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re:Virals 192

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

     brief bio
     i become a bit
           — Jim Kacian, afterimage Red Moon Press (2017) 

Lorin Ford adds her two bits:

I read “a bit”, initially, as a synonym of “a little” or “a tad”: an adverb of degree. One can be a bit cold, drunk, annoyed etc. but there’s a quirky sort of humour in the idea that there are (or there might be) degrees of ‘posthumous’. Language allows us the absurd. (I can say “I’m half-dead this morning”; it’s a common enough expression.) We know (or think we know) what the author means: reading or having written one’s own brief bio can feel something like reading about oneself on the ‘Obituaries’ pages. 

No sooner than I come to the end of this haiku, though, I’m dissatisfied with my first reading. I cannot discard it but it’s incomplete. We’re in the 21st century. Our ‘brief bio’ is likely to have been written on a computer and may appear on online websites as well as in print. “I become a bit” as a complete sentence now haunts me. A bit is one unit of information on a computer. (Very small, very brief indeed!) So as well as being an adverb of degree, “a bit”, in context, might be a noun.

“The bit is a basic unit of information in information theory,computing, and digital communications. The name is a portmanteau of binary digit.
In information theory, one bit is typically defined as the information entropy of a binary random variable that is 0 or 1 with equal probability, or the information that is gained when the value of such a variable becomes known.”

It’s quite possible that what’s left of me posthumously will be one bit of information stored on a computer. I have no doubt that Jim’s play on the word ‘bit’ was intentional, and there’s probably more on the technical/scientific side of things involved than I, with my very limited knowledge of it, can discern. One thing I do know: Jim Kacian’s haiku (like the English language) have been much concerned with time, and “brief bio” is not an exception.

As this week’s winner, Lorin 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!
re:Virals 92:

     thistledown scatters the visible breeze
          — Michael Rehling, A Hundred Gourds 2:3(2013) 

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Without thinking this through too deeply, my first thought: a bit = obit

    1. That’s interesting, Lori . . . there’s definitely a bit & obits in play here, imo. 🙂
      – Lorin

  2. Oh, this made me smile! If it were a guy from Belfast saying this he would have become “a wee bit posthumous.”

    I enjoyed reading Lorin’s interpretations and also wondered about the word “brief.” A bio, by nature, is usually brief – in fact, often we are given a very specific word limit. So how brief is brief, I wonder? The fact that the i is lower case could suggest that the author himself might have felt slightly deflated by the request for a “brief” bio, or at least that he must shrink his achievements so that he doesn’t take up too much space – or bits.

    The second definition of the word “bit” in Lorin’s comment is amusing if applied to a bio and with “posthumous” from the last line “…the information that is gained when the value of such a variable becomes known.” Hahaha it’s like Jim Kacian is having a little joke with us! 🙂

  3. I enjoyed Jim’s haiku, though I had little time to respond.
    The more I read it the more it seemed to take me in a circle. Likened to a cat with 9 lives, losing one, automatically takes us to life two and so on. Each time a bit more disappears into the past. A new bit to the bio is added (which I imagine with Jim’s quality and success is quite frequent). Hence I think (bit) becomes a central part to the haiku. Life after all is made up of loads of little bits.

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