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re:Virals 413

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.

Opening comment:

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
wouldn’t miss

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.

Your views?

Dan Campbell:

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.

Amoolya Kamalnath:

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.

Ashoka Weerakkody:

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.


virus2

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

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:

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.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Thank you to all those who took time to provide commentary. I particularly enjoyed Dan’s list, especially number 6!
    And thank you, also, to those who provided further comments (well, most of them anyway!).

    So, to THAT comment. I first saw it at the weekend, and was too upset at the time to read any further. Not liking a poem is fine, we can’t all like the same things. Constructive criticism is fine too. But being openly rude – cruel, even – is unacceptable. I now see, further down, that an apology was later given. Alas, the damage was already done. I hope the person concerned will engage brain cells in future before typing.

    Someone else was a little rude about my grasp of English. A tad ironic, considering the repeated misspelling of my name.

    As for what I think of the suggested revision, I’ll be equally blunt: not a lot. Having “they” instead of “it” in line 3 both looks and sounds, to me anyway, incredibly clumsy. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the subject.

    1. I’m sorry, Tracy: by the time I saw it, the post had been up more than half a day. I had to decide whether to excise it or leave it. In the event, I think it rebounded on the poster; rightly so. Possibly the rest of us were retargeting our asteroids!

    2. I do apologize. I would have removed the comments had I been able. (If Keith wishes to do it, with an explanation that I requested he do so because it was truly objectionable and pursuant comments related to *that* I strongly urge him to do that.

      As I have apparently disgraced myself with this community, meaning any additional posts I offer will be forever tainted by one mistake, I will withdraw.

      Best wishes to all,

      Dmitri

      1. Because other comments relate to it, that would be difficult. I’ll think about it if there’s time.

        I appreciate that a nom-de-plume might free a commenter a little, just as it might help to detach a verse from its author (if well-known, or maybe anxious to avoid alienating an editor). All the same, comments “may be as long or short, academic or spontaneous, serious or silly, public or personal as you like. All with respect for the poet.

        The THF code of conduct is available under the ‘About’ section of the menu. It includes:

        “We want our site to be the kind of place where people can have spirited discussions and yet still be considerate of each other.

        Comments should be diplomatic and respectful. Please attempt to make your comments constructive and of the type that you would like to hear yourself.”

        These are good principles. I am keen to encourage genuine discussion of haiku and senryu, for the benefit of writers and readers all, and don’t want to inhibit constructive criticism nor promote speciously effusive praise. I like a little mischief myself. But please, remember that it is not easy for poets to have work criticised insensitively.

        I also edited a commentary to avoid political polarisation, while keeping the thrust of it….

  2. A totally different take on the senryu, which struck me immediately (not the asteroid, though), was that I understood the feeling of wishing a do- over. It also reminded me of a novel, Shrader Marks: Keelhouse. It’s actually two novels in one about an asteroid that is about to hit near Antarctica and a group of New York sailors sailing toward Labrador to escape the upheaval to come. Every time I hear about the near misses (and the one that didn’t affecting the dinosaurs) of asteroids, I remember that book. I didn’t think it was the type of commentary Virals is about, but I have to say I liked the senryu and understand the feeling behind it. I, like Eavonka, like dark humor so appreciate what Tracey wrote.

  3. near-miss asteroid
    sometimes I wish
    it wouldn’t miss

    Mug shots and bad moods aside, an interesting question comes up:
    “[is it ] enough to get the idea of what a writer is trying to say” and put aside *how* a poem is written? I’ll back into it . . .

    It is hard to know just how to locate the first line— “near miss-asteroid”. Clearly, if the writer had offered an article, e.g., “a near-miss asteroid”, the rest would make no sense.

    Part of the difficulty (at least for some readers) may be that one is somewhat used to haiku/senryu being written without an article, something which Paul O. Williams, many years ago, called “Tontoism” .He wasn’t pleased.

    And being used to it—to Tontoism— one may assume at first that this is what has happened here— the article has been left out and is implied. But surely that cannot be the case.. Still, one may have to go through a mis-reading in order to get to what the author intends.

    (And that in itself is an interesting thing— when, in a piece where it is likely to happen, does a mis-reading add value and when is it merely an obstacle to be worked around. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe the author of “near-miss asteroid” intended the kind of deliberate disorientation that a mis-reading may lead to.)

    So what *is* “near-miss asteroid?” The third line refers back to it as, just that— “it”. Yes, one knows what is meant, we get it, but the question is: does it matter, from the standpoint of *writing*, that the “it” of the third line refers back to something that has no specific “itness,” or at least not the kind that could smash into the planet (or a particular mug).

    I begin to feel a bit foolish talking this way, but I guess I sympathize somewhat with Dimitri Parseff’s concerns.

    I will weigh in on the question (and hasn’t it come up here before?)—while in conversation it may not matter how something is articulated as long as one’s meaning (through non-verbal means, perhaps) is at least felt, or intuited— but writing is another matter. The words have to stand on their own. (And yes, there are non-verbal elements such as music that convey much of a poem’s meaning, but one has to end one’s already convoluted musings somewhere.)

    Here is William’s piece on “Tontoism” from a number of years ago:

    https://www.graceguts.com/further-reading/tontoism-in-american-haiku

    1. Peter, I read line #1 as I’d read a news headline: ‘near-miss asteroid’. I’d actually like it better if it was printed like a headline: Near-miss Asteroid
      The only problem I have with this senryu is the use of the singular pronoun ‘it’ in L3. Easily fixed:
      Near-miss Asteroid
      sometimes I wish
      they wouldn’t miss (Tracey Davidson) –
      .
      I have more of a problem with Beata’s introduction:
      “Beata writes:

      “The Perseids still can be seen in August and then we look skyward more often.” – Beata Czeszejko

      Who are ‘we’? I certainly don’t look skyward more often in August. Too cold, too cloudy, too rainy.
      I look forward to the official beginning of Spring in just 5 days from now.

      But (sigh) I suppose I just have to accept that many in Europe and in North America, many in the whole Northern hemisphere, actually, still appear to be adherents of the flat earth theory.

      1. Dimitri/Lorin: I feel this is getting somewhat pernickety — straining at a gnat. There are asteroids that narrowly miss Earth all the time, and some that occasionally hit. Most burn up in the atmosphere. The opening line “near-miss asteroid” simply sets the scene in terms such as might be read in a headline of any reputable news outlet (as you note, Lorin). If you’re advocating a return to capitalisations as we older people were taught in school, well, that’s going to affect a lot of current haiku.

        The poet’s choice of “asteroid” as compared with “meteor,” “meteorite” or “shooting star” suggests one of the larger and potentially more damaging space rocks, of course, such as the one that caused a fireball at Chelyabinsk ten years ago. And even as large as the one believed to have brought about the major extinction of dinosaurs.

        So here we infer “another” near-miss asteroid as “it,” in everyday language that people other than literary critics use, although more musical. That’s all.

        I liked Beata’s consideration of a wide range of asteroids and effects, from ominous to positive wishes. The ku allows more scope than I first thought.

  4. Re Opening Comment:
    I wish more senryu would be written in one part, but this verse works as a haiku.
    A ‘near-miss asteroid’ is an event worthy of an exclamatory cut.

    I also found something in ‘wish’ing on a star.

    1. simonj: Thanks. I’m inclined to agree that the cut helps, and likewise savour the permutations on wishing upon a star.

  5. I’ve been a huge fan of this poem each of the times I’ve seen it (Haiku In Action, Failed Haiku, and now here). Dark humor appeals to me and frankly, I wish there were more of it in haikai. Also, poetry is meant to give voice to that which strongly resonates, and Tracy is so successful in that regard.

    Gatekeepers who refuse to allow this poetic form to expand make no sense to me. We’re all allowed our personal preferences, but my goodness, keep it respectful.

  6. Aargh.

    From the top of the page:

    “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”

    Well, one can only hope.

    near-miss asteroid
    sometimes I wish
    it wouldn’t miss

    Worst of all with this is that it is flat out badly written. As it is, it gives the impression that the “near-miss asteroid” comes again and again (and near-misses each time).

    I propose that the opening to re:Virals be changed to “featuring some of the best and some of the worst contemporary haiku and senryu, giving you the opportunity to comment in either case . . .”.

    1. How many ‘i’s in dimitri?

      Note that the rubric says “some of your favourites,” and commentators have differing favourites. Why not try submitting a detailed commentary, better than the others, and then you can put forward one of your favourites? For the record, the criteria are:

      The chosen verse should be:

      — of good quality (published in an edited publication — full reference for publication, poet and date)

      — written by the poet in English

      — contemporary (by a poet within our lifetime)

      — third party (not yours nor mine)

      Should you wish to offer something innovative or out of the ordinary, that would be welcome.

      1. Keith (and M.R.)–

        I grew up Dmitri but have been trying out Dimitri because occasionally people stumble over the original.

        I see I have offended people. I could have been more tactful, but at times my impulses get the better of me, and I had
        just been looking at a certain mug shot which put me in a bad mood. No excuses. Apologies.

        Here’s how I read the poem:

        “near miss asteroid” seems to refer to a specific, singular, asteroid. Following that, the “it” refers to that same asteroid.

        To my way of seeing the poem might have been more clearly and effectively written “a near-miss asteroid/ sometimes I wish/ it hadn’t missed”

        The line “near miss asteroid” is vague, and does not seem rooted in the poem itself, but hovers above it, sort of how a title
        does.

        With haiku/senryu I often get the impression that some readers feel it is enough to get the idea of what a writer is trying to say and feel that this is good enough, regardless of the quality of the writing itself.

        1. No offense taken, hopefully by me or the writer, but thanks for clarifying! More explanation is always better, as discussion offers the most benefit. You want the asteroid to be in the past tense in the poem because you prefer that particular perspective, but what if the asteroid is in transit to us? Sometimes, we hear about these beforehand, knowing it will miss in advance. While I enjoy this poem, it’s not my favorite layout. I like Keith’s version, where there is no break within the poem, which is acceptable in senryu but rarely done. Even I sometimes find myself rearranging a poem for the sake of a break, but if it says what it needs to say, what’s the point?

        2. In this instance, it was good enough for the editors of Haiku in Action and for Bryan Rickert as editor of July’s Failed Haiku, Dimitri. Two publications one admires for their dynamism, open-mindedness and willingness to accept a wide variety of senryu.

          I do see quite a few verses published which contain spelling or grammatical errors, and sometimes semantic ambiguities. Indeed, I have seen verses with words repeated to trick a reader, verses that bear little relation to normal grammatical speech, and verses that are totally baffling to any logical understanding, sometimes even gibberish. But that to me is a minor matter compared with the enthusiasm and ideas which haikuists bring to the genre.

          And I can see how the mugshot might be unsettling…

    2. Dimitri, you should have provided your criticism constructively as commentary. We aren’t required to love any poem, but we do need to be respectful. What is poorly written about it, or are you just unhappy with its content? There is a difference. It’s a senryu that we can all probably relate to at some point in our lives, whether literally or humorously. There haven’t really been any “near” misses, but a few were relatively close. It could also be a reflection on a single asteroid that was a near miss. When things aren’t going well or the world is in chaos, you might think, well, I wish it hadn’t missed. Human disappointment and disgust are undoubtedly cyclical.

    3. Temper, temper, Dmitri. 🙂 (Please go back to your given name’s original spelling, Dmitri. Dimitrihas the disadvantage of possibly implying that you’re a bit ‘dim’ and you’re not… quite bright, actually. )

      near-miss asteroid
      sometimes I wish
      it wouldn’t miss

      ” As it is, it gives the impression that the “near-miss asteroid” comes again and again (and near-misses each time). ” – Dmitri

      You’re right, it does. I agree. And Tracey doesn’t have the excuse of English not being her first language. It can’t be denied that “it” implies one thing/one item. All that’s needed to fix the problem is the third person pronoun :

      near-miss asteroid
      sometimes I wish
      they wouldn’t miss

      This is probably it: “Airplane-sized asteroid found 2 days after brush by Earth”

      “Asteroid hidden by sun’s glare

      On July 15, 2023, the ATLAS observatory in South Africa discovered an asteroid up to 200 feet (60 m) in size two days after it passed closest to Earth. Astronomers designated the asteroid 2023 NT1. And NASA called it airplane-sized. Compare 2023 NT1 to the asteroid that hit Arizona some 50,000 years ago, leaving the large, famous Barringer Crater, aka Meteor Crater. The asteroid that made Meteor Crater might have been only slightly smaller (about 160 feet or 50 m in size). The newly discovered asteroid passed within only one-quarter the moon’s distance. It came closest to Earth at 10:12 UTC on July 13, 2023. ” https://earthsky.org/space/asteroid-2023-nt1-close-call-earth-july-13-2023/
      That’d be Friday, July 13th AEST. Whoo! What, me superstitious?

      1. Yes. As I said, no excuses, but I was in an awful knot yesterday and took it out on this poem. Apologies again, to Tracy Davidson.

        I do wonder what Tracy makes of the revisions that have been offered. Or some of the criticism– ignoring my initial response, please.

        Dim Mee Tree

  7. I sure did enjoy reading all of the comments, especially the one from Nairithi, thank you Nairithi!

    1. Loved your list of reasons and I suspect we all have a few more of our own we could add to the list Dan.

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