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 Beata Czeszejko, was:how we ended flower thrower — C. X. Turner Failed Haiku volume 8 issue 89 April 2023
Introducing this poem, Beata writes:
Protests, never ending…protests! Why is my life (I was born in 1962 and the protests started) spent on protests? Reading such an interesting text related to a very topical, everyday problem, because it concerns protests that never end and do not resolve anything – I wonder if poetry should deal with current problems that plague humanity like: war, climate, health care, poverty, hunger, injustice… Are we doomed to be a protesters? Why should we describe injustice so painful for everybody and everywhere? And why not?
“The Times – They Are A- changing” as Bob Dylan sang and…on the other hand “Ars longa vita brevis” – this quote suggests not to think too much … and write too much about the eternally bothersome issues of everyday life. Because they prevent us from writing poems about the most important topics – the fragility of life, about love, about many, many philosophical problems. Hence appeared in my thoughts: what for poetry should or should not describe?
I expect there will be many different readings of C. X. Turner’s verse, unusual in several respects (two lines, past tense, the wide separation of the final words). It means what you want it to mean. For me, as someone who went up to college in the exhilarating 1960s, it speaks of youth, nostalgia and rueful regrets.
The last line, reassembled into “flower thrower,” brings to mind that alternative title for Banksy’s Love is in the Air, where an aggressive-looking man is about to hurl the bouquet of flowers with which he is armed. A theme derived from non-violent protest, and in particular the days of “flower power” and beat poet Alan Ginsburg’s influential article of 1965 on how to make a march a spectacle, leading to the flag anthem of my generation, San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)….all across the nation such a strange vibration, people in motion.
How we ended? I don’t think many of us lived throughout our three score and ten in self-sufficient hippie communes. Free love turned out to have a cost. We mostly put away our guitars, married, got office jobs, houses and kids. And the wars and the nastiness continued in the world. But for a time, it was beautiful.
Whoa. This one got me good. I read it several times to have the meaning emerge on perhaps the third read. And emerge is what occurred, like magic 8 ball, where the saying just comes up and is apparent.
The poet seems to be saying that the couple’s relationship ended at the wedding, with the throwing of the bouquet. That typically is seen as the send off to the honeymoon, as the newly married couple leaves the reception. Perhaps that’s where things went south.
I love the sparseness of the poem. There are only five words and two lines. But the space between flower and thrower is a vast chasm. In the first reading, the space represents both the arc that the thrown flowers travels to the lucky one who will catch them, but also the emotional distance between the new bride and groom. Because clearly there is a chasm between them if this is the end. Makes me wonder what went wrong. Good haiku does that, makes me wonder, ponder, muse.
But this seemingly simple, and yet not at all, poem wasn’t finished with me yet. After sitting with my new poem-friend for a while longer, the magic 8 ball of poetry interpretation had a different response.
A couple is dating and they have an argument. One brings flowers to apologize, but the other cannot accept the contrition. It’s just too big of an ask. And they throw the flowers on the front stoop in a grand gesture of “We’re done!” In this reading, the chasm of space is also the distance that the flowers traversed, but this time it’s from one to the other, then hovering, then to the ground. Also, the space represents the distance between the two parts of what once, very recently, was a couple.
I really enjoy C.X. Turner’s poetry. This one in particular speaks to me.
It is likely there can be multiple interpretations of this haiku, but for me the image of a flower thrower calls to mind the famous Banksy mural titled Love is in the Air (Flower Thrower). In Banksy’s interpretation of this phrase, the man throwing the flowers clearly poses with both the expression and appearance as if he will launch a bomb. But instead he is throwing a bouquet of flowers. The message Banksy conveys is we should try to resolve differences peacefully. The first line of this haiku makes we wonder, do we end conflict in a good way, by trying to work toward a positive resolution? Or in the end do even flower throwers cause harm, by their relatively harmless but clearly violent adjacent intent? I would like to think that as Banksy constructed his artwork on the West Bank Wall separating Palestine and Israel, hopefully this haiku uses positive imagery to move toward a future that is hopeful and positive for all.
Turner has crafted a senryu positively crackling with ma and yûgen, humor or pathos depending on how the reader completes it in their imagination, chooses to fill in those critical tracts of blank space in their personal interpretation. One of those pieces a critic is almost hesitant to inquire into intentions regarding, to limit expansive possibilities it stretches so magnificently across, to disperse the gorgeous mists enshrouding it. What is certain is there is an exciting concrete element in the presentation accomplishing the cut, providing a pause and emulating the concept — of flying a distance through the air — beyond serving as a cutting mechanism. (Though we may also posit that break occurs between lines 1 and 2?) In your ‘we’ who — or what — is the flower and who is doing the lobbing? Or was there a third party involved? Did you picture bridesmaids? Love me and love me nots? A gifted bouquet gotten old and disposed of? Perhaps an opera performance concluded with tokens of appreciation raining down? All these and many more valid options exist in this flexible micropoem, a box fit for Schrodinger and a credit to the senryu form and Failed Haiku’s discerning editor for selecting it. Kudos to C.X. Turner for providing such a captivating poem to consider, tempting clouds on which to envision unique shapes and characters, personal meaning and emotional coloration!
Five words make up this senryu, but it’s the position of the words that give a clue as to the meaning I attributed to it. Line 1 starts it with “how we ended” which could be positive or negative. Because of the use of the word we rather than it, I ascribed this senryu to be about a relationship.
Reading on, the second line has two words, flower and thrower separated by a space larger than either word. Connecting it the first line, those words remind me of a wedding and tossing of the bouquet. The relationship is positive enough that the “we” ended with a commitment ceremony. If, however, the word “flower” had been “vase” this changes the tenor of the senryu and relationship entirely…from positive to negative. Now, it is a fight that ended the relationship.
Personally, I like the positive reading and to the couple, “Congratulations and Best Wishes!”
This verse, a duostich, is in two lines with seven syllables and only five words. The second line is kind of broken with much space in between the two words indicating duration.
The verse begins with a question word and then takes us into an ending. Who, what, why – were the questions in my mind. The second line begins on a happier note and ends again on a sad note just like the line above.
This is about a relationship falling apart – the journey from utmost joy to deep sorrow. I think this is about the relationship of a couple where the initial dates/meetings happen with gifting of flowers and other beautiful stuff apart from all the tender love and care. And then after a certain time period, as they get to know each other better and take the relationship for granted, differences appear and the relationship itself breaks. All the gifts received may be thrown away. All the stowed memories are pushed away. Some letters and photos are disposed off. It could also be throwing out the partner from one’s life and from one’s mind and may be heart too.
There’s something about flow and throw here, the flow of love and affection, showering of kisses and more and then hurling abuses at each other or may be even throwing things at each other.
This verse could metaphorically imply life and death too. We’re born as flowers (the small cute innocent little babies) and at our end, our bodies are disposed off (custom- appropriately).
My daughter asks if it’s about a poet and their garden which they’ve tended to and has borne many flowers but the garden is later left untended either due to moving out from that house or any other reason.
A very poignant verse making one dwell on one’s own relationships and all the causes and effects of all that one says or does to and with their partner/spouse.
Harrison Lightwater — intriguing, engaging and elusive:
It’s not clear from the words what meaning the poet intended, but that leaves scope for a reader to think. “How we ended” could suggest a romantic relationship, or a friendship, between two people; or a war; or even the end of “we” the human race. Flowers are thrown at a wedding, or on the coffin at a funeral. Then there is a probable reference to Banksy’s “flower thrower” which could put the lines into the ambiguous and almost surreal context of factional hostilities, or terrorism, in Palestine with the suggestion that it’s better to throw flowers than Molotov cocktails.
In the published verse the author has conspicuously separated the words “flower” and “thrower” with a wide spacing. That must be deliberate, but it’s not clear to me why. It suggests the author means us to read line 2 as alternatives: how we ended…flower; or how we ended…thrower (thrown over?).
Altogether I found the couplet intriguing, engaging but elusive: I felt that I failed to grasp it. I look forward to the poet’s own comment for enlightenment.
Author C. X. Turner:
I wrote this poem when reflecting on one of my favourite pieces of Banksy art, for the Failed Haiku theme: senryu inspired by works of art. I had in my mind the drawing which first appeared on a wall on the side of a garage in Jerusalem in 2003. The man in the black and white mural wearing a scarf and baseball cap who appears to portray a masked Palestinian throwing a bunch of colourful flowers in rage.
Since I first saw this piece, the idea of bombing an establishment with flowers has captured my imagination, as has Banksy’s art in general with its anti-establishment, anti-war, anti-capitalist ethos and associated belief system.
The evident emotion in the piece and the replacing what is usually a sign of war with a sign of peace made me think about the ending of a close relationship, the pain often caused on both sides. This juxtaposition underpinned the layout and form of the poem.
As conflicts continue to rage around the world, in and outside of people’s homes, threatening to destroy lives, so the layout on the page is intended to imply closeness and an element of hostility.
The pet name of ‘flower’, can be read as synonymous with affection, the hopeful symbolism of flowers, the intimacy of having pet names and perhaps a peaceful ending to a relationship.
It could also symbolise some element of rage at the situation, the person, the departure. The giving and the taking away. The gift of cut flowers, which bloom for a short while, before dying.
I hope in this short poem to have conveyed the juxtaposition of love and hate, peace and war whilst considering the overwhelming wish for there to be peaceful resolution to conflict, both personally and in the wider world.
Thanks to all who sent commentaries. As the contributor of the commentary reckoned best this week, Harrison has chosen next week’s poem, another couplet, 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!
Poem for commentary:about the wind three windmills agree — Marie-Therese Taylor The Heron's Nest Volume XXV, Number 2: June 2023
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C.X. Turner is a registered social worker, living and working in the UK. Her poetry is mainly focused on writing short-form poems, on a daily basis. Her poems have been widely published in journals and anthologies, and three of them were nominated for Touchstone awards in 2022. She enjoys working on solo projects as well as collaboratively with other poets, and exploring different art mediums in her haiga. She is part of the Wales Haiku Journal team. Her co-authored book of short poems, Building Sandcastles, is due out in the summer of 2023.
A haiku of hers that just appeared in The Heron’s Nest caught my eye:
inside the greenhouse
There’s an extensive write-up on Banksy’s Love is in the Air at Sotheby’s website: the original canvas came up for auction there in 2021, estimate 3,000,000 – 5,000,000 USD…
Ars longa, vita brevis quoted by Beata has often come to be rendered as “art is forever, life is short.” However, the phrase opens Hippocrates’ Aphorismi, and the full quote is:
Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile.
Art/skill is long, life is short, opportunity risky, experiment dangerous, and judgment difficult. Hippocrates continues: nor is it sufficient that the physician be ready to act as necessary, but the sick, and the attendants and all outward necessaries must be prepared and fitted for the matter.