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Viral 3.4


Viral 3.4

snow & sun
By Stanford M. Forrester

                                                     deep snow
                                                     the amusement park lit
                                                     by a single bulb

                                                                                   — Cor van den Heuvel

This haiku is one of the most memorable I’ve read in the past ten to fifteen years. It is crafted with such technique that we forget we are reading a poem at all. Simply speaking, it transcends the page.

This is a poem about temporality and memory. We normally think of amusements parks in the summer time of our youth. Our memories are filled with sounds of laughter, music, and shouting. We can remember the smells of cotton candy, hot dogs, sea mist, and a girlfriend’s perfume. It is warm out. Maybe we were wearing a short-sleeved shirt, or a light jacket that we would wrap our date as the night grew dark and chilly. The sky would turn indigo, but with each moment the amusement park lights would grow more and more brilliant, some glowing blue, yellow and red. In some places white street lamps would flood the avenues and of course there were strobe and blinking lights. We still might remember what it felt like to walk on the boardwalk or down the street; stepping on popcorn, or maybe a piece of melted chewing gum sticking to our shoe.

Although none of these memories are literally present in Cor van den Heuvel’s poem, they truly are present. This haiku opens the door to our memories and evokes invisible juxtapositions to each well-chosen word present. Take the first line. Here there are two implied (or invisible) juxtapositions; the first being of winter and summer; the second of trudging in deep snow in the winter and walking over the amusement park grounds in the summer.

In the second part of the poem, there is a juxtaposition of light. A single light bulb is almost engulfed by the winter night in comparison to a cacophony of the usual amusement park lights that make you forget that there ís a sky behind them.

Sound is another important element utilized by the poet in the poem. This is poem of silence, or perhaps there’s a bit of wind blowing across the snow. Like the single light bulb, the sound present is engulfed in the deep snow. This silence or muted sound is compared in the reader’s mind to the sounds of the amusement park going at full hilt.

These are only a few comparisons that can be made when looking at this poem. The use of the subject matter creates a certain tension that evokes in the reader a number of thoughts and ideas that lay below the surface of this snow. I invite you to explore this amusement park both in the deep winter and its highest summer.

As featured poet, Cor van den Heuvel will select the next poem and provide commentary for Viral 3.5.

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 3.1 (Metz ➾ van den Heuvel)
Viral 3.2 (van den Heuvel ➾ Patrick)
Viral 3.3 (Patrick ➾ Forrester)

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Just one thing to add: I think the sound dimension is neatly set up by the kigo. “Deep” snow has a semantic aura: deep silence. This suggestion helps leads us to the haunting absence of hubbub in the base. Poetry often fuses the senses. In this case, a weak, snowy light from the single bulb emphasizes the absence of sound. It should also be noted how unliteral the base is, but it works — works not as “description” but as poetry. Put it this way: It’s common to say that haiku avoids figures of speech, but what do you call that single bulb lighting up a whole amusement park? Hyperbole? In any event, it creates a tension in the base, and a surprise: these structuring principles are basic to haiku, it seems.

  2. What an excellent commentary on Cor’s haiku. It’s also an open series of comments to the person new to haiku, and for that I commend it.

    This is one of my favourite haiku of all time.

    Stanford, without mentioning it, shows how well “negative space” as a technique works within haiku.

    This haiku is indeed like Dr Who’s Tardis travelling machine, because it captures space and time, and is much larger inside than its apparent mere ten words.

    Not only is this a straightforward account of Cor’s haiku, open to everyone, but is a delight to read. I feel really spoiled having Cor’s haiku and this warming exposition by Stanford.

    Thank you!


  3. This kind of selection is truly why I don’t like to miss a single presentation at this site. The haiku here always open up something for us and the comments give us so many ways to go with what we’ve learned. For Stan to say this is the “most memorable” haiku he’s read in 15 years is saying something when you realize just how much haiku he reads every day.

  4. Neat pick and appreciation, Stan. I like the way your meditation on “temporality and memory” teases out the absences implied by this haiku. There’s a really compelling wabi-sabi feeling captured here.

    Amusement parks and baseball parks have, of course, long been inspirations for some of Cor van den Heuvel’s most memorable work. In his first haiku book, Sun in Skull from 1961 (2 yrs before American Haiku began publication!), there are already exs. such as:

    in the toy pail
    at low tide floats
    the still ferris wheel

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