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The Heron's Nest

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Volume IV, Valentine Awards: February 2002.
Copyright © 2002. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Overview • Readers' Choice • Most Popular Poet • Editors' Choice
Favorite Haiku • Popular Poets • Editors' Runners-up • Special Mention

Readers' Choice
Connie Donleycott
Most Popular Poet
Peggy Lyles
Editors' Choice
John W. Wisdom
Favorite Haiku
John Crook
John W. Wisdom
Yu Chang
Paul David Mena
Popular Poets
Connie Donleycott
John W. Wisdom
Yu Chang
paul m.
Editors' Runners-up
Lenard D. Moore
John Crook
Special Mention


Connie Donleycott
Grand Prize (119 points)

            crowd of umbrellas
            a child opens his
            face to the rain

At its surface, this haiku delivers an easily understandable urban scene. The wording is light and direct, and there is a bit of surprise. Umbrellas are bunched together, obscuring their bearers. We see umbrellas gather, not people. They are wet and shiny. Perhaps this is at a street corner, pedestrians awaiting the light change. And yet . . . in this crowd scene, the poet indicates one who is different, a child.

“Crowd of umbrellas” won The Editors’ Choice Award for the June issue. In his June commentary, Christopher Herold shed light on many aspects of this haiku. One viewpoint was (to quote him): “ . . . adults armoring themselves against the rain, probably without a second thought. But the child, not yet tamed, revels in life, in the feel of raindrops. He is unconcerned if he gets wet.” Even if this boy’s parents packed a compact umbrella in his backpack, it is unlikely he would use it. Umbrellas are a tool of grownups, a symbol of responsibility and preparedness. One underlying metaphor of Connie Donleycott’s poem focuses on conformity versus non-conformity. As Christopher Herold indicated, the child is not yet acculturated to avoid the rain. I also reacted this way to the verse but followed several other directions.

There is a sense of anonymity as well as conformity. The surrealist painter, René Magritte (1898—1967), is known for the prominence of both umbrellas and the so-called “Magritte men” in his paintings. The latter are dressed identically in black suits and bowler hats. They are faceless. In “Golconda” (1953), Magritte painted many of these men falling as if rain. In an interesting synthesis of the haiku and my memories of these surrealist images, I supposed a Magritte with suited, hatted men, all sporting umbrellas. There is no such painting in fact, but I saw it within this haiku.

Christopher Herold’s commentary points out several more perspectives. That there are so many ways to see “crowd of umbrellas” is in itself delightful. I see it in still other ways. The power of season seems quite prominent. All we are given is the word “rain,” but the boy “opens his face” to it; it is not something uncomfortable. In regards to a sense of season, the key word is “opens.” The context this word creates transforms “rain” into a soft summer rain; there is a voluntary opening. Looked at closely, the word “opens” is decidedly poetic in this context. Nearly too much so, but it is a quiet word and slips into the reader like a smooth wine slips past the tongue.

An alternate interpretation is that the “boy” is a person of any age, but one who, like Wendy and Peter (in Barrie’s Peter Pan), still believes as a child believes. There may be a few poets among the crowd in Connie Donleycott’s poem – perhaps even haiku poets. Such folks see the world with a poet’s eye. Haiku poets live with feelings of season. They are attuned to the rhythms of nature and appreciate a summer rain. Let’s all turn our faces and our poet’s “eye” to the world of wonder.

One in a crowd. Congratulations to Connie Donleycott. Her haiku is also one in a crowd.

Paul MacNeil


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