It seems appropriate that this Viral, selected and commented on by Yu Chang, follow Viral 4.3 and Periplum #3, both of which accumulated such great discussions and so many interesting thoughts and readings. One of the key questions it seems that was being alluded to but not being addressed head-on was this: what is Nature? How do we define it?
It seems that because our definition of Nature is expanding to include us (humans) and our inventions—that human nature is indeed part of Nature and vice versa and not separate or divided from it—our definitions of haiku and senryu, and what they can be (and what they are capable of doing), must expand as well. The lines become blurred, as they should. Isn’t this a good thing, and a natural trajectory for haiku and senryu as they become more global? Kigo (season words) become less vital and exclusive, and more work that employs season-less, universal words (muki-kigo) become prevalent—the human nature of Nature becoming more central, more accented. Is this subjectivity, or a new objectivity?
This Viral (5.3) seems to be yet another example of this kind of artistic progression: a seasonless poem where human nature-consciousness-emotions and something physically perceived outside it are spiraling around one another, pushing and pulling, with deep connections that go all the way back to the origins of humankind (“Where there are rocks, watch out!” -Alan Watts). In many ways, the seasonless poem goes deeper than seasons, and, with the openness they create, require the reader to go deeper as well. You the reader, bringing your life experiences and imagination in tow, are allowed to come in contact with a world the seasonless poem creates more openly, with more freedom, and are given the chance to create your own season for it, or however the poem works through you. It’s a collaborative workout. What season does it leave you in and with, and why? Take a look. And watch out.
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.
a deep gorge . . .
some of the silence
— John Stevenson
“Ah, the color gray . . . a lonely man, in a deep gorge under a misty sky, not even a crow in sight.” That’s the picture I painted right after the first read. I find it curiously satisfying. Much later, after a closer read, I was delighted to find another portrait for the poet – centered, humble, and at peace with his surroundings.
The sense of elation has stayed with me since I first read this lyrical, and evocative poem. The gentle pull of the understated first line “a deep gorge . . .” sets the scene, and the invitation for the reader to join in is put forth in the second and third lines. The poem succeeds effortlessly, without raising a single decibel.
On a bridge in Ithaca, I caught a glimpse of the gorge after our (Route 9 Haiku Group) poetry reading at Cornell’s Mann Library to celebrate the 2006 Poetry Month. It’s like any other gorge just deep enough to rattle me out of my complacency.
A man on a bridge looking down into a gorge is a common scene, but a poet with an open mind has found a poem. Like my composer friend, Hilary Tann, says, “Composing music is making the commonplace incandescent.”
What was in the poet’s mind when he wrote the poem? Could it be that he just wrote it down with nothing particular in his mind? It really doesn’t matter. Each time I read the poem, I am thankful for the space and the freedom to let my imagination play a part.
The poem’s telescoping construct provides enough room between the first line “a deep gorge . . . ” and the third line “is me” to accommodate layers of unspoken emotions effectively juxtaposed in three short lines. Two concrete images, a man and a gorge, are brought together by silence, a word which could conjure up all sorts of sounds, from thunderous waterfalls to the faintest whisper of a wounded heart. A bridge is made, and the reader is invited to come in.
But what is the poet trying to tell me? A voiceless confession of some action/inaction in the past that gave rise to the formation of the gorge? The last two lines when read as a single sentence seem tinged with regret. Could this be a change of heart in the darkest hour of his life? Does he feel centered again and the poem is wide open? Could it be true that if we all open our hearts and talk to one another, the world would be a better place? We’ll never know. Maybe that’s why a poem like this is so tantalizing.
“deep gorge” was first published in Geppo (July/August 1996)
As featured poet, John Stevenson will select the next poem and provide commentary for Viral 5.4.