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re:Virals 80

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

     The morning presses
     its hot fist against the window:
     the fight starts.
          — Bart Mesotten, Haikoe-boek (self-published, 1986; translation by Max Verhart)

Stella Pierides appreciates participation in the battle:

It may be a sunny, summer morning. Scent of orange blossom in the air. Birdsong. The day full of promise. No matter, for they belong to another poem, another narrator. Our narrator doesn’t live in this scene.

Might he be living a life that, to use Hobbes’s phrase, feels “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”? Each day spent in a selfish and brutal pursuit of survival? Perhaps the poet, Norbertine priest and teacher, describes such a pessimistic narrator’s view of the human predicament. If so, he would be in the company of a number of thinkers.

Alternatively, let us assume that Mesotten’s narrator lived in a more optimistic milieu in the past, noticing beauty and companionship, as well as pain and suffering. For reasons unknown — for instance, spiritual turmoil, illness, loss — his circumstances changed. Life now appears as an ominous presence, a heavy, suffocating atmosphere outside his window, hot and pressing threateningly against it, against his day. The morning light that in the past dispersed the shadows of the night, now only throws into relief the expectations, struggles, pain, the gaping hole in the fabric of his life. The narrator crouching inside an inner, dark corner, dreads the hot fist, dreads the day. The poet though, is not letting him give up. He takes up the challenge: the fight starts. This is another day he is going to stand up to. He enters the boxing ring: dreading the daily fight, bearing the pain, resisting gravity, while still raising his own fists, and from time to time, hopefully, noticing the blossoms between the blows.


As this week’s winner, Stella selects the next 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 81:

     the good soldier
     my ancestor who lived to tell
          — LeRoy Gorman, The Heron’s Nest XIX:1 (2017)
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