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
granny’s cushion — pulling the darkness out pin by pin — Stella Pierides, In the Garden of Absence, Fruit Dove Press (2012)
There is darkness indeed in this poem, but not necessarily easily accessed, and also the easing of darkness. Gary Eaton met it in this way:
This poem seems to me to evoke a child’s response to the idea of black magic in the world. If evil can be done or pain caused by pushing pins into dolls made to represent enemies/victims, then, according to a child’s logic, it can be undone by pulling them out. The fact that it’s Granny’s pillow with pins in it seems to me to imply that Granny is suffering and the child is doing her best to alleviate that pain somehow.
For Beth McFarland, it was much more of a home truth, full of the intimate details of her own childhood:
Granny, for us, was a silent, weak person in a wheelchair, with wispy, slightly wild hair that all the twins inherited. We knew nothing about her life or what kind of person she was. We only see her gestures and expressions in every new generation. My keepsake of hers is a shiny pink vase, cheap judging by the weight of it, but probably the thing I’d rescue if the house was on fire.
A pin cushion is a perfect keepsake — small, homely and personal, reminding us of homemaking skills and loving creations. Pins? Well, we know who we’d like to stick them into an image of!
Why are we the people we are? We attribute a lot of it to our families, the way they brought us up, the childhood memories they gave us, and of course the genes they gave us in passing. Our families gave us a grounding we’ve been working with ever since. They also kept out the hugeness of what we couldn’t grasp — the darkness beyond. We blame them too — why did they have to pass on those secret inhibitions and weaknesses? Could they not have given us a better pattern to follow?
But now we’re in charge and we can start to be creative with the pins and the darkness, unravelling, patching, weaving — creating our own tapestry.
I love the innocent start to this haiku, revealing its darkness with as many questions and answers as we want to people it with!
As this week’s winner, Beth 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!
as soon as the last pear falls — another one — Djurdja Vukelic Rozic, Silent Music (2015)