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Viral 2.3

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.

Viral 2.1 (Metz ➾ Beary)
         • Viral 2.2 (Beary ➾ Tauchner)

Out of Kindness   by Dietmar Tauchner


         out of kindness now
            I shout at my father             
               going deaf

                         — Kevin Brophy

This outstanding poem by the Australian poet Kevin Brophy is a striking and touching one. It overwhelms with different associations of family affairs, especially the relationship between an adult son or daughter (but rather son than daughter) and their old father. It provides what I’d like to call “an existential force,” a power that derives directly from our experiences in and with life—something that Bashō and his Shōmon school might have had in mind when they coined the term “fuga no makoto,” the truth of art, as a poetic advise/device, or, later on, Shiki, and his idea of composing haiku based on makoto (“truthfulness”).

Brophy starts his “serious senryū,” or “existential/psychological haiku,” with enormous skill by using a line that can be understood in different ways. “Out of kindness now” might have the meaning that kindness is the way of human interaction between adult son/daughter and father, or it might mean that the way of kindness has been abandoned. “Now” deepens this effective ambiguity, since it evokes either a change of feeling—the “I” might have shouted at his father previously out of anger, for instance—or almost the opposite, the end of a sort of kindness, avoiding hidden feelings like anger.

The second line—”I shout at my father”—provokes all the associations of a rude treatment of one’s father, but the third line calms down this angry emotion in stating that the father is going deaf and might need a loud voice to understand spoken words. In an amazing and intense way, Brophy captures the ups and downs of a lifelong relationship and expresses the ambiguous emotions for the father: anger and, finally, after all, kindness and compassion.

“out of kindness now” was first published in Famous Reporter 21 (June 2000)

As featured poet, Kevin Brophy will select a poem and provide commentary for Viral 2.4.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I would like to remark on the *body* of this wee poem, what I sometimes call the *soundfield*, other times the *soundfeel*, though they are probably the same. I am sure other readers have noticed the play of sounds, especially the 3 OW sounds, which emphasize the shout. Their presence alone might be remarkable, but I think the interplay of vowels on a whole is what gives one an intuitive sense of the poem beyond the ambiguity which is perceivable in lines 1 and 3 also. For the purposes of this examination, it may be helpful to divide the poem into two sections:

    out of kindness now/ I shout at my

    father/ going deaf

    The first line has those emphatic OWs which are interspersed with EYE sounds, alternating, 3 apiece. Quite a bouquet of diphthongs, which to me leave an uneasy feeling. If you speak either of those sounds, or any diphthong, probably, you may notice it is a difficult sound to settle into, because it is two sounds yoked together and one may feel oneself, however nanobriefly, divided. They have the effect of keeping things somewhat off the ground, as it were, particularly the EYE sound, which phthongs off into EEE.

    But there is an abrupt change in the field/feel when the word “father” arrives with its AH sound, followed by the OH of “going” and ending with the short e of deaf. Suddenly we feel ourselves settling a bit, settling into the heart of the matter, as those sounds are, to my ear, welcoming, sounds one might chant in order to come into one’s body, into one’s heart. (Chanting EEE gets one rather excited, I would say—a good replacement for your Starbuck’s).

    I think it is that shift which takes us away from the ambiguity of the first line. The poet is not (though maybe he feared he could be) *lacking* compassion, rather he is coming into it. It also helps settle any doubt we may have about who is going deaf. I have concentrated on the play of vowels here, but the soundfield as I engage with it opens up a deeper feeling for the word “deaf”, how that final f trails away on the outgoing breath, as sound itself trails away, and is no longer heard.

    In another soundfield, the word “father” despite that relaxed AH, might lead us somewhere entirely other. After all, father is not always gentle.

    So for me, here, the sound of this poem is what makes it work as well as it does. It has a body made beautiful by allowing itself to be formed by deep feeling.
    Thank you Kevin Brophy.

    And this by the way, is why I read haiku.

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