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re:Virals 56

Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English. This week’s poem was

     in the ears
     of corn
          Robert Boldman, Walking with the River, High/Coo Press (1980)

Paul MacNeil shares his difficulty entering this poem:

While I know both “hymns” and “corn” with its ears, I do not find an easy way into this minimal haiku. To share, to apply my own experience to that of the haikuist is for me an essence of haiku. The ears of corn — just are. They are not sentient. They do not hear sounds religious or otherwise. An ear of corn is a vessel for seeds to propagate the species. Each tassel is the male source of pollen to fertilize each thread of silk, self or from adjacent corn plants.

I get it may be just word play for the double meaning of ear v. ear definitions. “Hymns” in the plural makes it a pretty long “moment.” If that is all there is, it is just the author’s cleverness, intellection, and affords this reader not much entry into the space between images where haiku lives. In haiku criticism, I always reserve the right to be spectacularly wrong.

Perhaps this is a rural church surrounded by corn fields? Still, with apology to Boldman and Gary Eaton, I find this just too thin — too devoid of landmarks. The hymn “We Gather Together” is a traditional Thanksgiving hymn. But to find this single hymn is perhaps a leap too far, especially for non-Christians.


As this week’s winner, Paul gets to choose 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. We will select out-takes from the best of these. And the very best will be reproduced in its entirety and take its place as part of the THF Archives. Best of all, the winning commentator gets to choose the next poem for commentary.

Anyone can participate. A new poem will appear each Friday morning. Simply put your commentary in the Contact box by the following Tuesday midnight (Eastern US Time Zone). Please use the subject header “re:Virals” so we know what we’re looking at. We look forward to seeing some of your favorite poems — and finding out why!

re:Virals 56:

     last night's rain
     cupped in the banana leaf
     a small green frog
          Ferris Gilli, The Heron's Nest, II:4 (2000)
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