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The Heron's Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume IV, Number 8: August, 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

      warm evening
      an open door
      to someone's living room

                                            John Stevenson

     The heat of the day lingers into evening. Someone's front door is left open to allow air to circulate. With matter-of-fact simplicity, John Stevenson depicts a commonplace scene. Part of what makes this haiku effective is that the presented imagery suggests a profusion of other images, all of which resonate beautifully. Although cicadas are not mentioned, they are there. I hear them. I can also see fireflies and smell a barbecue. It's easy to imagine these things and many more: a shooting star, distant music, the scent of jasmine or freshly mown grass . . .

     More now than ever before, the news is filled with horrific and tragic stories from all over the world. The stress that builds up from monitoring these events can easily cause us to forget more peaceful times and the goodness in people. In this especially worrisome epoch, it is a relief to read a calming haiku such as this one by John Stevenson. He reminds us that it is still possible to feel safe, to open ourselves to the world beyond our doors. I feel welcomed by this poem, and through it, into a stranger's living room. A stranger who is not really so strange after all. The poem itself is a door to our commonality.

     More often than not the doors to our houses are closed to the world outside. We see into other people's homes, and their lives, through books, television, and movies. How pleasant it is to take a walk on a summer evening, to look into an open door and catch a glimpse of someone's domestic scene, a place where facades are put aside. The person inside the house and the poet passing on the sidewalk may even wave to each other.

     I'm impressed by the way this poem progresses. With a first line of just two words, Stevenson presents the overall scene. Evening warmth indicates summer, the season during which we tend to be more outgoing. The second line is, both literally and figuratively, “an open door.” When we close our doors, we are essentially protecting ourselves from the very life we want to live. Our homes are finite places, but the home in this poem is not closed to the infinite reach beyond its walls. That is good. The final line brings me back from the expansiveness of the great out-of-doors to a particular place. All at once I realize that although this living room belongs to someone in particular, the knowledge of what such a room represents is shared by just about all of us. In other words, “someone's living room” is first understood as a specific place, then a place in general–it could be anyone's living room. The recognition of this results in a sense of familiarity that is both welcoming and reassuring.

     Although the most obvious break comes at the end of the first line, Stevenson has not placed punctuation there. This may be so that it is also possible for us to read through all three lines without stopping. Try it. The warm evening becomes itself the open door, an invitation to give ourselves over to what we share in common, the natural world. In a very basic way, the weather moves us to open our doors and to meet in a much more spacious living room.



Christopher Herold
August, 2002

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