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, chosen by Jonathan Epstein, was:dawn walk my daily shiver at the dip in the road —Cynthia Anderson Haiku Foundation Haiku Dialogue, May 17, 2023
Introducing this poem, Jonathan writes:
The morning walk. A daily routine so familiar we might sleepwalk through it. Not this poet. A lovely surprise awaits readers when the mystery of what lies “at the dip in the road” dawns on them. They too might feel the poet’s shiver, suffused by the ineffable experience that renews itself each morning. I love this haiku and what these simple, honest, ordinary words both hide and reveal.
I appreciated (as often in Cynthia’s work) that this was out of the mainstream, run-of-the-mill haiku/senryu tropes. This little haiku has, for me, authenticity and mystery as well as a glimpse of what one might call “beyondness.” Of course it might be just a diary note of a walk through a chilly spot, shaded perhaps, where denser, colder air collects. Yet a “walk” carries connotations of “life’s journey,” each day fresh at dawn. The shiver hints at foreboding, perhaps a reminder, possibly of life’s downers, in “the dip,” but the poet knows it will pass, for this is a daily occurrence: the road continues beyond…
Although the first person is used in “my,” and readers might consider whether or not “a,” “this” or “that” could be substituted (your views?), I think there is sufficient detachment from the ego in this verse. “My” daily shiver can be taken to imply that everyone has their own “shiver” — what’s yours? Or do we assume that the shiver is a hint of the universal coldness to come?
A senryu worth treating with respect, especially because Cynthia Anderson has seen the world as it is seen by the seniors of this our time.
“Dawn walk” may be the way she reminds us of the first steps we had taken in life, for all of us, the starting point on this worldly journey. A refreshing start, peaceful and salubrious in the morning cool of the purified air that had been roaming aii around till the oxygen in it got lavishly enriched in the untouched night to rejuvenate the world. The inexhaustible energy of a kid just beginning to stand erect and learning the balancing act of walking, an awe-inspiring ability homo erectus aquired first and passed onto homo sapiens: it is the locomotion of “dawn walk” the seniors too habitually indulge in, in order to remain evergreen, everyone’s dream. The dawn walker in this poem is somewhat different though, is certain of getting a “daily shiver” “at the dip in the road” we are told. The dawn walker knows exactly where the “mishap” awaits! A nice poetical revelation for us to ponder. And what the poet doesn’t expose to us is the white stick the senior may be carrying.
The write by Cynthia Anderson in the first person dexterously highlights writer’s daily experiences in her regular walk by dawn, noting a dip or lower level, perhaps causes a high-level concern or tension in her. What she experiences is a sort of “ daily shiver” due to this dip or speed breaker in a way. The remarkable beauty of her write is the contrast in expression: between dawn and dip in the road; the solemn beauty, serenity, calmness, her peace which she experiences during her dawn walk, all spoilt by the sudden low level. The reality is the dip cannot be avoided due to some reason or other. The mention of “dawn walk” emphasizes that the poet is walking for quite some time; “ her daily shiver” shows us a distinct, untold pain, for us to contemplate. Another metaphorical connotation could be that a smooth, calm life is upset by the memory of a setback or misfortune, a daily occurrence.
An enjoyable write to relish.
The short ‘o’ sound of both dawn (along with its dipthong) and walk give it a feeling of crispness like the morning air. The digraph in ‘daily’ blends with the short i sounds which we find in L2 and L3. All the plosive sounds enhance the anxiety. Here, shiver seems to be a noun and hence the verse can be said to be devoid of verbs which is quite what we may want to achieve in these short poems.
I read this verse as coming from the poet’s own experience on a chill morning walk. There’s a low place in the road where, as pedestrians or ‘walkers’ (also vehicle drivers), people would slow down. What’s coming can’t be seen or known. These may be pathways that ultimately lead water into storm drains, them being part of winter drainage plans. Could there be an animal lurking behind some bushes at the dip which may be enhancing the poet’s chill/fear/anxiety or may be the poet is anticipating some other danger, the kind that silence and lonely roads bring…. someone, some sociopath awaiting an unsuspecting woman….
L2 mentions ‘daily’. So, though it’s a very familiar path, there’s a shiver at that dip, every single day. May be there is fear at the uncertainty of what’s to be, may be the trepidation of an unpleasant slip, skid or fall and what further ensues with it…..
This poem is resplendent with imagery. Dawn is breaking and the sun is peeking over the horizon. The poet is taking their daily walk here, so the path is familiar. Even in the semi-light of early morning, when the air is often a bit misty or hazy, the writer knows their way by heart. They are ready for their daily encounter with the cooler air of a lull in the path. Reading this poem, I can see the dawn, I can imagine the dipping path, I can feel the shiver.
I have long been fascinated by the change in temperature when a road dips. The air seems to pool and collect coolness for the passerby. I knew in my brain that there is a scientific reason for this cooling. But in my heart and imagination, the possibilities are endless.
I’ve felt this cooling many times in my walks to my little lake by my old house. I know just where it’s going to occur, when the path bends left and begins to descend from a crest to the lake. And I shiver each time. It’s as if the cold is saying good morning.
I’ve also felt it in one particular place on motorcycle rides on the backroads in my town. It’s usually when heading home from a ride in the mountains. Going up through the canyons it’s cool and refreshing on a hot day. Returning down the canyon, the warmth at the base wraps its arms around us like my arms are around my driver, my best friend. Then, just when I’ve adjusted again to the warmth of the low ground, we hit a dip in the road and the coolness is felt again. Almost like a memory of the cool in the high country. Makes me smile every time.
The folklore is that when this happens in a cemetery, you are walking through a ghost. So does this mean when you encounter a shiver on a walk or ride that the ghost is out for their daily walk or ride on their Harley as well? I guess only time will tell…
I am short of words to narrate the imagery this poem brings up as if from some time from immemorial past. That imagery has a lady wrapped in shawl on her morning walk—it might’ve been a bit foggy. I was born and brought up in India and regardless of how many years I have been out, this image is so potent. Anything else will be a noise.
Nairithi Konduru (aged 9):
This interesting senryu could mean that the speaker is walking her dog 🐕 at dawn and gets a daily shiver while having her favourite dip served cold (even the name of a restaurant — “The Dip in the Road”), or is on a dawn walk and has a shiver by the puddle in the road.
Peter C. Forster — insert your own shiver:
An open haiku (shiver suggesting cold, but the context indicates not everywhere, suggesting early fall) that invites the reader to speculate whether the shiver’s caused by a cold air pocket or by some association with a painful incident or memory right there. Also, whether this route on the daily walk can be avoided and if not, why the protagonist chooses to repeat the experience every day. Maybe a desire or duty to mark and remember an episode, maybe the fascination of some horror, or maybe just a refreshing coolness to be enjoyed before re-emerging into the warm sun. I like the haiku partly because it is a bit different and partly because it is so open to the reader to insert their own shiver factor.
Author Cynthia Anderson:
This is a slice of life poem. I live on a dirt road which has a big long dip a block or so from my house. Cold air sinks and collects in the dip, so no matter the season, it’s always cooler for the minute or two it takes to walk through that space. For that short time, I often wish I’d worn another layer. Brrrrr!
I like how the physical reality of this poem can also be taken to a metaphorical place…the cold dip could refer to any sort of difficulty that’s regularly encountered in life, or even the prospect of death.
Thanks to Jonathan Epstein for selecting this poem, and I look forward to reading what other haiku poets think of it.
Thanks to all who sent commentaries. As the contributor of the commentary reckoned best this week, Peter has chosen next week’s poem(s), which you’ll find below. We invite you to write a commentary to either, or compare the two. 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:rough sea the vanished steamer appears again —Chen Xiaoou Asahi Haikuist Network, 4 August 2023 and/or: lifted from reading— a set of waves from a boat gone by —Jonathan Moskaluk The Heron's Nest Volume XXV, Number 1: March, 2023
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You will find her bio and more about Cynthia Anderson, a poet of all-round skills, on Cynthia’s website. There are several of her works indexed in MacQueen’s Quinterly, and aside from being a frequent contributor to the Haiku Dialogue she is widely published.
As we have two poems to consider in the coming days, succinct commentaries are likely to be favoured…
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