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re:Virals 440

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 Dan Campbell, was:

  
      memories I’ve lost especially raindrops
      —Sandi Pray, whiptail, issue 4, August 2022

Introducing this poem, Dan writes:

This poem made me sad to think of the many memories I have lost and forgotten over the years about beautiful and inspirational rainfalls. Rain has played an important part of my professional career. I worked in Thailand, Taiwan and Japan with rainwater harvesting researchers and enjoyed hiking in the rain. How many other precious memories have also been forgotten, the smiles, the kind strangers and beautiful sunsets?

Opening comment:

Here again we have a one-line poem with a word that arrests the reader’s attention: “especially.”  Technically an adverb, but a strange one. In essence, lost memories are compared with raindrops. The introduction of “especially,” meaning “above all” but also carrying the secondary associations of “special” —in this instance dear to the poet— draws the reader’s attention to the image of raindrops   Raindrops here  represent the precious little natural things that may go unnoticed, ephemeral and evanescent, all too easily forgotten. Simply “memories I’ve lost/raindrops” would not work as well, and would, I think, have an inferior rhythm too.

I also considered the first person singular, which may  be over-used  in contemporary haiku.  It is easy to write a verse that contains a single image plus some (any) personal thought of the poet that might, at a stretch, relate to the image.  We’ve all done it.  Here it works because, while this poemlet is by its nature intimate, the import is universal.  It is not self-indulgent, nor limiting in any way: the reader easily substitutes their own “I” with their own special little things they may have forgotten.

Pamela Garry:

Raindrops represent the little memories, the inbetween storm and sunny day memories. Perhaps they are the most prolific memories and therefore a big loss. I also think how a little raindrop, like a teardrop, beautifies with luminescence and reflections and sparkles. Blessings in forgettable moments.

Amanda White:

Nothing lasts, not least our lives but also our precious memories that make sense of our lives. Like raindrops too soon to dry. Like tears like raindrops. Very poignant monoku. On each reading there are more possibilities and images that appear then disappear, just like the raindrops. Raindrops are vivid images but here the emphasis on ‘especially’ personalises this memory and suggests a memory that we can only glimpse or imagine, a special and lost experience, lovers in the rain, a ruined day, an exuberant and unexpected moment in the rain…. As a word we wonder too if ‘raindrops’ signifies those moments when we cannot grasp what we want to say and a memory folds in upon itself, our words dry up… There is, of course, too the possibility of someone starting to suffer from a memory loss condition who is trying to find that deep meaning of something that is just not quite fully there anymore. Raindrops too become memories in this monoku, brief and changing. How short life is, how wonderful but yet brought more into view by the power of our memories and then poignantly the loss of such memories. On a deeper philosophical note this is perhaps also an abstract call for living in the now, the moment of raindrops, not the memory or the expectation but the actuality and vibrancy of being here, now, watching raindrops streaming down my window. And, then too, raindrops as tears, that loss of memory stinging… Each reading, a reveal, a fascination, another raindrop, pattern to follow, then another, a different trail. Beautiful, tender and utterly compelling.

Radhamani Sarma:

One wonders can there be any poetic beauty in raindrops? Sandi Pray has given us a monoku weaving wonderful memories all about them. These raindrops are no longer existing, as temporary and as beautiful as life. In the poet’s keen observation, the raindrops fall, bubbles drip and drop and break, as beautiful as a colorful balloon bloats and blows, flies and lingers and bursts in poetic expression, for us readers to capture and enjoy. The poet records and leaves a choice for readers to recollect and record their thoughts on raindrops, especially those memories lost — could be lost lives, seasons gone, the beauties of spring and bloom – faintly lingering in his memory. Now my reaction is to wait for the rainy season and observe those rain drops…

Amoolya Kamalnath—becoming absorbed:

memories I’ve lost/especially raindrops is how I see the cut.

Though the first person is used in the ku, the poet’s ego isn’t intruding. The reader feels one with the poet and feels for the speaker. I like this verse just the way it is, but this is something I wondered about: placement of the definite article ‘the’ either before memories or immediately before raindrops, though it does seem unnecessary.

All those incidents we want to forget are one thing. On the other hand, we have memories we lose or are gradually wiped out as we lose our loved ones, our near and dear ones with whom we would have otherwise regaled, regarding all those old times. So much gets lost as people leave, not only material possessions but also all those little incidents – the laughter, the fights, the small little things we did for each other, the words, their voice and so many more things. Raindrops get absorbed into the earth; similarly our loved ones also become part of the earth after their time.

Author Sandi Pray:

As a caregiver I am also experiencing my own acquaintance with fading memories. Due to the rapidly changing climate one of my greatest pleasures is now a shadow of itself – the blessings of rain. For me the one liner is a perfect vessel for beauty, brevity and breath . . senryu and haiku.


fireworks image

Thanks to all who sent commentaries. As the contributor of the commentary reckoned best this week, Amoolya 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:

     
     am I waiting 
     for my rebirth too?
     skeleton tree
    
     —Brendon Kent 1 February 1958 — 25 February 2024
      To Live Here - a haiku anthology 
      The Wee Sparrow Poetry Press, July 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:

Sandi Pray is a retired media specialist living a quiet vegan life among the river marshes and old trees of North Florida. As an environmental advocate she is passionate about the Earth and all living creatures.

She was a featured poet in A New Resonance Vol. 11 from Red Moon Press 2019 and the Mann Library’s poet of the month in June 2015 (and a later entry), where you may read more of her verses.

Some of Sandi’s haiga may be seen in the Foundation’s Haiga of Sandi Pray.

—-

Losing memory is something we all worry about as we age, and increasingly experience; but take heart! You may be lucky. It may not always be the ghastly irretrievable result of protein plaques clogging a shrinking brain. Just think: each year that goes by adds a yearful of new neural connections; another whole year full of memories is stored in your brain, many of which will not have been drawn on for a long time by now. We all know the embarrassment of groping for a missing name, or a fact. But then it comes back, often at around 4 a.m. It may not be a problem of forgetting, of erasure, but one of retrieval. With so many years of dusty clutter in one’s attic, it’s not surprising that things are harder and harder to find. But they are still there…

At least, that’s what I tell myself.
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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. My heart is full—these comments, by everyone, fill me with wonder, inspiration, and a spark of hopeless romantic.

    1. John: the spirit of haiku!

      I have saved your “fill me with wonder, inspiration and a spark of hopeless romantic” for a future quote.

  2. Interesting comments on memories. I’m of an age where memories hide then, after a stretch, suddenly & unexpectedly return, out of the blue. For instance, the long forgotten names of two parallel streets close to where I lived as a small child suddenly appeared in my head, recently. For no reason and with no prompt. This made me happy.

    memories I’ve lost especially raindrops
    —Sandi Pray, whiptail, issue 4, August 2022

    Interestingly, my first reading of this haiku is close to that of Sandi Pray’s own comment:
    “Due to the rapidly changing climate one of my greatest pleasures is now a shadow of itself – the blessings of rain. ”
    But then a song started playing in my head, and a vision of Paul Newman clowning it on a bicycle. So I’ve found it: this film, this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJJmDzVXCx8

    I haven’t thought of that for many years. 🙂 Do look at it as well as hear it. Love the bit where he is chased by a (small) Hereford bull. (The least likely breed of bull to charge/ chase anyone, btw.)

    If Sandi’s haiku has an internal cut (I’m not sure it does) I find it straight after ‘especially’:
    “memories I’ve lost especially . . . / raindrops”
    Otherwise it would be “memories I’ve lost especially (those of) raindrops”, in which there is no internal cut. (Whether an internal cut is needed in EL haiku is a different question. We’ve read that it isn’t always a requisite in Japanese haiku)

    Thinking of ‘lost ‘ memories (especially or particularly names of people or places, in my experience) then hearing the sound of raindrops might be an analogy for tears, sad tears for lost memories. But of course (being Australian) I’m familiar with drought and the (at first unbelievable) sound of the first raindrops, breaking the drought. The mood then would be that of joy.
    An interesting haiku, nicely done.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Lorin. On ‘cuts’ the vast majority of haiku have them, and some argue that without a cut it can’t be a haiku (I am not one of them). Bashō argued that a verse could be ‘cut’ without a cutting word, i.e with an implied gap separating parts; which foreshadows many contemporary haiku in English whether with line breaks (which may be enjambed) or on a single line. In the old masters’ verses the cutting particle sometimes was placed at the end (complicated perhaps by the ordering of sentences in Japanese), effectively inviting the reader to add another part with their own reflection. These sometimes translate into statements: “without you the grove is just a grove” (Issa; kimi nakute makoto ni tada no kodachi kana — you (friend) without/indispensable truth as merely but grove (kana) — kana is the cut). John Stevenson is a masterly exponent: e.g. “daylight as the exception it is” or “in the beginning he was just pretending to sound grumpy.” I also like Sarah Davies’ “the plum tree/by the job centre/is flowering”. In English translations and English language haiku these may provoke adverse comments from pundits, but I think they are missing the essence of haiku, its ‘spirit,’ its subtle ability to convey profundity through simplicity. I may have been scoffed at for vagueries such as ‘haiku spirit’ but there’s good company along with Bashō:

      “The spirit of haiku lies most of all in its simplicity and in its selflessness…..characterized by a feel for the flow of life and the harmony of nature” (H. F. Noyes The Way of Haiku “The Loose Thread”)

      “…what many value most about the “best” haiku, a quality of being mysteriously and unmistakably alive” (Peter Yovu, review in Modern Haiku of Big Sky: The Red Moon Anthology 2006)

      “…the “prize” in haiku (and poetry) is something which in fact cannot be grasped– only intuited. “……”that wonderful quality of feeling right without one’s being able to say why.” (Yovu in Field Notes 2, THF forum)

      “Out of the rule-free informality of the haiku form, with its emphasis on intuition, will emerge a poetry truly fresh, with a spirit uniquely unbound” (Noyes, Haiku Magic, essay Frogpond XXI.3 and RMA 1999) .

      On memory: the notion of retrieval problems instead of erasure problems, against the yearly accumulation of memories, was one of two research ideas I had in the late 1960s while researching other aspects of the central nervous system. I left the world of academic research before having time and sponsorship to pursue it. I expect that a search of the literature will show many others have worked on it. The other idea was on the perceived passage of time: as we age, it appears to us that time is speeding up. My theory was that we compare the time passing with the total time we’ve experienced. At the age of one, a year is a lifetime; at the age of 70, a year’s just a seventieth part. Some fifteen years later I came across the work of a young postgrad who had found experimental evidence for that. By then, I was out in the ‘real world’…

  3. I sure did enjoy reading the comments on Sandi’s poem. Thanks Keith for your detective work to contact the authors and provide information about their works and lives.

  4. Losing memories is heartbreaking. Old age is not the only cause for losing memories. Sometimes, some finer details from incidents which have happened many years before (may be at home or at school during childhood) may get erased from our overused brains. We may remember only the important details as we haven’t been recollecting the finer details very often. This disappoints us.

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