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:near-miss asteroid sometimes I wish it wouldn't miss —Tracy Davidson Failed Haiku, Volume 8, Issue 91 July 2023
Introducing this poem, Beata writes:
The Perseids still can be seen in August and then we look skyward more often. We have many questions about life in those moments! Where is my wandering star that reflects my way of life? Is our life written in stars? Could we have chosen other paths in our lives? Perhaps we should not have gone the way we were told to go… And why did author Tracy Davidson think about asteroids not about stars? How not to miss the dangerous asteroid – the possible ending of our life? How to say goodbye to everything we love so much? And that is why I have chosen the haiku by Tracy Davidson. There are so many questions in it! And the next reason for my choice was the beauty of repeated sounds in the unusual melodiousness of the words.
An endearing and euphonious poetic rant towards the zappai end of the genre, and easy to interpret by anyone who has felt rage and frustration with the state of the human world — or a particular part of it. The antithesis of haiku butterflies and cherry blossom, though maybe not of Grandma who very likely expresses the same opinion from time to time. I smiled.
I found myself pondering why haikuists and editors feel that the fragment-and-phrase formula is all that essential, and why there are so many “image plus poet’s personal thought” verses these days. On the first, would the verse be the same in meaning, and read more smoothly, without the implied cut into two parts, yet still be within the genre, as:
sometimes I wish
a near-miss asteroid
On the second, “image plus poet’s personal thought,” such verses are so much easier to write than a haiku with two-or-more-real-images juxtaposed and arranged so that a reader may have the insight themselves. But they are popular both with today’s haikuists and with editors.
This poem made me think of why I would want a devastating asteroid to strike Earth and I came up with these:
1 – I would have a rock-solid excuse to avoid visiting my mother-in-law
2- I finally get out of doing my taxes.
3- it would wipe out the political party I detest.
4- It would provide a clean slate to rebuild society and governance systems
5- it would be a way to end consumer-driven economies and restore nature’s balance.
6- I hope it lands on Putin.
7 – An asteroid could bring the world together, fostering international cooperation and understanding.
8- The impact could lead to a transformation of consciousness or even a spiritual awakening for humanity.
Nairithi Konduru (aged eight):
Sixty-six million years ago, dinosaurs had the ultimate bad day. With a devastating asteroid impact, a reign that had lasted 180 million years was abruptly ended.
This is a very funny senryu, sometimes when we really don’t like someone and they are about to get hurt but it just missed, you so wish it would’t have missed. But it is a very rare case and/or scenario. Has it ever happened to you?
For example, when one has to go to school or work on a weekend or when one has go to school or work on a rainy day, or when there’s lots of homework, one wants an asteroid’s help.
A senryu with a surprise in L3. The word ‘miss’ is found twice, there’s assonance and wish and miss give a rhythm.
As a school-going child, these asteroids and their heavenly journey to earth was definitely very worrisome and unwelcome. However, as adults, seeing the suffering in the world, the destruction we bring upon ourselves through the medium of large-scale quarrels and wars, this verse definitely resonates. If especially an asteroid could just wipe out the entire creation in an instant, without us knowing or feeling any hurt of suffering before that last moment, it probably is the best thing to happen! We don’t have to suffer today’s pollution, the toxins in the foods and water and even air.
What world are we sending our children and grandchildren into? Or are we bringing children onto the earth so they suffer from the lack of water, oxygen and pure food products? Hence, isn’t it good to just start over with another cycle of creation?
However, the poet uses the word ‘sometimes’. We still feel safe when we’re in our comfort zone. A tragic event occurs and then the rambling starts. These thoughts of instant dissolution appear. That’s because it’s a solution of ease. The long-standing suffering stops.
I remember we wished so many things to happen just before exams or even results during our school and college days! Sometimes games involving two not-so-friendly countries bring about certain words/wishes. May be those who are living in war-torn or war-ravaged countries would feel this poem were true.
Tracy Davidson’s wishful thinking appearing in Failed Haiku is, appropriately, about a failed asteroid! A nicely rhyming choice of sounds in lines 2 and 3 gives it further lift making a “failed” editor accept it without fail.
A micro-celestial object, an asteroid comes without a predictable shape and its mass and velocity are subject to all intricate laws of astrophysics and relativity which govern matters of deep space, for sure. Under such complex and variable dynamics this menacing projectile transgresses through the hopeless vacuum of inter-galactic space headed for doom. A thrilling episode is yet to unfold as earth bound astronomers locate this invader just in time to warn the earthlings of an impact with a heavenly body, after all. And it missed, something no one could positively predict but report the near-miss afterwards.
The idea of it being a “heavenly body” occured to me just now, even as I ventured out to correct a sundry typo that I had overlooked thus far and that pause gave me thinking space trying to interpret what the haikuist was worried about in this rather pessimistic presentation. A heavenly visitor is most welcome under any circumstances, therefore the wishlist within Tracy Davidson poem seems explainable on that basis. Her lines:
“some times I wish/it wouldn’t miss” after all gives us the feeling that she represents some saintly figure waiting for divine intervention in today’s worldly affairs, mostly unfavourable to the earthlings as a whole.
With Saturn the ringed planet in retrograde till November the astrological sages are warning mankind to be cautious, alert and sane in this unusally hot era we transgress too. El Nino may yet be a mild warning, who knows! As an astrology novice confided in me the other day, this retrograding of Saturn, the planet they consider as the giver of suffering to this World and Man began its reverse travel in orbit almost on the day that now famous “catastrophic implosion” happened under the surface of the Atlantic in close proximity to the wreck of RMS Titanic. “Interestingly on March 8 2014 this same harbinger of doom (Saturn) was in retrograde motion”, he said. “So what?” You may well ask, exactly the question I asked. The answer stunned me. It was the day MH 370 with 239 souls on board took off from Malaysia bound for China…and never ever seen again! Well, words of a novice they may be, but they ring a bell in one’s mind. Don’t they?
The haiku we enjoy in the meantime is possibly the sharp dim note of the pessimistic chord that resonated in this remarkable poetess’ sensitive mind.
Harrison Lightwater—genial and bittersweet:
This genial bittersweet senryu needs little commentary. Ideas of acceptance, “letting go” (how I wish haikuists would desist from labouring that overworked cliché), forgiving and loving thy neighbour go out the window sometimes. Probably more often than not. Nobody would take the wish for total extinction seriously, but maybe selective extinctions could have appeal. I think most if not all of us have had this feeling, scandalous as it is! So it ticks the “universality” box.
Compositionally, the plain lines have the ring and rhythm of a poet to whom assonance and slant-rhymes come naturally. I enjoyed them.
Author Tracy Davidson:
A few comments about the piece:
Although put forward from Failed Haiku, this poem was originally published by the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association as part of their Haiku in Action series. The prompt was: “Mental Health: do you have anxiety, or does anxiety have you?” I wrote several haiku in response. This particular one was inspired by a story in the news the previous week, of an asteroid that passed between the Earth and the moon.
Now, I should stress that of course I don’t really wish for an asteroid to crash into us! However, sometimes, thinking about what humans do to each other, to other species, and to the planet’s resources, one can’t help thinking that maybe Earth would be better off without us.
Written during one of my low moods, I originally thought it too bleak to get published. Looking back at it now, I see more dark humour in its bleakness.
Thanks to all who sent commentaries. As the contributor of the commentary reckoned best this week, Harrison 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!
Poem for commentary:the plum tree by the job centre is flowering — Sarah Davies LEAF issue 1, June 2023
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Tracy Davidson, in the heart of England, the county of the bear and ragged flagstaff, is an all-round poet and writer of flash fiction as well as haiku. A search for her as “Tracy Davidson poet” turns up a wide variety of work that you may enjoy, as I did. Her short bio and a photo also appear, as in, for example, https://winningwriters.com/people/tracy-davidson. Several of her senryu expose a delightful sharp sense of humour in the face of reality.