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Volume III, Valentine Awards: February, 2001.
Favorite Haiku Popular Poets
(haiku that received the highest number of votes)
Some of you may recognize this poem from before it's April appearance in The Heron's Nest. Penny wrote evening rain in 1999, at the Haiku North America Conference in Evanston, Illinois. She entered it into the conference contest and was awarded Runner-up by the judging committee. Several months after the conference I asked Penny for permission to print her poem in The Heron's Nest so that a wider audience would be able to enjoy it. She agreed. Now you, the readers, have given Penny a second honor by electing her haiku one of the most popular in Volume II.
The poet, the evening, and the rain braided together, a special gestalt. I feel that the rain is steady, and that it will last throughout the evening. It is the medium in which the margins between day, night, and poet blur. In fading light Penny sits by a window, or a fireplace, braiding her long hair. She reflects on things going on in her life, perhaps pleasant, perhaps not so pleasant. The act of braiding hair can be meditative, a way to calm the busy mindor maybe to focus more intently on a particular flow of thought. As social parallels, quilting bees and card games have a similar effect; conversation circulates more easily when eyes and hands are busy with some small task. Buddhists have a saying: We must exist in muddy water with purity, like the lotus, thus we bow to Buddha. Penny's hair-braiding could be viewed as a ritual centering in the midst of worldly turmoil. It would help, along with the rhythm of the rain, to ease tensions, nurturing her capacity to respond rather than react.
Among the readers' choices from last year's wonderful poems, this haiku was voted into third place. Christopher Herold previously selected this poem of John's as The Heron's Nest award winner for January.
In 1918, the killing stopped. The First World War, more than three years long, ended. From John's British homeland nearly a million died, another two million were wounded. Worldwide deaths numbered more than eight million.
These many years later that act of signing the papers of Armistice is still remembered; those who sacrificed are still commemorated. The casualties of more recent wars are now included. Different countries have named the holiday variously, from Armistice to Veteran's to Remembrance Day. John has chosen the name most pregnant with meaning.
The scene is a drizzly autumn day in recent times, the eleventh of November. Those standing in the cemetery have cold, wet feet. The bugle, that symbol of military communication in combat, renders instead a lament. The bugler plays the overtone series of Taps. His vibrato, the cold, and the rain all affect the sound crossing dreary cemetery fields. Emotion is the cause of the waver that John Crook points out to us. The emotion involves all for whom he plays.
This haiku is concise, vivid, and beautifully focused. We are first asked to feel a balmy June breeze. Then our eyes are drawn heavenward, where we see a familiar sight: a cloud with a ragged hole in it. As we watch, the hole becomes smaller, the edges pulled together as if by invisible stitches.
Another observer might have allowed his or her gaze to wander on, no doubt to a more interesting scene. But something about that hole caught and held the author's attention. As she watched air currents play with the cloud, an'ya felt the flash of realization that inevitably burns itself into a poet's heartthe moment that a small drama is discovered in an ordinary scene. This moment, more vivid to the poet than any photograph could be, was recorded in her memory. It is our gain that an'ya evolved her vision into words and then shared them with us.
It's amazing to imagine a thing as wispy and watery as a cloud mending itself, yet this is a scene that I'm sure I've witnessed many times without a second thought. June breeze and the shifting shape of a cloud suggest a light, carefree mood. an'ya's haiku is powerful as pure imagery alone, but it's more than that. I see the cloud and its action as metaphor for our own fragility, and the way we must constantly mend ourselves. Not only do we heal our bodies, but our intangible emotions as well . . . our hearts.
I am immediately drawn into this scene. Perhaps the author is alone with his thoughts, but in my interpretation there are two people, bundled against the chill air. They don't hurry, but keep a steady pace beneath trees that are losing the last of their foliage. Perhaps at first a few words are exchanged, simple pleasantries about books or the weather, then the conversation subsides... It's a quiet time of day, and now the only sounds come from birds and squirrels, and occasionally a passing car.
Readers could infer that the subjects enjoy a long-established, intimate relationshipthe kind when companions are comfortable with periods of silence and don't feel driven to fill every pause with verbal communication. Perhaps they understand each other so well that idle chatter is unnecessarybut Tom's skill with imagery shows me otherwise. Unshared thoughts float off with withered leaves, evokes a strong sense of loss. For whatever reason feelings have been left unspoken and the time for sharing thoughts has passed. I sense that the author is uncomfortable in this silence.
Using just enough words to present this moment, Tom Noyes conveys the time of day and season, what is happening, and an inner conflict that is the core of the poem. Just as concision is prized in haiku, so is the ability to evoke emotion without using words of emotion. This haiku demonstrates both qualities admirably.
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