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Favorites from 2001

In Memorium:
Robert Spiess

This issue of The Heron's Nest is dedicated to the memory of Robert Spiess.

The Heron's Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume IV, Number 4: April 2002.
Copyright © 2002. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

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

Heron's Nest Award

      a fox’s ears
      above the garden wall
      autumn sun
                                            Peter Williams

Through every reading of this haiku, I find myself smiling. I cannot imagine a more delightful experience than seeing a fox's ears appear above my garden wall. The first line tickles me even before I learn what else is going on.

Peter Williams uses sharp, immediate focus to draw our mental gaze directly to the object(s) in nature that evoke his sense of wonder. Then, with delicate precision, he quickly takes us from awareness of the ears to experiencing the mental vision of just those ears appearing above the garden wall. It is here at the natural break that we are encouraged to pause and enjoy the imagery so far. Surely the ears are bobbing a little, as their owner trots along on the other side of the wall, unaware that a human is watching its progress.

The last line suggests a harmony of earth colors. Reddish ears highlighted by the sun; the browns, yellows, and reds of turning leaves. The line also confirms that there is more to the haiku than visual pleasure. Now Peter invites us to stay awhile and bask in a sunny garden, while entering a deeper level of discovery.

This is one of those rare haiku whose author skillfully employs two different kigo to enhance the “aha!” effect. Readers who are familiar with traditional Japanese kigo will know that “fox” normally indicates winter; yet the author wishes us to know that this is an autumn scene, and for me, therein lies the real “aha!” When I begin reading the haiku, I see the fox’s ears and imagine that it is winter. But with the last line, I learn that it is autumn, and discover the delightful surprise that Peter springs at the end: Winter? No, not quite; it is still autumn, with only the imminence of winter revealed–just as the fox is revealing only its ears!

The fox moves on, and so will the season. In my opinion, the marvelous concrete imagery of this poem is ninety percent of its appeal; flawless simplicity, concision, and surprise make up the other ten percent. A question asked when critiquing a haiku: “Can any word be removed without altering the meaning or depleting the essence?” In this instance, I reply, “Not one word.” Peter, thank you for once again allowing us to join you in your joyful relationship with nature!

  Ferris Gilli
April 2002

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