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
between road and bay the old forest one tree wide — Katherine Raine, Jeanette Stace Memorial Award (New Zealand Poetry Society International Haiku Competition, 2012)
This week’s featured poem caused Modje Marvast to wax poetic:
The flag of hope!
whatever we do,
wherever we go,
Nature surrounds us!
Even with one tree
For a breath
More strongly survives,
But brings Marina Bellini to an opposite take:
A very impressive monoku — where the old, perhaps sacred, forest once was, there is now a boulevard. In a few poignant words Raine shows us all the modern world contrast between nature and civilization. This haiku makes us ponder what we are doing to our planet.
Sheila Sondik elaborates the theme:
The forests of New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest, Japan, and the rest of our planet have been clearcut and drastically reduced in size.
The astute speaker of this haiku recognizes the remnant of what once covered the landscape in a strip of trees along the shore. The forest can retreat no farther.
Although there is deep regret and sorrow at the sight of this reminder of what’s been lost, there is also a sense of respect and celebration for the survivors. This is expressed in the long monoku format which sympathetically, and somewhat whimsically, echoes the shape of the band of trees, with the taller letters spaced out like towering individuals.
And Jan Benson sounds the alarm:
In her powerful and poignant monoku, Ms. Raine uses contrasting images to reveal an ongoing tragedy of global and oceanic change. It is interesting that the haiku is dated 2012, as an historic marker of the evidence of climate change. Her haiku is a valuable message to pay closer attention to our own receding coast lines, world wide. One of the Native tribes in America has documented this coastal occurrence as responsible for quick-paced losses of their trust lands to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Neither the state nor the federal government has offered to assist in a relocation of the sovereign domestic nation. Because the tribe’s culture relies on sea-focused traditions, they themselves are hesitant to relocate. Since 2014, there is documented evidence in the coastal land losses:
“A football field–sized area of land is being washed away every hour, and lawsuits are being filed to hold oil and gas companies responsible for the destruction.”
(By Bob Marshall, “The Lens”, ProPublica on August 28, 2014)
“At the current rates that the sea is rising and land is sinking, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists say by 2100 the Gulf of Mexico could rise as much as 4.3 feet across this landscape, which has an average elevation of about 3 feet. If that happens, everything outside the protective levees — most of Southeast Louisiana — would be underwater.” (ProPublica)
As this week’s winner, Jan 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!
Nagasaki . . . in her belly, the sound of unopened mail — Don Baird, HaikuNow! Contest First Prize (The Haiku Foundation, 2013)