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Valentine Awards 2000

The Heron's Nest
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Volume II, Number 8: August, 2000.
Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Editor's Choices •  Haiku: 1, 2, 3, 4 •  Index of Poets

Heron's Nest Award

      a curtain billows
      before the rain
      scent of roses
                                            Ferris Gilli

The billowing of a curtain before the arrival of rain – a marvelous observation. And yet it's a fairly commonplace occurrence, caused by changing barometric pressure. Telltale signs such as this are experienced by everyone, but more often than not people don't pause long enough to express them in words.

Roses indicate that the season is summer. I imagine it being hot and muggy (this poem was written in Florida), and that the window is open in hopes of circulating the stagnant air. The feeling of heaviness is pervasive. Soon the temperature begins to fall and the oppressive atmosphere is stirred by a breeze. A curtain billows. In with the draft comes the perfume of roses, a scent that can be as dense as the air has been. There's an immediate precognition of being at the edge, a certainty that something is about to happen.

This is a poem of arousal and of excitement. An atmosphere of tension will soon be relieved. Storms are often destructive, so there is also some sense of foreboding. These feelings are heralded in an instant by all but one of the senses. We see the curtain billow, hear it rustle, feel the fresh stirring of air, and breathe in the sensuousness of roses. Ferris Gilli's poem is a wake-up call for nerve endings.

I have always enjoyed haiku in which the middle line can be read as an essential part of two distinct images, especially when those images combine to evoke and intensify one mood. In this haiku, “before the rain” serves to end the first line phrase, turning it into a complete sentence. It also serves as the beginning of a phrase that concludes with the final line. Haiku such as this call out to be read twice in succession, first pausing at the end of line one, then at the end of line two. By pointing in both directions, and at two different senses, “before the rain” is doubly emphatic of a moment in time.

Read independently, all three lines are phrases; all three clear, concise descriptions. The first reveals a place. The second indicates the time of observation. The third not only presents a new stimulus, it actually dissolves the apparent separation of observer and observed. Our attention is twice called to the time at hand, first by the billowing curtain, then by the smell of roses. Cause and effect is apparent here (always something to be wary of in writing haiku), but in this instance the pitfall is hardly noticeable and of little consequence. The sequential aspect of the two stimuli, if not utterly cancelled, is modulated by the middle line as it draws us into the power of an unfolding event . . . suddenly we are fully present to welcome the leading edge of rain.

Ferris' haiku has mood! It is subtle, exciting, beautiful, and full of anticipation. It is also finely crafted.

  Christopher Herold
August, 2000