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re:Virals 387

Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly commentary feature on some of your favorites among the best contemporary haiku and senryu written in English. This week’s poem, proposed by Jonathan Epstein, was:

     deep in
     the tidepool
     a child’s gaze
     — Gregory Longenecker
     Frogpond vol. 43:1 winter 2020 and THF Haiku of the Day 
     May 2022
and:
     lingering
     in the tide pool
     a child’s gaze
     — Gregory Longenecker
     First Place, Haiku Poets of Northern California, San 
     Francisco International Competition 2019

Introducing this poem, Jonathan writes:

I am always on the lookout for haiku that make a difference in my life, that re-awaken a sense of awe and wonder at the splendor of life and self. This haiku does that for me.

Of the two, it is the newer version that draws me in. From L1 I am pulled straightaway into the depths of a child’s new world. The separation between seer and seen has already dissolved. Child and tidepool (here one word) are joined as one. The mechanism that makes this possible: childhood wonder. Under the microscope of “a child’s gaze” nothing is small or less than amazing. It is only much later, as adults disillusioned with much of life, that we realize such fulsome curiosity is the source of the fountain of youth. I recall the surge of feeling and connection that infused my life with meaning and aliveness; the union of subject and object. I see now — in wonderment — how the trajectory of my life was set long ago by its early “tidepool” moments.

Opening comment:

I like this haiku. I was that child. Along with frogs near a local ford, and newts in waterbutts on my Grandad’s allotment garden, tidepools on seaside holidays in my very early years got me interested in the aquatic world, which got me to university (where I deviated).

I’ll leave the eloquence to others and take a brief look at “deep” and “lingering.” I like them both. “Deep” grabs the attention: we know that rockpools are not deep, so the depth suggests the intense fascination in the child, and that it is an important, transformational experience, not to be uprooted. “Lingering” is not as strong; but the competition in which that version was entered was (I believe) on the theme of childhood memories and perhaps “lingering” suits memory more than “deep.” It also carries the suggestions that the child spends time in this contemplation, and that the memory is persistent. To me, either version reads well, though “deep” is shorter and crisper as well as stronger, and nuanced in different ways.

Awarding the “lingering” version its first place, contest judge Scott Mason commented: “Quiet meditation with an element of surprise, this haiku poignantly weds the observed to the observer — and, in the process, ephemeral nature to enduring wonder.”

Jennifer Gurney:

I really enjoyed both versions of Gregory Longenecker’s haiku. However, the first one really caught my attention. I love the image of a child being transfixed while gazing into a tide pool. What must they see and experience? Starfish, fish, aquatic plants, snails, urchins…magic? I was reminded of exploring the tide pools in Monterrey, California more than 25 years ago on a family reunion trip. My son was only weeks old and I vividly remember showing him all the cool creatures that summer’s day.

But the double entendre of it actually being the youngster’s reflection that is “in” the tidepool is where the beauty lies for me. It reminded me of those never-ending photographs of a mirror reflected into a mirror that go on and on.

I also love that the haiku begins with the word deep. For me there are three meanings of deep that are relevant. Deep as in the depth of the body of water. Deep as in deep in thought. And deep as in this haiku itself is multifaceted and hence deep.

Well done, Mr. Longenecker.

John S. Green:

Very young children are drawn to tiny details, subtle things that adults often miss. Every feature is noticed and absorbed by the child. Some objects in an environment can be so small, it is as though what interests them is invisible. A love for nature is developed in the early years when the foundation of the whole psychic life of the child is formed. Periods of deep concentration by activity creates a child who is radiant, refreshed, and satisfied with a profound feeling of joy that can be termed spiritual. Longenecker has captured this in seven words.

(This commentary was published in The Wanderer Brush ed. Ion Codrescu, The Art of Haiga 2020, Red Moon Press).

Harrison Lightwater:

I think this kigo-less haiku works well because the words chosen are full of associations for anyone who was taken to an interesting beach as a young child. Parents can relax on towels while kids scramble over the rocks in plain view, or show their toddlers a thing or two. And wow! — in the clear still water of rock pools there is this wondrous child-sized world of limpets, shrimps, crabs, sea anemones, starfish, and blennies, among the algae. A magical revelation of what the sea holds and might hold, transfixing a young child just beginning to explore their own world. “Deep” (or “lingering”), “child,” “tidepool” and “gaze” are words that project images, trigger emotions and rouse memories. Put together, they take the reader far away in reverie.

The fact that a small child is on the beach is a clear enough expression of summer — those halcyon days. Who needs a kigo?

Amoolya Kamalnath:

I was wondering if there is a clear juxtaposition in these verses, the child’s gaze is ‘deep in’ in verse 1 and it is ‘lingering’ in verse 2. Either ways, L3 is open ended by not revealing the object in the tidal pool and hence the implied cut at the end of L2 makes the verse work even if there is no strong juxtaposition.

The words ‘deep in’ entail observation and concentration other than the physical component it speaks of while lingering would refer to hanging around in a place. So I would say, for me, ‘a child’s gaze deep in’ would mean focusing on one particular resident of the quite shallow tidepool, be it animate or inanimate, while ‘a child’s gaze… lingering’ would mean looking for all the varied life forms and their locations for a longer time. There is an indication of a reluctance to leave from the place, maybe after precious sightings and amassing a wealth of knowledge.

Sushama Kapur:

What can be more beautiful to behold than an image of a child’s wondering eyes exploring the universe around? Both the versions of the verse have their own supporting arguments: “deep” in one and “lingering” in the other.

Deep as in the actual depth of the pool, deep as in being totally engrossed and oblivious to the surrounding time and space. It seems as if the child’s gaze cannot be torn away from the treasures visible in the tidepool. At once discoverer, explorer, traveller, the eyes have become deep pools of wonder as they “linger” to reflect this world. So much that can be learnt only by observing …

In a way it reminded me of of Alice in her Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser,” she says about things happening around her. I cannot but also remember another small being, this time a boy, exploring with the raptness of a budding zoologist, the garden around their house: Gerald Durrell, in ‘My Family and Other Animals’!

Caught deep (and lingering) as I was in the first two lines of this sentence haiku, I carry on to finish reading the verse: “a child’s gaze”. Something very appropriate about the word “gaze”, I think. It carries in it a sense of being locked, a sense of forgetting time, so powerful is the spell cast by what it is viewing. (“I gazed and gazed but little thought/ what wealth to me that show had brought” -Wordsworth).

This small verse, so light its touch, and yet with so much space and time in it, is one of the best that I have read! The image lingers – a rapt child, all eyes, by the tidepool, discovering life – could this become his calling?

Matt Cariello:

Both these haiku are first-rate; they operate in very different ways. “Deep” emphasizes, well, depth, and all that we associate things being metaphorically “deep.” Deep thoughts, deeper meanings, even such phrases as “falling in love” all depend on a positive association with “deep.” “Lingering” is more complex, emphasizing the lasting effects of an event. It can be negative (nagging, chronic, persistent), but can connote something positive as well (surviving, abiding, enduring). This poem obviously relies on the positive connotation.

Both these versions make me ask who, exactly, is doing the looking? The scene is observed, so it’s not the child’s point of view, but that of a third-party spectator. Or is it? It may be that the spectator is also the participant, but the point of view shift allows for evaluative authorial distance: “I see myself as a child looking at the tide pools.” Either way, the effect is the same, although the narrative tension this uncertainty provokes adds to dynamics of the poem.

I like the lack of verb in the first one, and way in which “deep” acts as both a literal description and as a metaphor. It gives a sense of seeing beyond the moment. But I also think that “lingering” resonates better with the temporary nature of tidepools, implying that the gaze remains (in the mind) even after the tidepool is gone. In either case, the reflection of a face in the tidepool maps beautifully onto the ways in we reflect on small, temporary moments of our lives, which nonetheless remain within us, rippling and reverberating.

Greg Longenecker: a source of inner experience:

Referring to my first draft journals I found I wrote the following one-liner on August 12, 2019:

“deep in a tidepool the child’s gaze.”

At some point I switched the two articles to:

“deep in the tidepool a child’s gaze.”

The other five haiku I wrote that day and in preceding/subsequent days suggest I was reviewing old journals looking for material. The year before I had written “a glimpse of deeper seas tide pool” (tinywords, 18.2, 2018). I have also written other haiku featuring tidepools; I find them a source of thoughtfulness, of inner experience.

Each year, until the pandemic, I’ve been in the habit of attending the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society’s Annual retreat to Asilomar, California, along the Monterey coast and it’s possible this was on my mind. The image is one I’ve often seen among the tidepools there; youngsters excited by this glimpse into the sea, but close up. Recalling my own childhood, I thought of how I often would stare into tidepools, wondering about the life there, about life in general, about my life. This was the impetus for the haiku.

The deadline for the 2019 San Francisco International Haiku, Senryu and Tanka Contest was October 31, 2019 so at some point I sent in the haiku. Unfortunately, my second draft file contains no information on what I sent in. I do recall looking at the haiku and thinking, “deep in” seems a bit short, clumsy maybe and I changed it to “lingering in.” I liked the sound of it first, then I liked the way it fit in with the “child’s gaze.” I also changed it to three lines, but I can’t recall.

Frogpond submissions were due during the month of November and here I have notes indicating I sent in “deep in/ the tidepool/ a child’s gaze,” forgetting I’d sent another version of it to the Haiku Poets’ of Northern California’s contest. Of the two, I prefer “lingering in” as the opening line. It sounds better and, as I say, works better with the image of a child.

I hope this helps you and other readers to understand my writing of this haiku. Thank you again for this opportunity.


virus2

Thanks to all who sent commentaries. It is difficult to choose between several good ones, but for me the poet’s own painstaking and thoughtful commentary is exceptional. And so, exceptionally, Greg 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!

     in a room
     I never go in
     the ticking clock
     — Robert Epstein
     Modern Haiku,Vol. 53:2 Summer 2022

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.


Footnote:
book cover
Particular thanks to Greg for his excellent true-to-life response when approached for the poet’s comment, above. I am sure that readers will value it as much as I do.

Gregory Longenecker lives in California and is an active member of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society and the HSA. He scarcely needs introduction: a haiku poet of long experience, an editor and a contest judge: his work has been published in many places, has received awards and been anthologised. Among other roles he is an editor of the Living Haiku Anthology where some of his verses may be found. His collection “somewhere inside yesterday” is available from Red Moon Press. (Alas, the postage from USA to UK and other foreign parts has become prohibitive).


In background exchanges on these verses a shy poet asks: “Can these poems be an inverted sentence? — inverting “a child’s gaze deep in the tide pool, a child’s gaze lingering in the tidepool?” I think it’s a fair question, bringing in the matter of one-sentence haiku with or without juxtaposition (ichimonojitate and ichibutsijutate), and the role of the ‘cut.’

As one sentence there are still the two images, tidepool and a child gazing, for a reader to put together and reflect upon, but without the inversion the initial focus changes from the tidepool to the child and there is less of a ‘reveal.’ That is, less insight (last week’s discussion of “aha”….). Basho wrote of ‘reverberation’ whereby the second part of a verse, or the second of a pair of verses, prompts the reader to return to see the first part in a new light. Some separation – the cut – helps this process. It is of course possible for otherwise peaceable poets to dispute for hours, years even, about whether the ‘cut’ is a ‘rule’ without exceptions; but in nearly every case it is an important and often essential part of a haiku. In ELH, linebreaks (and/or inversions, depending how you view them), prompting a pause, are often the only ‘cut.’ Whereas in its native form, haiku is written in one chain of characters, so some modification indicating a visible cut is (usually) required. Even there, there are some single-breath sentence-like haiku where a cut is not present – at least in the romaji and the translations.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. John S. Green comments via the submission form:

    “I’ll defend ‘deep in’ and my comments above by saying I would not have chosen Greg’s poem for comment in Ion Codrescu’s “The Art of Haiga” if it was ‘lingering.’ Not that ‘lingering’ is bad, it’s just that ‘deep in’ is much stronger in my opinion. ‘lingering’ implies simply the act of hanging out in the tidepool because it’s a fascinating place for a child to explore; ‘deep in’ implies entering into the ‘flow” state where time evaporates and the child is transported into other worlds. I believe Greg may have chosen ‘deep in’ as an unconscious act of brilliance. When evaluating the two variations in a cerebal manner, ‘lingering’ seems stronger grammatically with the ‘in’ on the second line. We are told to not end a line or sentence with an article or preposition. But, I believe, in this case ‘deep in’ as a unit is powerful. Anaphora is a poetic (and political) technique that repeats a word or phrase. “Deep in” could be such a phrase. “Lingering” not so much.

    This has been fun. I have grown to really enjoy re:virals and all the jibber jabber that ensues weekly. Thanks everyone. “

    (I know it’s a little confusing to have a submission form in the post, and a comment form at the end, but overall it works well most of the time as the submitted commentaries come direct to my email in-tray. I don’t mind having to re-route comments to the foot of the post. And thank you, John and others, for the encouraging comments! — Keith)

  2. .
    .
    deep in
    the tidepool
    a child’s gaze
    — Gregory Longenecker
    Frogpond vol. 43:1 winter 2020 and THF Haiku of the Day
    May 2022
    and:
    lingering
    in the tide pool
    a child’s gaze
    — Gregory Longenecker
    First Place, Haiku Poets of Northern California, San
    Francisco International Competition 2019
    .
    .

    I have read that the Japanese have a word for tidepool – 忘れ潮 – wasurejio, which translates to the “tide of oblivion” or the “forgetful tide”. The season word that wasurejio is associated with is
    shiohigata – tidal flat that has been receded into the distance by the spring tide around March 3rd of the lunar calendar.
    .
    When the gravitational effects of the Sun and the Moon combine, we get spring tides, which have nothing to do with the season of spring. The term refers to the action of the seas springing out and then springing back. These are times of high high tides and low low tides.
    .
    If a spring tide coincides with either the March equinox or the September equinox, it is called an equinoctial spring tide. At this time, expect largest tidal range of the year because, at the equinoxes, the Moon and Sun are aligned with the equator. I assume that this equinoctial spring tide is the season that the word shiohigata refers to.
    .
    After the tide ebbs, puddles that form on rocky shores and tidal flats are called shiodamari, and the seawater that accumulates there is called wasurejio. If you look into it, you’ll find that not only seawater, but also small fish, seaweed, and small creatures have been forgotten, or as I like to think of it, left behind as mementos by the “forgetful tide”.

    1. Thank you, princess k, that’s marvellous. As a former amateur sailor, spring tides (and neaps) are familiar. But not forgetful tides. I love this column for all the riches readers bring to it.

    2. Interesting, Princess. 🙂

      On a quick search (& I don’t speak or read Japanese) I can’t find ‘wasurejio / “tide of oblivion” connected to tide pools (only to a horrid ‘death metal’ band!) but I’d love to read about it. The Japanese have so many legends.

      I did find this word, though:

      潮溜まり, 潮溜り
      Kana Reading
      しおだまり
      Romaji
      shiodamari
      Word Senses

      Parts of speech
      noun (common) (futsuumeishi)
      Meaning
      tide pool; rocky place where sea water remains after the tide draws out

      Re your : ” If you look into it, you’ll find that not only seawater, but also small fish, seaweed, and small creatures have been forgotten, or as I like to think of it, left behind as mementos by the “forgetful tide”. ”

      Yes, I can see the connection there. And there are shellfish (such as ordinary mussels) that grow in rock pools and rely on new food being brought in by the flood tide. Some crabs, too, lie in wait. 🙂

      1. I’m not a Japanese linguist either; but:
        Jisho dictionary gives 忘れ as forgetting, leaving behind and 潮 as tide or current.
        A lookup of ‘tide pool’ gives 潮溜まり (breaks down to tide-collected-time-in)

        weblio gives 忘れ潮 as “Forgetful tide. How to read: wasurejio. Seawater that accumulates at high tide remains in place even when the tide ebbs.

        Just as the memory remains in the child as childhood ebbs…

  3. I really enjoy reading the poems and comments on re:Virals on (my) Saturday mornings. This haiku (or these haiku?) by Gregory Longenecker is/ are a pleasure to read, bringing back to me (this hot morning) my early (and later) childhood. I wish I was there, being splashed by the coolness of retreating waves, everything smelling of the cool, clean, salty sea.
    .
    deep in
    the tidepool
    a child’s gaze
    — Gregory Longenecker
    Frogpond vol. 43:1 winter 2020 and THF Haiku of the Day
    May 2022
    and:
    lingering
    in the tide pool
    a child’s gaze
    — Gregory Longenecker
    First Place, Haiku Poets of Northern California, San
    Francisco International Competition 2019
    .
    As to which is the better, I’ll steal from Wallace Stevens:

    ” I do not know which to prefer,
    The beauty of inflections
    Or the beauty of innuendoes . . . ”
    .
    There is a cut in both versions of this haiku, in my opinion: it is the cut between present time and time past. The literal face gazing back at me would be my (current, 75 year old) face as reflected on the surface of the water but deeper down in the pool I see a young child’s face, also mine. I’ve been here before. My brain has stored the memory of my own reflection and my vivid memories of the crabs (snall ones and sometimes the big pincers of surf crabs , and the little fishes, the green seaweed and the brown, the various shells of sea snails, the mother-of-pearl lining of opened abalone shells in the rock pool and the beautiful, fresh, saltwater scent of the sea. Memory and association is great. The brain’s “librarian” can source these flashbacks in no time! Unexpectedly. (Other times, try as we may, we can’t find the item. … a scientist would put it more clearly than I can.)

    But I know that the cut between times isn’t the kind of cut Keith intends , above in Footnote. (though I think that kind of cut is valid, even classic) It seems to me that the ‘cut’ people intend is (at best) the cut of the hokku, which is marked (in Japanese hokku & haiku) with a ‘cutting word’ . This word is written and also said aloud if the hokku/ haiku is being recited. I have spoofed an E.L. version of the famous Basho hokku before: “old pond, innit?/ a frog jumps into/ the sound of water”. )

    Hmmm, I think I prefer “lingering” to ‘deep in”. The child’s gaze has been lingering long and continues to do so, stored as it is in the archives of the older person’s brain.

    (I like the humour of the Robert Epstein haiku Greg has selected for next week, also about time. )

    1. Thank you, Lorin. I always enjoy your comments too.
      On ‘cuts,’ as usual I try to look beyond what some argue is a ‘rule’ to what I think is the principle behind it. Here, it is about the way two (or more) separate elements are combined to produce a new thought or feeling. A cut of whatever sort can help in separating the elements, and introduces a pause for reflection. I think any form of separation is valid — including in the mind, such as your inferred separation of time present from time past (pace TS Eliot…). It does not necessarily have to be drawn to the reader’s attention by some obvious mechanical device.

      I think sometimes that we may pay undue respect to the three-line format. In this week’s haiku, we can see that “deep in” is not a wholly satisfactory read, ending in a hanging preposition and breaking up the phrase element; I think the three-line format has created a problem for “deep in,” which “lingering” as L1 solves. But really, I think only two lines are needed:

      deep in the tidepool
      a child’s gaze

      and there we have the only ‘cut’ necessary, the one linebreak.

      As a one-liner, “deep in the tidepool a child’s gaze,” we’d be relying on the inversion alone to make the separation.

      Thoughts, anyone?

      1. Now you put it in two lines,
        deep in the tidepool
        a child’s gaze
        my thought is that these may point to a missing line one in the shape of a kigo or reference to the season, or some other anchoring phrase, maybe wide-angle, which would restore the three line form… although that goes against my own commentary. ocean waves/deep in the tidepool/a child’s gaze (?).

    2. Peter:
      What I can “picture” is an adult returning to a tide pool he had gazed into as a child, and finding, despite the sense of wonder having been dulled for him, it is still there in the pool itself, a gift to be regiven if he is receptive. The child he was, that spirit, remains in it.

      The “deep in” version . . . says, in effect, “if you look deeply enough into a tide pool, you will see a child’s wondering gaze remains.”

      Lorin
      The literal face gazing back at me would be my (current, 75 year old) face as reflected on the surface of the water but deeper down in the pool I see a young child’s face, also mine. I’ve been here before.

      ***

      We seem to see it similarly.

      1. Yes, it does seem to be so : “It says, in effect, “if you look deeply enough into a tide pool, you will see a child’s wondering gaze remains.” – Peter
        In my case, perhaps it’s “a child’s greedy yet wary gaze . . .” . So often there was the tip of a red claw sticking out from a crevice, right near some treasure I wanted to have..

      2. A few thoughts on tidepools. All the tidepools I’ve encountered on the Atlantic coast are impermanent things, changing from tide to tide. You never see the same tidepool twice. So for me, “tidepool” is simultaneously a particular image (the tidepool in that moment) and a conceptual metaphor (tidepool as a place in which we discover a microcosm of the ocean, and, by extension, life itself), and therefore an example of the generic is specific metaphor that operates behind all haiku. We see ourselves at all stages in the tidepool that’s a “tidepool.” The haiku itself it a tidepool.

  4. lingering
    in the tide pool
    a child’s gaze
    — Gregory Longenecker

    “Why is there something rather than nothing?” For thinkers such as Leibniz, Wittgenstein and Heidigger this question is at the heart of philosophy. It is the question the child-in-the-adult (and perhaps at times the adult-in-the-child) asks.

    In some ways I prefer the “lingering” version of this poem. (I have not read through the comments, so it is possible others may have
    touched on what I am about to.) While it speaks to the sense that a child (or child-in-the-adult) lingers (timelessly) at a tide pool, looking in, there is another sense possible which adds dimension for me and goes beyond a mere illustration of wonder.

    What I can “picture” is an adult returning to a tide pool he had gazed into as a child, and finding, despite the sense of wonder having been dulled for him, it is still there in the pool itself, a gift to be regiven if he is receptive. The child he was, that spirit, remains in it.

    This speaks to the notion that in a state of rapt attention, of wonder, things awaken us, but also we awaken things. We go beyond both subjectivity and objectivity— there is neither.

    Having seen it this way, I could say the the “deep in” version does something similar. It says, in effect, “if you look deeply enough into a tide pool, you will see a child’s wondering gaze remains.”

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