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re:Virals 69

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

     winter night
     my car follows
     its own light
          — Dietmar Tauchner, as far as I can (Red Moon Press, 2010)

Mojde Marvast relates to the personal element in this poem:

A simple but intricate thought! Winter and night both give me a sense of anxiety and caution.
I like to relate winter with age, when I am old, and night is end of day, when sleep is next. Sleep is truly another kind of life.
I need my own light to safely pass the night to a new day, a new life, which is very unknown! This haiku drew my mind to the other life. The life after death, is only made by my very personal attitudes, nothing is as clear as day light about it!

To which Marion Clarke rebuts:

There is a strong sense of sadness and abandonment in this ku, as if the owner of the car has totally given up. Perhaps he has just suffered a loss, either through death of a loved one, or the end of an important relationship. It feels as though he is letting the universe roll on without him actively participating from this point forward.

Sheila Sondik takes both such feelings from it:

What’s lonelier than driving solo through the cold and dark? So often, we find ourselves moving through life alone, wondering how we will keep on going.

In this spare haiku, the vehicle (literally the car, but also the poem, the speaker, and, by extension, the reader) creates its own light, which leads it through the darkness. It finds its own way forward, its own salvation.

Dietmar Tauchner’s haiku presents us with a pared-down scenario in a minimalist style. But its message is expansive. The image of that brave little car tunneling through the night is a welcome reminder, in these dark days, of the power of inner strength, self-reliance, courage, and hope.

And David Jacobs finds special analogies:

I’ve always admired what might be termed ‘reverse logic’ haiku, and Dietmar Tauchner’s reminded me of Jane Reichold’s:

autumn dusk
my neighbor’s light
stays dark

and Tom Painting’s

short hours
the lake pulls light
from the moon

Such language produces a peculiar kind of exactness which, in turn, produces a mood all its own.

Dietmar’s haiku is no exception. I sense myself on a quiet country lane, constantly dimming and undimming the headlights, patches of snow, bare branches etc acquiring their special kind of strangeness and calmness, with the lights seeming to depict them without help or control from the driver. And as is pointed out, the car simply seems to follow in their wake. With the heater on inside, we are contained within our own warmth and perhaps a slight but thrilling sense of safety where there is none, given that we might break down in the middle of nowhere.

As such this haiku possesses a dream-like quality almost as a result of the sheer precision of its language.


As this week’s winner, David chooses 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 69:

     crayon map
     my son shows me the way
     to Neverland
          — John McManus, The Heron’s Nest XIV:1 (2012)
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