, all of which you use every day, and the awesome double helix of just four base pairs that encoded you and the dandelion, worked out by Watson and Crick (Nature, April 1953), then let Marilyn’s clouds lead you gently to fuller knowledge. It’s thrilling.
I really love this! 10 syllables and so much implied. Straight away I’m lying in a garden, a child again, blowing dandelion clocks to make wishes. The seeds fly up into the blue of the sky, leading to a big fluffy white cloud full of wishes, possibilities, dreams…
At the same time, I’m considering the virtual cloud – that mysterious space/place where all our soft files go. Do they fly there in the same way as dandelion seeds? At least we can see the seeds and the real cloud – this virtual cloud sounds ethereal but is not. It’s a bunch of servers somewhere in an American desert or an industrial estate in the back end of nowhere. I prefer that my dreams and wishes sit up in the sky where I can connect with them from anywhere I can see clouds, not locked up in a massive data storage facility in some random location.
There are stories about where dandelions come from – they are born of the sun (which is why they are golden) and the moon (which is why their seed heads are white and round). This poem adds another celestial dimension – clouds. Dandelions are renowned for their range of medicinal applications using roots, leaves and flowers. They are the first food for bees in the early part of the year here in the UK, and their golden faces appearing after winter make me smile and lift my spirit. So they are born of the sky, root in the earth, heal our bodies, sustain our pollinators and make us smile. It’s only fitting that they upload to the cloud when they are done. And I for one hope that the dreams and wishes they take with them fly free and manifest, and don’t get lost among all those yottabytes of data.
A beautiful seasonal reference in this one liner, or monoku where dandelions interplay in the words of the involved persona. Nature’s beauty amasses in flora and fauna, aroma and ripeness, reaching gods, temples, humans and lovers ; how many of them, both learned and ignorant, pious and irreligious, look into the utility value of these flowers.
Dandelions enter into our arena; perhaps a painter with ebullient stroke of brush uploads to the autumnal clouds for the simple reason of erasing trauma, agony….“uploading to the cloud…” The image speaks a lot: not a bright one, passing shadow, unclear, these images applicable for a person passing through a very gruesome time, weaving a write / application to the dandelions to restore cheer to life, weltering in gloom or painful sadness.
Mirth and happiness, content and consciousness of a life replete with satisfaction, steady growth after wintry Dullness, spring blooms with yellow color, sunshine in spring , rehabilitation of benumbed souls – all in the dandelion flowers after “cloud” — in a way a combination of two images, one can say, clouds and dandelions, a free play, expansion in the poet’s hands.
I love Marilyn’s poems for their Nature content. There is something peaceful and soothing about this one. Dandelions are a superfood — good for health, an immune booster, and a preventive for liver disease, the nutritional value of their greens supersedes kale or spinach, a source of vitamins A, C, and K, it’s a diuretic, its stems, roots, and flowers are used for medicinal purposes. All parts of the dandelion plant including the flower are edible.
They can be plucked from suburban or country areas, urban parks or a sunny hillside. I’m smitten by the simplicity and extreme brevity of this poem. The tone is sincere. It opens bang in the middle of the action — uploading. There is the unstated presence of the poet — doing this action. There is a juxtaposition between the cloud (storage) and the earth where dandelions grow! There is the seasonal reference or kigo as dandelions tend to grow in the full sun placing the season into spring and summer.
Now — the surprise is: what on earth is the poet uploading onto the online storage system, called the cloud? Well, anything and everything pertaining to dandelions, I think. It could be data, information, photos, growing techniques and recipes. Who knows? But let’s store everything known about them up there on the cloud to download when the going gets rough.
Dandelions are these extraordinary super all-rounders, yet there is something whimsical, and wispy about them. Meanwhile, if you can blow all the seeds off a dandelion with a single breath, then the person you love will love you back. Try it!
Dandelions are perennial. In this monostitch there is a pleasing (if not original) liason of dandelions with clouds, indicating the fluffy seeds of the dandelion. There’s also the thought that their release onto the wind can be compared with “uploading,” a term familiar from our digital devices, in which context the “cloud” is those distant server banks of which most of us have only a fuzzy idea. Maybe there’s a hint of optimism in “uploading to the cloud,” where we don’t know what happens to our texts or images but hope that we or some intended recipient will see them again. Although, applied to dandelions, this trespasses on the “pathetic fallacy” of supposing that plants have human-like feelings. It is also where the analogy breaks down, because dandelions are only concerned with releasing their floating seeds and not with retrieving them.
One-line haiku where the poet shifts the focus as the line proceeds, and there are several ways to cut it, seem very à la mode, and often require effort to work out what the poet might or might not have been trying to tell us. They can sometimes be exasperating. This one is a pleasure, clear, with one simple cut to juxtapose the two parts. I enjoyed reading it.
I find multiple levels in this. At its most literal – the dandelions release their seeds towards the sky (clouds). But the dandelions themselves have the look of puffy clouds, so the seeds floating up could be seen to be “uploading” to become part of the clouds they look so much like.
Then my mind leapt to a childhood game where we’d make a wish as we blew the dandelion seeds away (we used to call dandelions “Santa Clauses” – did anyone else, or is that just in Australia?). The poem made me think of this activity as uploading wishes to the clouds, where God is often depicted in art.
Finally, I couldn’t unsee a stretch juxtaposition where “uploading to the cloud” relates to computing. It is the common phrase “uploading to the cloud” that makes this idea lodge in my mind. I had no idea what “dandelion” might be in this context, so I looked it up – and there is a software protocol called Dandelion that improves Bitcoin’s network privacy. So perhaps the dandelions are protecting the poet’s upload to the cloud? (I said it was a stretch!).
Amoolya Kamalnath – something large, something small:
With only five words and ten syllables, this monoku conveys the message, just like the dandelion seeds mentioned in the poem. The consonance of the ‘d’ sound gives it a sort of rhythm.
If the kire is considered this way,
uploading to the cloud / dandelions, then –
Kids and adults alike pick the seed head – known as a clock in America and Europe for its shape – and blow the dandelion seeds away while making a wish. This has given the flower a strong association with hope, optimism, and wishes.
The poet has succinctly expressed that the wishes whispered and released by children and may be even some adults through the dandelions are uploading i.e reaching the sky/heaven, may be meaning that prayers are being sent up and probably being heard. Uploading is transferring data from a smaller device to a larger database or system, here the smaller dandelions are transferring the data (our wishes/prayers) to the larger clouds/sky/universe. However, in the poem, the order of the words goes from something large to something small.
Cloud, in the current scenario could also be the technological term we all are so familiar with nowadays (storage space). So what’s being uploaded to the cloud? Memories through photographs?
Can we cut at uploading / to the cloud dandelions?
Then, are dandelions themselves clouds or are clouds (it’s different forms) being compared to dandelions?
Could it have been a three line haiku? uploading/to the cloud/dandelions – maybe not, the words being in one single line produces an extra effect and lyricism.
Author Marilyn Ashbaugh:
Dandelions. If your neighbors are like mine, the mere utterance of its name stirs discussions if not arguments. Loving dandelions, as I do, seems a hostile act. Yet dandelions are pervasive and delight children everywhere they are found. Like rain, their seeds fall as if from clouds. Using technical jargon seemed a playful way to convey the resilience of dandelions.
Thanks to all who sent commentaries. As the contributor of the commentary reckoned best this week, Amoolya 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.
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the scream it owns just before it
— John Hawkhead
Bones: journal for the short verse no. 24, October 2022
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Thinking about Sébastien’s happy-sad comment in his introduction: perhaps happy that the dandelions are sending off their little seeds, and sad because their future is uncertain and only a few will survive and germinate? (Well, in the case of the dandelion, rather a lot!). Or that the departing seeds mark the end of the flower? Or that the progeny are off to the clouds while the parent plant is rooted to the spot? Or that a poet, in “uploading” their little haiku seeds to “the cloud,” in most cases doesn’t really know what becomes of them. And as for the wishes when we blow dandelion seeds into a cloud…almost always unrequited.
I often muse that if the dandelion was unknown, and a sample had just been brought back from a remote spot by some intrepid plant-hunter, it would win Plant-of-the-Year at Chelsea.