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re:Virals 72

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

     trial separation . . .
     spacing out
     my hangers 
          — Ken Olson, Frogpond 38.2 (2015)

Ayaz Daryl Nielsen sympathizes, with a hint of hope:

yes, such are the lives we live . . .

x-wife’s apartment
my hesitant, careful steps
bouquet of flowers

you and I
wizened enough,
to do it all

And Marina Bellini echoes that positivity:

Reading this haiku, my first feeling has been sadness; a life together has reached its final point and now there is only emptiness, but then I have tried to look at it from a different point of view. The author is making space for a new life, new experiences will come, new people will enter his life. So instead of sadness, I read expectations for a new beginning.

And Sheila Sondik finds a parallel:

Prosaic objects like clothes hangers can exhibit deep eloquence through the magic and mystery of haiku.

The speaker of this poem is taking his or her first steps adjusting to a trial separation. The ambivalence the speaker feels is shown in this tentative rearrangement of the hangers in the previously shared closet. Although it’s often exciting to have more room for one’s things, in this case the new emptiness between the hangers may be a constant reminder of the missing partner.

Another haiku featuring hangers is Michael Dylan Welch’s:

first snow . . .
the children’s hangers
clatter in the closet

The children are already outside throwing snow around, while the house echoes with the sounds of excitement as they pulled their jackets off the hangers. Perhaps a parent in the house imagines future separations when hearing the sound of the hangers reverberating in the empty closet.

In Olsen’s poem, the hangers make their statement visually; in Welch’s, we hear their message. Haiku poets and readers are fortunate to be able to intuit such meaning from the material world of household devices.


As this week’s winner, Sheila 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 72:

     between road and bay the old forest one tree wide
          — Katherine Raine, Jeanette Stace Memorial Award (New Zealand Poetry Society International Haiku Competition, 2012)
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