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re:Virals 456

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 Melissa Dennison, was:

     
forever
             searching
                              for
                                     beginnings
                                                         Scotch
                                                                     tape
 
—Ingrid Baluchi
 Prune Juice Issue 41, December 2023
Note: If viewing this on a mobile you may need to hold it in landscape orientation to get the poem to display correctly.

Introducing this poem, Melissa writes:

Why did I choose this one? Well, there are probably several interpretations for people to consider. In addition, it is written in a playful, creative and visual style. Initially the form reminded me of a length of scotch tape as it is pulled from the roll, but it also looks like steps that you could walk down, so the way this is written has a dynamic feel. It has momentum.

I had a health scare recently and these words speak to me, as coming out the other side I feel like I have been given a fresh start. This poem suggests the desire for a second chance or a new beginning. Of course in life we often desire a new start more than once,  for example when we leave an old job because we have tired of it, or if we fancy a change of direction/pace of life etc. This is also true in our relationships, when we need to be given a second chance, or when our relationship might break down.

Each New Year as the clock ticks down we wait with excitement and anticipation, hoping this ‘new chapter’ will be better than the last one. So, for me these 6 words express a fundamental truth about human existence and our ongoing need for new beginnings. Of course we may not find them, or they may turn out to be different to what we expected. It is a never ending quest.  Perhaps that is why the writer mentions Scotch tape, as sometimes we have to make do and mend/make the best of things as they are, sometimes even sticking the parts of our lives back together in the best way we can.

However, Ingrid may be playing with us and simply trying to find the beginning of a new roll of tape! ha!

Opening comment:

This straight-faced senryu is such a tease, as Ingrid leads us down the steps of the garden path! Part of its appeal is that it could be taken seriously; or it could be taken as a warm, good-humoured sendup of the frequently-encountered, sometimes sententious ‘image-plus-thought’ verses that strive for philosophical insight (much loved as they may be). Its concrete form likewise: here, I think it definitely adds to the set-up of the punch line (the ‘reveal’) rather than being an affectation.  It adds a little suspense and increases the humour of the denouement. Ingrid’s intention (below) to put the text into a circle would have been wonderful had it succeeded and been formattable for publication.

Either way, the grandiose thought is brought to earth with hilarious transparency in sticky Scotch tape — or as we know it on this side of the Atlantic, sellotape.  Anyone who’s struggled to find the start of the roll when wrapping gifts,  muttering curses under one’s breath against whoever has left it thus instead of bending over a tab, will recognise the situation.  It is not, remember, grounds for divorce.

It’s a gift to bring a smile or a laugh to readers in these dark times,  giving us both an ‘aha’ and a ‘haha’ moment: part of the haikai tradition that needs preserving among the more sombre preoccupations of our haiku community. Warm, human, self-deprecating, and very nicely done!

Curt Linderman:

i took
several scratches
at this

trying
here and
there

never able
to find out where
to begin

Thanks for the absolutely brilliant work, Ingrid Baluchi!

Belinda Behne:

I love this poem! It draws me in immediately. The first three lines feel so profound and touch a feeling I experience many mornings, yearning to be open to the new day and to live in the moment and discover its newness…

Then, as I read the last two lines I burst out laughing! How many times have I searched for the place where the tape begins and struggled to peel it up!

Richard Straw:

This is a fine concrete (or shape) senryu. It immediately generated a couple of mental images for me. Other readers may have different reactions.

First, on a table lies a thick album containing black-and-white family photographs held onto the dark pages with Scotch tape. After each photographed family member’s death, more and more memories disappear. However, unless fire or flood or another disaster destroys the photographs, some form of the memories remains (i.e., some record of the family’s beginnings is retained), thanks partially to the durability and stickiness of Scotch tape.

Second, as the shape of the poem shows, it’s an annoyance when the loose business end of a roll of Scotch tape reattaches itself to the roll and thereby returns to its factory beginnings. Then, unless one has sharp enough fingernails that can lift the loose end of the tape away from the roll, the Scotch tape is no longer available for use and becomes frustratingly useless. And even if the loose end of the tape is somehow managed to be pulled away from the roll, the tape often splits into or forms a jagged edge of wasted adhesive that unreels from the roll unevenly. Thus, the search for beginnings becomes an end in itself, a Hobson’s choice leading to failed expectations.

Lakshman Bulusu:

End unfulfilled dreams, begin new ones… This haiku transplants the speaker into a world where he/she is looking for new beginnings. This might mean the speaker is trying to forget bygone dreams not realized and hence ‘Scotch’ them by forgetting them and start a new chapter by cutting the ‘tape’ as done while beginning of a new project or endeavor.

Metaphorically it could also mean to find solace in daydreams after heartbreak; hence finding new love and a new beginning. The fourth indented word ‘beginnings’ followed by ‘Scotch’ and ‘tape’ add a contextual dimension to the haiku. Whatever may be the context, the haiku conveys this in a deft manner by starting with indentation putting emphasis on the issue ‘new’ and then ‘Scotch’ ‘’ meaning ‘end of some wish’ not being true and ‘tape’ as the start of a new wish.

Hope is the key to this cycle the speaker is going through….

Amanda White:

Ingrid Baluchi’s shapeku immediately engages the reader and reminds us to be adventurous, think not only about our subject, word selection and cut but the positioning of words on a page to evoke deeper and often playful meanings. The contrast of trying to find the end of a roll of Scotch tape is brilliantly juxtapositioned and offers a indirect metaphor about the more philosophical tone of ‘forever searching for beginnings’ as both individuals and a human race. The humdrum daily struggles are so often part and parcel of wider truths and pertinent observations. But ultimately this is a shapeku that evokes a smile, even a light giggle, involves and relates to us as hapless souls looking for real and sticky beginnings to wrap a gift or mend a hole or…

Instantly understandable and relatable, there is nothing to miss here and in the shape and reading of the lines we are right there in the moment, whilst reflecting on the deeper moments of our lives. But aside from these more obvious tones there is a commentary on the nature of time, an Eliotesque nod to time past and time future being part of time present, those eternal beginnings, our own, those yet to be born, those who have left us, epochs, changes in history… And in the process of trying to find the beginning of a role of Scotch tape, there is too both success and failure. Also too the reason for needing Scotch tape, our purpose, our desires, our motivations. So brava! —in the whimsy of this piece lies all life, beginnings, endings and the endless struggle of being alive. Loved this.

Nairithi Konduru (age 9):

The poet is searching for the beginning of scotch tape, may be to do some craft.

So basically the poet is searching for the beginning of something.

It could mean that the poet is a person who loves to do craft and is looking for the first craft that she or he has done with scotch tape.

It may also be that a reformed criminal is retrospectively examining the beginning of his career in crime and is feeling guilty for what he had done. The words scotch tape stand in for the word crime.

May be, a haiku journal editor is looking for the beginning of the submissions list.

This poem also give us a bit of mystery because we do not know why the poet wants to use the scotch tape. We also do not know whether the poet has found the beginning of the scotch tape or has failed in the mission. Maybe the poet is still struggling…

Amoolya Kamalnath:

Isn’t it the case most of the times for many of us? Can this be called an aphorism?

Very relatable and visual, especially with the way the poem is written, just the way it happens. How many times have we all done this? How many of us actually keep a marking so we don’t search where it begins every single time?

Our life is likened to the Scotch tape (cellophane tape/Cellotape) here. Don’t we all search for new beginnings in our lives?

Every new year we begin anew with another new set of resolutions. Every day is a new day.
A relationship goes kaput. We take time to heal. We may then begin anew. A relationship gone sour too may begin anew after a while.

We begin our journey in a new school, a new college, a new workplace, a new friendship, a new relationship and it goes on. Even when a person retires, a new beginning is sought.

Beginning something new, beginning the old in a new way – it’s a continuous process of beginning, starting afresh. It can be taken as looking for and finding new opportunities again and again, a non-acceptance of defeat. Closed doors leading to a new open door.

Jennifer Gurney ~ hoodwinked!:

There are few situations in life as insidiously annoying as trying to find the start of a roll of tape. Just when you think you have it sorted, it splits again and you have to start anew. And by then you’ve most likely dropped the thing you were holding up, trying to tape, in the first place.

Like many situations in life. That new-beginning-starting-over-ness. Like life itself.

The spacing of this poem and its one-linedness add to its charm.

I love the surprise ending. I was hoodwinked into thinking this poem was about something philosophical, and then comes the delightful ending – Scotch tape.

But in the end, it has probably made me think more than many poems that present as “deep.”

Simply, absolutely, wholeheartedly loved it.

Author Ingrid Baluchi:

With thanks to Melissa for choosing my senryu for re:Virals, I feel a little embarrassed by its lack of depth other than to convey a common experience many of us may have had. It says what it is: when attempting to find the starting point of Scotch tape, not only does its transparent thinness present difficulties, but if you’re not quick enough, it winds itself closed in the blink of an eye, usually when you’re in a hurry. It’s one of the niggly nuisances in life designed to frustrate, especially if the previous user forgets to roll over a starter tab for the next person to LOCATE. I can feel the rage just thinking of it, and hope that next time I don’t throw the offending reel out of the window and strangle the cat.

As for the poem’s layout, lacking the knowhow to format it as a circle, I chose to make the words step downwards in an attempt to convey my descent into despair. It’s a silly poem really, but I enjoy reading work where the poet is unafraid to show his/her weakness, usually in a humorous and exaggerated way.

Right . . . let’s try to cut a strip of duct tape without it sticking to itself.


fireworks image

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

     
melted glacier
the first and the last dip
into its own water
—Yasir Farooq, 
 Fresh Out: June 1st, 2024.

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:

A retired teacher and professional artist, for a while resident in North Macedonia, Ingrid Baluchi has spent much of her life as a writer about travel. Her micro-poetry has been published in international journals, in print and online. She has a deep love and respect for the natural world, and enjoys the quirky side of human nature.

One or two responses from commentators indicate that readers of other cultures who are not familiar with Scotch tape or sellotape by their trade names might be baffled by the reference.

Another reader in background correspondence suggests: “Lick it!” For the tongue is apparently sensitive enough to detect the join. Although that does sound kinda euch for a shared roll of tape…

Amoolya poses the question: “Can this be called an aphorism?”
I think not, in the case of this week’s verse. The OED definition of ‘aphorism’ is: “Any principle or precept expressed in few words; a short pithy sentence containing a truth of general import.”
A stitch in time saves nine.

More on aphorisms, proverbs, assertions and the like in haiku as and when one is put forward for commentary.
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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I found this poem and the commentary it inspired absolutely delightful!

    Curt, I especially enjoyed your poetic response.

    1. Thanks, Eavonka! Ingrid’s poem is still making me smile.

      Also, thanks to Keith and all of the THF volunteers & community for making this such a safe and supportive place.

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