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Valentine Awards 2001

The Heron's Nest
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Volume III, Number 8: October, 2001.
Copyright © 2001. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Editors' Choices •  Commentary •  Haiku Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 •  Index of Poets

Heron's Nest Award

      evening breeze
      the spider cuts a petal
      from its web
                                            Peter Williams

Peter Williams presents exactly enough information to draw me into his experience. The time of day and its welcome breeze set a tranquil mood. Evening . . . when daylight is fading and work comes to a close. Some people may be preparing dinner while others are already eating. Perhaps a fresh flower arrangement has been placed in the dining area, and it is there that the spider has chosen to spin its orb. More likely, the poet notices this event during an evening stroll in the garden. It is at once marvelous and commonplace–an alien-looking creature performing an everyday task for the same reason that we humans must constantly maintain our own constructions.

Alone, the word “spider” holds certain connotations: a sticky net, eight creepy legs, a fanged hunter feasting on smaller creatures. But before those mental images fully form, Peter surprises me with, of all things, a petal! While for us bright blossoms bring pleasure, just one stray petal can cause problems for a spider. This arachnid has a job to do before it can eat or rest. During construction, the spider has adjusted the web's tautness according to the size of prey it seeks. The introduction of a useless foreign object may damage or weaken the structure, and it will interfere with signals along the strands that relay vital information to the owner–about real prey.

I am struck by the sound qualities in this haiku. The doubling of the long “e” sound in the first line helps to create the sense of tranquility. The two “s” sounds in the second line are “cut” by the hard “c” in “cut.” The two short “e” sounds (at the end of the second line and the end of the third) help return us to the calmness of evening. The sharp, precise point of marvel here (“cuts”) is nicely sandwiched between the two softer sounding portions of the poem. The rhythm is, depending upon how you read it, either a near classic 2 beat - 3 beat - 1 beat pattern: EVEning BREEZE / the SPIder CUTS a PETal / from its WEB, or a 2 beat first line followed by 3 even beats spread over the final two lines: (EVEning BREEZE / the SPIder cuts a PETal from its WEB). Either reading is effective.

Taken at face value, this poem is sharply focused and beautiful. It evokes a sense of peace, and reassures me of the continuity of nature. But its implications go beyond the immediate imagery. Demonstrated here is the finely tuned balance of nature. And without a single human reference appearing in overt juxtaposition, I am encouraged both to contrast and to liken human needs with the spider's. I wish I could have written this haiku. I'm grateful to Peter Williams for allowing me to share his extraordinary experience.

  Ferris Gilli
October, 2001