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The Heron's Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume V, Number 2: February 2003.
Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

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

Heron's Nest Award

      snowy night
      sometimes you can't be
      quiet enough

                                            John Stevenson

      The mot juste is “snowy.” There is not only falling snow, it is abundant. The trees, lawns, sidewalks, fences, houses, cars-all things in the scene are snow-covered, possibly even the poet. Snowflakes, large ones, fill the writer's vision. Because the rest of the haiku draws attention to the lack of sound, the snowfall must be straight down. Without a storm's wind, the flakes flutter from the dark sky.

      The reader doesn't know just where the poet is. Still, there is probably some man-made light. It is not important to know if the source is car headlights, street lights, or a lighted house. Sound, its presence and absence, dominates the poem. It is about the former that John Stevenson shows his regret.

      John did not take a traditional approach when crafting this haiku. The last two lines are a conclusion by the poet observer, an opinion. He speaks in the indefinite second person. Yet, this technique reveals John's awe at the majestic perfection of the snowy night and extends it to me. The expansive “you” invites all readers to share the poet's moment of insight. It works and shows yet again that there are rules that are not rules. Read aloud, the poem also pleases. The medley of three sibilant S’s is punctuated by four intruding T’s.

      Sometimes the very presence of the haiku poet or another person changes what is being observed. The intrusion may be exquisitely painful. The kayak paddle makes a splash as it enters a lily-filled cove. A walk in autumn woods is interrupted by leaves so loud underfoot they seem to echo. The sound of a distant hammer, a jet ski, or an airplane makes a deer jump, a fish startle, or a dragonfly take off.

      I easily recognize the writer's emotional discomfort as he disturbs the snowy scene; I am drawn in by it. The quiet, and the sheer beauty of this night, should not be disturbed. The scrunch of new snow compressed under a booted foot; the car door shutting; the beep as the car locks; the poet's breathing-all of these things are just too loud.



Paul MacNeil
February 2003

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