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Viral 1.2

Virals is a section in which one person choses a haiku by another person and comments on that haiku. Then the author of that haiku is invited to select a haiku by someone else and comment on that poem, and so on. For an introduction to this section, see Virals.


Out of the Ordinary  by Jim Kacian


from house
         to barn
                                  the milky way

                      — Lee Gurga

It is rarely our exotic experiences which yield our best haiku: novelty seems to lend itself more directly to irony and humor, and thus to senryu. No, our best haiku come from deep immersion in our everyday activities. Do something once, and we note it; do something a second and third time, and we begin to observe it; do something twenty times, and we begin to ignore it. But do something habitually, and pay attention to that doing, and we may come to find something miraculous hidden within it.

What could be more mundane than the daily chores? How many times has the poet walked between house and barn to feed the animals, return the tools, make his way home? And every night the sky has been there. But this night, the poet was open, was reawakened to the splendor of such a vision in the midst of the humdrum of everyday existence, and was rewarded. Note the order of things: from house — where we live, what could be more ordinary? — to barn — where we work, or where we find the tools for our work — to the Milky Way — overarching, encompassing all, simply there.

The poem achieves its effect through surprise. The reader, after the first line, after the second line, believes he is rooted in the mundane. It is easy to conceive that what we are to imagine is not something visual, but rather some task of the mundane, walking, perhaps, between these two reference points. Then, quite unexpectedly, our vision is shifted upwards, out beyond our simple references, and to the cosmic. The delight of our surprise mirrors the poet’s own, coming upon this in the midst of his workaday world.

The poem works in other ways, too. It is, of course, extremely brief, a mere seven words, eight syllables. But compressed in these eight syllables are three strong images, three strong emotional nodes, and a compelling force which binds them together. Both the rhythm and the sound of the poem serve to enhance this force. The rhythm is direct: two short lines in monometer, one iamb each, completed by a smooth dimeter of two iambs, relatively unstressed: simple addition. But the poem is obviously more than the sum of its parts.

The verbal color works nicely to complete the effectiveness of this poem as well, moving from the complex diphthong in “house” to the dark but opening sound in “barn” to the cadence of the wholly open vowel of “way,” each moving farther forward in the mouth, ultimately a release. The connectives are liquid, their sounds transporting rather than stopping. This contributes to the speed of the poem; likewise, the short “i” of “milky” hastens us to the surprise of the discovery, upon which we linger in the long final “a.”

What accumulative power such a brief poem can muster: in its eight syllables, we are transported from the mundane into the infinite. The poet controls our journey there with surety and dispatch. Before we can realize, we are amidst the crowding stars, willing riders out of the ordinary.

As featured poet, Lee Gurga will select a poem and provide commentary for Viral 1.3.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Thanks for putting Jim’s byline on this one – could you add the author’s name to the previous one(s) too? It’s nice to know who the poets are with such erudition.

    1. Happy to hear you are enjoying the Virals, Sandra. All of the first installments for each Viral (1.1, 2.1, 3.1, etc) are selected and commented upon by me. The featured poet is then invited to choose the next ku and provide commentary for it (the intro for this section can be found on the blog here). I am the one who starts each Viral off though. As requested, I have gone back and put my name on each of them at the top for clarity. And I will continue to make it clear as to who each Viral is by from now on, as with this Viral installment by Jim. Thanks.

  2. Very nicely put, Peter. The play on milky way adds another delightful element to the poem.
    I’m thoroughly enjoying these “virals”. They make excellent reading.

  3. I would add that the poem plays between the Cosmic and the comic. Typically, Milky Way is capitalized, but Gurga has chosen not to do that and I am led to envison, not only the Via Galactica, but the path from house to cow as a milky way, the pail carried back perhaps spilling a bit here and there. It is easy to imagine the author telling his young children that it is time to head down the milky way/Milky Way. As above, so below.

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