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The Heron's Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume IV, Number 11: November, 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

      migrating whales
      all our footprints
      wash away

                                            paul m.

      Concision. Classic construction. Concrete imagery. Credibility. They are all here. However, while these four qualities almost guarantee an adequate haiku, they are elemental and can be found in almost any haiku crafted by an experienced writer. Something more makes a poem much better than adequate; something more earns this one unusually high marks from each Heron's Nest editor. Evocative juxtaposition and haunting musicality are also here, and they are the key to its resonance.

      This haiku reflects the vast difference in the time spans of two infinitely significant events: A whale population's journey occurs only twice a year, while the tide rises and falls twice daily. The sense of a long passage of time is reflected in the rhythm of the poem. A migration may last for several months. The repeated long sound of “a” in the first line and again at the end suggests a long-term process rather than an event that occurs suddenly. This assonance, coupled with the cadence of the second and third lines, imparts a song-like quality, so that the words seem to fade away rather than come to a sudden stop. Here is a haiku that begs to be read aloud.

      The unspoken certainty that human life and nonhuman life are interwoven lies in the joining of these precise images. The sense of immediacy is another valuable quality. It is easy for me to imagine the awestruck author, oblivious of time, watching the journey of whales. At some point, while still held in the wonder of their passage, the poet notices that his footprints and those of his companion(s) are disappearing with the rising tide. Along with his sudden awareness of this natural juxtaposition of events, comes the flash of insight. The poet lives the resonance of the moment.

      The visual imagery alone is beautiful, but I also perceive the poem as a rich metaphor with subtle foreshadowing. The first line fills me with longing to see migrating whales in person, and I am reminded that their numbers are diminishing. The implicit message of “all our footprints/wash away” leaves me breathless. When the whales are all gone, so might the rest of us be too---or at least well on our way out.

      In addition to presenting an aesthetically pleasing haiku, the author invites readers to venture within and explore its connotations. Thank you, paul m.; I am richer for the journey.



Ferris Gilli
November 2002

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