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re:Virals 83

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
     the everything
     of a flame
          — Sandi Pray, The Heron’s Nest XVIII:2 (2016)

Aparna Pathak sees this as a minimalist poem:

A well-structured haiku in short/long/short form that may look gloomy in first read. “Winter night” suggests an old age where the only struggle is about keeping the flame burning. But at the same time it also reflects the contentment of the poet who doesn’t desire anything worldly anymore and focuses only on being alive as a bare minimum requirement.

On reading the haiku again from the perspective of a haiku poet it seems that poet is in pensive mood who just wants “flame” to keep burning so that she can write in its warmth and light on the “winter night”. Winter as kigo indicates seclusion that may be a forced loneliness or by choice so that poet may concentrate on writing.


As this week’s winner, Aparna gets to select 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 84:

     Gita chanting ...
       birds become
     the ellipsis 
          — Kala Ramesh, The Akita International Haiku Award (2014)

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. The ku creates in the reader a beautiful visual- that of Gita being played in an outdoor setting. And as the poet looks up in the sky during the pause in the chanting, she sees three birds together dotting the sky like an ellipsis.
    Looking at the birds could then simply mean to Pause, look around, and ‘be’. To be not confined to our busy selves but to look at the bigger picture, to find the other lives we’ve so far neglected, and to be at peace with them.
    The ku brilliantly sums up how the chanting of Gita (what she hears) makes her See an otherwise common happening differently.

  2. I love how the ellipsis is ‘spaced out’ in Line 1. Not only this reflects the pause between the verses but also gives the ku a visual structure of the birds/ellipsis.

    This reminds me of another one you wrote-

    long day…
    birds becoming dots
    become the sky

    1. Rohan,
      I’m surprised & amazed that you remember my ku and you’ve quoted it correctly too.

  3. Beautiful ku! I can imagine an outdoor setting for Gita Chanting and can feel the silence too. Minimal in terms of structuring and phrasing, it poignantly stands out. One of the finest memory ku I’ve come across :)

  4. I’ll be interested to read the commentaries on this one that’ll be published next week and hope someone will answer this question of mine, which might help me understand:

    When the chapters of the Bhagavad Gita are chanted, are there some parts/ verses/ sections that are usually omitted, left unvoiced, unsung?

    Or someone reading this thread might be able to give me the answer?

    – Lorin

    1. Lorin,

      A very good point you’ve brought out. For someone not familiar with Gita Chanting, the ellipsis can throw you off. ?

      This ku is a memory ku. When i was in my teens I had gone to Guru Chinmayananda’s 10-day long Gita lecture of just chapter 3.
      That was the first time I had heard the Gita being recited live.

      I have one published in tinywords:

      Gita chanting
      at the end of each stanza
      the bell

      Even this ku came from that experience. There was a group of girls and they recited just one stanza of the Gita from chapter 3 …. it was an outdoor evening lecture, and around 10,000 people or more were there.

      The girls would give a long gap /silence after they recite the stanza and then Swami Chinamananda would begin to explain the verse.

      Then the girls would recite the next verse . . . a long silence, when the verse begins to linger in our minds.

      I don’t want to give away too much. Just answering your Q, Lorin.

  5. i ,as a member of multitude, believe that rhythms are rooted in the history of lands, that’s why we have especial rhythm in every nation.
    it should be so deeply understood to make one sit for hours and enjoy only listening to it and feel home-safe!
    This poem points to Gita chanting and then to birds singing along in between!
    I was wondereing is this poem and the rhythm rooted in nature!
    Spirituality is very close to originality !

  6. I am guessing GITA,

    Lifts us up
    Where we belong
    Where the eagles cry
    On a mountain high..

    From the song in the movie ” an officer and a gentleman”

    1. The Academy Award-winning song Ranjana Narasiman is paraphrasing was composed by Buffy Sainte-Marie, the First Nations (Cree) singer-songwriter and activist. I feel credit is due to this brilliant humanitarian and educator.
      While we’re on the subject…The Ojibwa (Anishnaabe/Chippewa) novelist and poet Gerald Vizenor wrote a book of haiku entitled Favor of Crows: New and Collected Haiku. The introduction is an excellent discussion of haiku in general and how he sees a connection to Anishnaabe dream song. Highly recommended.

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