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re:Virals 414

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 Harrison Lightwater, was:

     the plum tree
     by the job centre
     is flowering
     — Sarah Davies
     LEAF issue 1, June 2023

Introducing this poem, Harrison writes:

In the time available I found it difficult to pick a haiku that I like a lot and that is interesting and maybe unusual, but this one on the list Keith offered in case of need appealed straight away for its plain elegance and detachment. The insecurity of unemployment, the hope of finding a suitable job, the compensation of beauty, and the promise represented by the plum tree, are all conveyed in a few short words that I envy.

Opening comment:

I think this is an excellent, gentle and evocative haiku the theme of which goes way beyond the simple words. Real images juxtaposed for the reader to intuit the relationship between their essences and arrive at insight. Here, on the one hand, the job centre where free help to the unemployed, or job-seekers, is provided (there are similar American Job Centers in the USA ). Counterposed, a plum tree in bloom, doing its thing.

Gainful work occupies such an important part of most people’s prime years. We picture the queue at the job centre hoping (possibly in vain) for fulfilment, for their own blossoming. Perhaps a plum job. While they wait, or search, there it is, the plum tree, fulfilling its destiny, quietly flowering. Like the lilies of the field, the plum tree “toils not, neither does it spin, yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-31, KJV). The plum tree in bloom offers beauty, for all, even the unemployed and perhaps the homeless, and the prospects of personal flowering and fruit.

There is optimism in these plain lines of Sarah’s. There is also a touch of human humour, tinged both with irony and with empathy. This haiku does not follow the formulaic “fragment plus phrase with a clear cut between them” which some would hold up as a haiku sine qua non. It’s a single sentence without a grammatical break, although the linefeeds produce slight, subtle pauses slowing us enough to attend to each line: a single-line monoku would be less effective, I contend. Free-standing verses of this sort, a sentence nevertheless containing an effective juxtaposition, are difficult to achieve with success and some have suggested that the best are the works of a real master.

I think that Issa*footnote would have liked this verse; and, like Harrison, I should like to have written it.

Dan Campbell:

I sure do admire the author of this poem. I assume a job centre is a place to help the unemployed find work and if I had just left a job centre I would be sprinting to a pub or tavern instead of observing blossoms. I believe the sight of the plum blossoms was a special moment for the author and helped to inspire her and give her hope.

Plum blossoms, often associated with early spring, signify resilience and strength. Their ability to bloom even in the harsh conditions of late winter symbolizes hope and renewal.

Plum trees and their blossoms have been portrayed in art forms ranging from painting to poetry. Artists have sought to capture the delicate beauty of plum blossoms on canvas and poets have used the blossoms as metaphors for life’s fleeting moments.

Plum trees and their blossoms are powerful symbols of hope, resilience, and beauty across cultures. I bet the sight of the blossoms reminded the author that even the most delicate of blooms can endure the harshest conditions.

Matt Cariello:

I keep rereading this poem, hoping there’s something I’ve missed. “Plum” as in the fruit, or perhaps “plum” as in “a source of advantage.” Maybe something with “job centre?” One slang variation on “flowering” has to do with getting cheated by someone or something. All of these approaches require several layers of linguistic sleight-of-hand, and don’t add up to much to me, anyway.

There’s a vague metaphoric mapping between “job centre” and “flowering”: flowering <=> successful job search; something about the fruits of labor starting with the flower. But it’s very weak, with no sense of sudden awareness. The language is simply descriptive. I like it as an image, or as part of something longer, but I’m not sure it stands alone. With no metaphoric resonance, and no inventive language, why does this qualify as a haiku, much less any kind of poem? I’m very interested to hear what others, and the author, have to say.

Jennifer Gurney:

I love this poem by Sarah Davies. I remember reading it on The Daily Haiku when originally shared, and again in the inaugural issue of LEAF this summer. Seeing it here in reVirals, it was like coming upon a friend whom you run into unexpectedly. How lovely.

There are three elements to this short poem that I’d like to comment on – the plum tree, the job center and the flowering. Having listened to Keith’s toriawase broadcast recently, I find that I’m noticing this trio nature of haiku more and more. I love the play off each other of these three elements, and their combined synergy to add deeper meaning.

There is an unwritten, yet given, fourth element – the narrator. In this case, it seems to me that the narrator is either the one noticing these three elements, perhaps on a walk in the area, or the job-seeker themself. Hard to tell. Feels more one-step removed, though, so I’ll go with the noticer-commenter role.

First, let’s look at the plum tree. In some cultures, plum trees symbolize hope, perseverance and good luck. One Chinese myth talks of us mere mortals feeding on plums to build up our vitality and strength. I learned on Tree Spirit Wisdom just now that the spirit of plum speaks to “the value of patience and the importance of remaining calm during challenging times.” So there is a rich and vibrant back-story to the two words: plum tree.

Next in the trio is the job center. To have a symbol of hope, luck, patience, perseverance and calm during challenging times is fortuitous. Those of us who have gone through an arduous job search in our lives, waiting for news on the job search is perhaps the hardest part. Well, that and not having the funds needed for daily living whilst looking for a job … When I was in the midst of a lengthy job search years ago, I took to looking for signs. I remember finding and buying a coffee mug with the quote by Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” It felt like if I drank my morning coffee out of this mug, I was somehow sending out my intention into the world. I don’t know whether it did anything for the job search itself, but it sure lifted my spirits during the process. And I’m guessing that those coming to the job center who saw the plum tree also might have experienced this sense of lifted spirits.

Which brings us to element three: the plum tree flowering. I typically think of fruit trees coming into season and flowering in the spring and summer. Some even come to harvest in the fall, like apples in Michigan, where I grew up. But plums are known as winter flowers and in many countries in Asia, they bloom as early as December and continue through the first few months of the year, into March. This makes me think that the plum tree was a very deliberate choice by Davies. To be blooming in winter means to be facing the harshest part of the year weatherwise, and to be persistent in new birth, new life, new hope. The plum flower is also a symbol of longevity, which is a good omen for job seekers, too.

The blossoming plum tree is offered to the job seekers as they arrive at the job center in pursuit of turning that new corner in their lives. It’s as if the plum tree had a sign hanging on its branch, quoting Thoreau (echoed from my coffee mug): “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”

Amoolya Kamalnath:

I confess here that I read Keith’s commentary when the first issue of Leaf was released.

My own first reading of the verse was that it’s a complete sentence and so how it could be considered a haiku? However, I got to understand the many layers this verse holds after I read the commentary in the journal, and I find the poem having many meanings.

One is the literal meaning that a plum tree which is just in front of or beside or opposite to the job centre, is flowering as it’s spring season. This also could mean that there may be many job vacancies in the centre and hence the openings are now filling up and hence the job centre too is flourishing just as the tree is flourishing. There may be young love blossoming in the office just like the buds blooming, may be young workers are reaching pinnacles in their respective work and hence going places.

The more I dwelled on it, the more insight I found. The use of the word ‘plum’ instead of any other tree, the use of the word job centre and not office or workplace, and also the usage of ‘flowering’ instead of the usual ‘plum blossoms’, each of these has made a succinct description and the difference that raises the verse to an insightful haiku.

Jonathan Epstein—shedding supernal light:

Structurally, this artful haiku is a straightforward declarative sentence with an adverb phrase modifying the subject — “The plum tree by the job centre is flowering.” A simple fact of nature is announced— spring, after a seasonal sleep, is back again.

Praise for the effective use of toriawase. Image 1 (plum tree), the protagonist, plus image 2 (job centre),the foil, plus the catalyst (flowering) combine to create a magical moment.

When I learned (L3) that the plum tree was in bloom, I wanted to figure out why this haiku had moved me. First, the mention of “the job centre” triggered a stream of doleful memories from my youth. I had to stop and re-play each in slow motion: me lining up with a dozen other sad, unemployed adults; scanning a wall of scant index cards offering low wage jobs, routine queries by a counselor to see what I’d done to find work. Leaving a dingy building feeling lost and sorry for myself. The shame of walking away with what I felt was an unearned government handout.

Once I learned the plum tree was in bloom, a clear image of it appeared — a gnarled Arthur Rackham tree covered in cotton candy-pink blooms. Seeing this image and the halo surrounding its crown brightened even the drab government job centre.

With the British spelling of “centre” (“center” in the US) this haiku likely puts us somewhere in the UK in mid-April. We are in the full flush of spring — time for a Canterbury pilgrimage — and well out of the long, often harsh winter common to countries with snow and ice. People who were weary of white landscapes, slipping on city slush, and craving the return of nature’s colors are now exulting in the coltish spirits aroused by spring. The flowering plum exudes the joy of hope and renewal at the same time it sheds supernal light on the job centre, blessing all who enter it dragging their forlorn hearts.

While the poem ticks enough boxes to declare it a skillfully crafted haiku, I value it most for its effect on me. In a mere five seconds it has elevated me to a higher plane.

Thank you, Sarah Davies, for writing this haiku. Thank you, Harrison Lightwater, for proposing it for this week’s commentary.

Author Sarah Davies:

This work came about as a way of tying in a traditional object – the plum tree – with its connotations of fruitfulness, harvest and perhaps rebirth, with a more tangential everyday hope – the chance of a new job, a new life.

Perhaps it is a tying in, perhaps more of a juxtaposition or contrast. The plum tree has flowered, but the person’s chances have not improved. It has a touch of how, when difficult times or events occur, life and especially nature continue their cycles and processes, unstoppable and sometimes pitiless. I have also tried to link in the natural, seasonal world with the man made and urban.

I tried to choose on purpose, simple and spare vocabulary, the better to evoke and conjure an image.


Thanks to all who sent commentaries. Two stood out, Jennifer’s and Jonathan’s, and I had to toss a coin. As Jonathan (heads) came up, he 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 way we shape
     one another
     —Alvin Cruz 
     Contemporary Haibun Online Journal #19.1
     August 1, 2023
     (note: though this verse appears at the end of a haibun, please take it as a freestanding verse)

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.


Sarah Davies is a Merseyside poet living near London. She writes longer form poems and has been published in a range of magazines. She has written haiku regularly for a while and started to do this as a discipline more seriously in Facebook’s Daily Haiku group after COVID struck. She has had more than one remarkable poem selected for commentary in The Haiku Foundation’s Haiku Dialogue.


LEAF is a recent inaugural publication of The Daily Haiku, under the editorship of Ravi Kiran. It is intended to appear at six-monthly intervals, free to read online, and accepts submissions from group members: but anyone may join the group which is entirely free. With an international group membership of some 13,800, an inclusive approach with a wide range of standards and interests, and the journal’s circulation extending beyond the group, there’s a sizeable, supportive and enthusiastic readership.

*Issa: the haiku of his that Sarah’s brought to mind, although it’s not directly similar but has a related theme, is: “the daikon-picker / with a daikon / shows the way.” It’s effectively a single sentence with the cut at the end, and translated likewise. It has Issa’s typical good humour. The juxtaposition within it is gentle and implied: Matt’s metaphor mapping may not be so useful a tool in such cases. Behind the slightly humorous aspect of using a large radish to show the way, there’s also the much wider (unspoken) thought that one uses whatever comes to hand in one’s own trade and experience to “show” (also “teach”) the way in a much broader sense. A subtle piece of Issa.

Amid the contemporary welter of formulaic haiku couched in fashionable tropes, with emotion oft-times written on the front cover, I find it greatly heartening that a modern one can be found which the grandparents of haiku would immediately recognise as being in their spirit. Just as with Chloe Chan’s artful, plain, one-breath haiku last year. It is still possible to write them.

This Post Has 22 Comments

    1. Thank you, Amoolya. Yes, James w. Hackett has a few run on sentences e.g.

      a tiny spider
      has begun to confiscate
      this cup’s emptiness.

      the kitten
      so calmly chews
      the fly’s buzzing misery

  1. I haven’t seen ‘Leaf’, the journal that published this ku, so I have no idea of the editor’s experience nor whether the journal publishes generic ‘short poems’ along with haiku. To me, though, this might be a ‘short poem’ or an internal verse in a renku but it is certainly not a haiku.

    the plum tree
    by the job centre
    is flowering

    — Sarah Davies
    LEAF issue 1, June 2023

    Why are some clearly well-read and intelligent people here at re:Virals calling it a haiku? I’m flabbergasted. Really.

    Let’s go back to some basics: Haiku derive from the hokku in Basho’s haikai-no-renga, the first verse of a renku. The hokku has a cut. The hokku is the ONLY verse in a renku that has a cut, no matter how long or short the type of renku. The hokku is the only verse that doesn’t rely on a previous verse. The cut, (kire) in Japanese haiku, is indicated by a ‘cutting word’/ kireji. The following verses/ “internal verses” (no matter how many, and no matter whether they are ‘short’ (EL – 2 lines) or ‘long’ (EL- 3 lines) do not have a cut/ kire.

    So in my view, this verse by Sarah is not a haiku ( & not a senryu ). It could be a verse in a renku, but it can’t stand alone. It’s a simple sentence. So why is it rendered in 3 lines? Why are some very well-read and intelligent readers at re:Virals republishing and commenting on such a sentence (broken into 3 lines or not) as if it was a haiku?

    A haiku must have a cut (the cut may be implied grammatically or it may be indicated by a cut marker (“cutting word” in Japanese)

    “As far as haiku poetry is concerned, the one essential is that it makes me think or feel or reflect; . . . ” – Keith
    That could go for any and all types of poetry, Keith. (I’m not sure what you mean by “haiku poetry”, though. I’m certain that this verse is not ‘haiku poetry’ though.)

    “A question I have for anyone interested in haiku (it applies to poetry in general) is: do you have a *feeling* for what it is? If that feeling (and of course it is not a single, or fixed thing) is evoked, than does it matter if a given haiku is a sentence, has a kigo, does this or doesn’t do that?” – Peter

    Yes, it does matter, to me. So that makes me the kind of person who will never wholly kiss you. Such is life. (I have nothing whatsoever against ‘free verse’, btw, nor more classic types of poetry. ‘Rorschach Test’ ku and the like, though, are an abomination to me, while other people , in relatively recent years, delight in indulging in them.

    OK, I’ve googled and seen issue 1 of the journal now. The haiku I would choose as best of those I found in there is Meera Rehm’s :

    midday heat only the river moves

    It takes me to Bonsho’s hokku/ verse #1 in Basho’s renku, “Summer Moon”:

    in town
    the smell of things
    summer moon

    which is followed by Basho’s wakiku:

    it’s hot it’s hot
    at each portal a sigh

    (from ‘Monkey’s Raincoat’ – by Matsuo Basho, translated by Maeda Cana )

    btw, re the daikon haiku (daikon is literally ‘大根, literally “big root” )

    The daikon picker
    points the way
    …with his daikon

    – Kobayashi Issa, in ‘Inch By Inch 45 Haiku by Issa’, translated by Nanao Sakaki, La Alameda Press, New Mexico

    Note the … (ellipses) as an EL symbol often used as a cut marker, to replace/ stand in for a kireji/ cutting word.. This indicates that in Issa’s original there would be a kireji.

    1. Well, Lorin, we’ll have to disagree on this one, pending synthesis. There are many impeccable examples of sentence-like haiku without a marked cut, or with the slightest of semantic pauses in lieu, as here, that nevertheless contain a clear juxtaposition (and in this case a clear season). Both classic and modern.

      For example, a favourite of mine, John Stevenson’s “a bit of birdsong before we start our engines” written as:
      a bit of birdsong
      before we
      start our engines

      Upstate Dim Sum – 2002/2, 2002

      Later revised in ‘My Red’ to:
      a bit of birdsong
      before we start
      our engines

      And several others by the same master:

      pretty sure my red is your red
      Roadrunner – February, 2009

      daylight as the exception it is
      Acorn – Number 26, 2011

      Or Cor van den Heuvel’s
      a stick goes over the falls at sunset

      I even cough alone

      (and many others by him)

      Possibly even
      thistledown children drifting away
      L Ford…. with an option for the reader to insert a semantic cut

      Haiku? Yes.

      1. …….more for contemplation …..

        itsumademo warau kareno-no tōku nite
        forever laughs withered-moor’s distance at

        the laughter lasts
        forever in the distance
        on the withered moor
        — Saito Sanki tr Ueda who arranged it in three lines


        utsurono kokoro ni me ga futatsu aite-iru
        hollow heart in eyes two are-open
        in the hollow heart two eyes are open
        — Hosai tr. Ueda


        katatsu buri soro-soro nobore fuji no yama
        snail little slowly-slowly climb mountain of fuji
        slowly, slowly
        little snail
        climbs Mount Fuji


        (a or the) drunk at the base of the flower
        Shinichi Takeda

      2. Keith, re : ‘ thistledown children drifting away’
        I think that unless there is such a thing as ‘thistledown children’ most readers would find an implied cut: ‘thistledown / children drifting away’.
        But you certainly have me when it comes to John Stevenson’s work.

        (I do understand that ‘the cut’ in haiku need not be marked, and a ‘cut’ might be more like a a ‘turn’ than a cut.)
        To me (no matter how Issa’s work is translated) in

        the plum tree
        by the job centre
        is flowering…

        the ellipses at the end seems to me to work as ellipses at the end of statements typically do. That is, in the piece above, the ellipses (to me) says ‘To be continued’.

        Ah, well.

        1. Lorin: well, when the cut, written or simply implied, comes at the end of the verse, as several examples from ‘the greats’ show, then it is sometimes an invitation to the reader to supply a juxtaposing element in their (the reader’s) own thoughts.

          Another of John Stevenson’s that I like, and that we’ve had here:

          in the beginning
          he was just pretending
          to sound grumpy

          There’s no cut nor trailing ellipse and no jux (one could examine whether those things go together, necessarily or not). Yet there is sufficient in the verse to prompt the reader to complete it with ” aha, but now….&c”

          Note also that it – the written verse – is in the past; another ‘rule’ broken…. But I have a few others, including from the supposed ‘master of the moment,’ Shiki, that are definitely written in the past, and what is in the present is an implied recollection.

          Indeed, I have a whole range of examples to show that many ‘rules’ set out by contemporary editors have been broken by the greats. That doesn’t mean that a majority of haiku didn’t/don’t fit a pattern of conventions. What it does mean is that they are conventions, and not in themselves ‘the spirit of haiku.’ And that whenever a pundit, however expert, tries to define or lay down absolute rules for haiku, they tend to get into difficulties.

          Which is why I focus on the insight, the effect, the feeling of a verse as the primary essence, the spirit of it; and those other things as secondary. Not without importance, but secondary.

          The other manifold guidelines are useful, indeed essential, to know and to know of; but masters and mistresses of haiku, having absorbed them, move on. Basho and Reichhold are among those saying the same. I never saw an avant-garde painter of note who couldn’t paint and draw representational things well first.

    2. Lorin:
      daiko hiki daiko de michi wo oshie keri

      The kireji in the Issa (keri) is at the end, as I understand it.

      From which may I take it that if Sarah’s haiku were to be written as
      the plum tree
      by the job centre
      is flowering…

      You would then agree it is a haiku?

    3. I’m loathe to rewrite any haiku, but for the sake of argument:

      by the job centre
      the plum tree

      You might say that I’ve simply inverted the declarative sentence, and that would be correct – but I’ve also changed the syntactic structure by delaying the application of the verb for just a few beats. Flipping the first and third lines allows the middle line to act as a pivot which can modify either what comes before or after. When “is” is removed, the emphasis is placed on the flowering rather than the tree. “flowering / by the job centre” is now a conceptual image that asks “what flowers by a job centre?” and that pulls the reader into the poem. The image is completed by the last phrase in a way that reveals previously unarticulated metaphoric associations. Moreover, this rewrite allows “job centre” and “plum tree” to work together as a visual unit, thus reinforcing the metaphoric connection between the two.

      1. An enjoyable discussion. I would return the proposition that in this verse the main point, that completes the verse, is “flowering.” And thus that word sits well in the final position.

        I have often observed (including in re:Virals) that an inversion, so out of fashion in mainstream poetry, does provide a kind of ‘cut’ and can bring a haiku to life. But there are also, as in the examples given above, many where there is a successful juxtaposition of different, separate but related things without a cut. Lorin prefers the term “a turn” and that seems a useful option, consistent with some other poetic forms.

        the plum tree / by the job centre represents to me such a turn, marked only by the line ending. After all, almost the last thing one would think of after the words “the plum tree,” is a job centre. The latter draws attention to itself, and starts the reader thinking… “is flowering” completes the arrangement with a third element, the unstated link between them being the insight.

        PS I have now read Lakoff and Johnson. Thank you for that, Matt.

  2. Keith: Metaphoric mapping “happens” whether we recognize it or not. Identifying how it works simply brings it into focal awareness. Think of the metaphoric map as an exploration of toriawase in a given haiku. The map is never finished, but is rather an approximation of the journey.

    1. I like the approach as an analytic tool. Perhaps on occasion the reader has to supply the metaphors to be mapped? If you take the Issa: “the daikon-picker / with a daikon / shows the way” I’d be interested in how you would write the commentary using metaphor-mapping, Matt.

      1. I’ll do the best I can in this short format.

        the daikon-picker
        with a daikon
        shows the way

        This poem uses “Life is a Journey,” one of the basic metaphors we live by. In LoJ,

        • The person leading the life is a traveler
        • Their purposes are destinations
        • The means for achieving purposes are routes
        • Difficulties in life are impediments to travel (burdens)
        • Counselors are guides
        • Progress is the distance traveled
        • Progress is gauged by landmarks
        • Choices in life are crossroads
        • Material resources and talents are provisions
        (see Lakoff & Johnson, Metaphors We Live By)

        On our journey, we reach crossroads, dead ends, forks in the road; we get where we’re going, get turned around, get sidetracked; we see signs and find people that guide us toward our destination. This metaphor is so pervasive we hardly even think about it, and yet it’s one of the main guiding concepts of our lives.

        Issa invokes LoJ through narrative implication: the readers assumes that the “I” of the poem is on a journey and has asked for directions. We see the farmer pointing in a direction with the daikon, so he acts as a guide to the traveler. (In most other translations, “points” is used instead of “shows,” which more clearly indicates something directional.) The traveler’s destination isn’t mentioned, nor is the route traveled, the nature of the road, or any difficulties along the way. This lack of specificity allows the reader to assume a journey in the broadest sense possible, one with no immediate goal. When the guide (the farmer) points with the daikon, it invokes a second very broad conceptual metaphor, Generic is Specific, which tells us that one instance of a phenomenon translates to a general principle. In this case, the farmer points with the thing that he’s growing, a gesture that connects him intimately to his own life journey, which is completed in the daikon. His guiding advice on the journey, then, is this: the journey and the destination are inseparable.

        Lakoff, Johnson, and Turner make the argument that these kinds of metaphorical concepts are already part of our cognitive systems, and that virtually all our thought processes are metaphorical in nature. Conceptual metaphors are not the “creation” of poets. Poets extend, compose and compress conceptual metaphors within the parameters of language. The expressive power of a metaphor – its ability to evoke connections within the reader – is dependent on its ability to broadly structure understanding.

        1. Excellent. Thank you, Matt.

          daiko hiki daiko de michi wo oshie keri
          The dictionary gives for 教 and, in romaji, oshie: “teaching; instruction; teachings; precept; lesson; doctrine.” Hence “shows” might be better than “points”? For 道, michi, “road, path, way, route, and… journey”

          Comments welcome. I am off to read Metaphors We Live By.

          1. simonj: I doubt that a saucy reference was intended here (where are you, Robin D Gill?!).
            Apparently daikon can also mean “ham actor” in slang, which would be a secondary allusion in keeping with the humorous tone. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that usage post-dates Issa and is thereby irrelevant….

        2. “Conceptual metaphors are not the “creation” of poets. Poets extend, compose and compress conceptual metaphors within the parameters of language. The expressive power of a metaphor – its ability to evoke connections within the reader – is dependent on its ability to broadly structure understanding.” – Matt

          Very nicely put, Matt.

  3. What a delight to see this poem in re: Virals! I have long advocated that some excellent haiku can be a sentence. It doesn’t happen often, but I wish more people would applaud them when it does. This poem has a seasonal word, juxtaposition, and the potential for many aha moments. For me, that is more than enough for it to be a haiku.

  4. A question I have for anyone interested in haiku (it applies to poetry in general) is: do you have a *feeling* for what it is? If that feeling (and of course it is not a single, or fixed thing) is evoked, than does it matter if a given haiku is a sentence, has a kigo, does this or doesn’t do that?

    It doesn’t exactly apply, but I will quote Cummings anyway:

    since feeling is first
    who pays any attention
    to the syntax of things
    will never wholly kiss you;

    1. Peter: I think yes — you do have a feeling. I had that feeling the first time I saw this week’s haiku. The feeling, however can arise in different ways: visceral emotion, philosophical insight, inward pictorial beauty, the appreciation of some expression so perfect, the surprise of the unknown…. And I think the exact structure that produces that feeling is secondary, academic. As far as haiku poetry is concerned, the one essential is that it makes me think or feel or reflect; offers insight of some kind; somehow draws out some more fundamental truth; and then, in as brief and apposite a way as could be, a delight.

      None of which is to say that looking at *how* that feeling might have been achieved, and how much due to the poet and how much to the chimes in the reader, is of no use. There’s craft in every art.

      1. I like e e cummings. But Yeats was a way better poet…

        Irish poets, learn your trade,
        sing whatever is well made,
        scorn the sort now growing up
        all out of shape from toe to top.

        I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
        Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
        Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
        Better go down upon your marrow-bones
        And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
        Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
        For to articulate sweet sounds together
        Is to work harder than all these, and yet
        Be thought an idler by the noisy set

    2. (I do think it is important to pay attention to the “syntax of things,” to be clear. Just not to get lost, or stuck, in them.)

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