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re:Virals 448

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:

     the river
     changes key
     — Lee Hudspeth
       Heron’s Nest, March 2024

Introducing this poem, Dan writes:

I enjoyed this poem because I have spent so many unforgettable hours swimming and canoeing in rivers. When I was 8 years old I was baptized in a freezing cold river by a preacher in rural North Carolina. I remember checking out the river bank for snakes when I went under. One of my boyhood dreams that I still think about is to parachute into the Brazilian rainforest, build a raft and then float down the mighty Amazon River. Rivers possess a timeless fascination, not just in their visual splendor but in the symphony of sounds they orchestrate. Each river, from the majestic flow of the Mississippi to the gentle murmurs of a woodland stream, crafts its own unique soundtrack.

Opening comment:

Plain, simple, minimalist, intelligible, unforced, detached, sensory, open, charged with natural beauty and symbolism in its three key nouns, upbeat with life’s renewal, hope and expectation. What more could one want?

Pamela Garry:

As though the river wakes up from a stagnant night and starts rolling along with daylight. bringing the water to a slow boil and checking what’s around the bend.

Naturally the river reflects the glowing light and changing colors of the morning sky. creating a symphonic fugue of color in the all around.

The simple outline also suggests meaning. the sunrise comes first and it is the most left-aligned- the main idea. line 2, the river, and line 3, changes key, are parallel in their left alignment and subordinate to line 1, sunrise. a changing key suggests a changing mood, connecting auditory and visual impacts of sunrise. from dark and still to vibrant and energetic, river certainly changes key with the sunrise. With “changes key” standing alone as line 3, it suggests that all who encounter this sunrise will be immersed between sky and river, and emotionally swept up in the changes. if only the river changes key, then pity the poet and others who remain unaffected by this river and sunrise.

Jennifer Gurney:

What a lovely haiku, filled with imagery and deep layers of meaning.

I like the idea of a river being melodic. Often when I hike near a river I can hear it singing to me. The imagery of the sun rising – with all its hope and glory – changing the key of the river’s song is spectacular. A sun’s rise definitely changes the key of my day, as well. And if the moon can pull the tides, why couldn’t the sun change the river’s key?

There is a rhythm to this short poem that is engaging. The two-syllable opening line creates a natural pause after the single word: sunrise. It parallels the line itself, as if the reader is being invited to pause to watch the sunrise.

The middle and third lines have a rhythm all their own, but in reverse. L2 is one- followed by two-syllable words: the river. L3 is two- followed by one-syllable words: changes key. So in line 2 and 3, the content is mirrored in the poem’s rhythm. I love this!

Lee Hudspeth has captured my heart and mind both with this melodic haiku.

Constance Patrick:

From Mr. Hudspeth’s feel for the river, I first sensed the river at night, and as with all things in nature and life, it changes tempo – the water chills down, the flow slows, the sound of the river brings an evening calm, almost as the river rests itself into meditation. Sunrise awakens all energy – the birds sing daybreak onto the earth, the chlorophyll in leaves absorbs red and blue light from sunlight and the light the leaves reflect diminishes the red and blue to appear green, an unseen but active process. Life awakens with light, sound, and warmth. The river warms – the sound of its flow quickens, maybe even heightens to a crisper sharper sound… changing keys.

Melissa Dennison—a new day, everything moves on:

A musical haiku! the river changes key. I am reminded of playing a piano. This is a novel approach to writing about a river. Instead of meandering or changing course it changes key. As well as this being a great way to describe a body of water, ie through sound, I am reminded of synesthesia, and the dynamic paintings by Kandinsky.

Going back to the beginning of the haiku, we have a sunrise. To me this is indicative of hope and optimism, with the start of a new day come new possibilities. This haiku suggests movement and change, hinted at by the change of key, but also by the ceaseless movement of the river. It’s a new day, everything moves on, offering unique experiences never to be repeated. As Heraclitus claimed you can never step in the same river twice. Tomorrow it will be different again.

Author Lee Hudspeth:

I wanted to keep the poem as short as possible, in keeping with the moment’s simplicity (the moment of transition between night and day along a river). As the sun rises, the river and its ecosystem liven up. There is new activity — wildlife, wind, sun on the water, swaying of trees, the ongoing flow of the river… There is also a sound and a melody that encompasses the awakening. Thus, the reference to the change in key and with it, the many possibilities of a new day.

fireworks image

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

beach walk
billions of years
between our toes
—Carly Siegel Thorp
 The Heron's Nest, Volume XXV, No. 1, March 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.


Lee Hudspeth is a Touchstone nominated poet. His debut poetry book is Incandescent Visions. He has recent poems in Poetry Pea Journal, The Heron’s Nest, Modern Haiku, Wales Haiku Journal, Frogpond, and others. His author website is
From Pamela’s commentary I am wondering whether some devices incorrectly rendered the lines in Lee’s poem above with different indentations from left-aligned. There shouldn’t be any variations in alignment of its three lines. The whole is preformatted (with HTML’s

 tags).  Please let me know if these lines below are not all aligned in your device, and which device/browser it is:
     these lines are preformatted
     five spaces in from the left
     and should all be aligned    

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Hi, Keith.

    They are aligned in the center which caused each line to fall over into a 2nd line(which is left aligned) which creates 6 lines (with three indented).

    I have a Samsung Android phone.

    1. Eavonka: that’s due to your screen width in pixels, I think, and overspill. If you view with your phone in landscape orientation, the lines should display correctly.

      But in future I might dispense with the five space inset and have verses hard against the left margin of the page.

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