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The Heron’s Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume V, Number 3: March, 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


      village square —
      old faces borrowing angles
      from the stone

                                            H. F. Noyes

The poet speaks of angles in a poem that is aurally and visually angular. The words “square” and “angles,” the sharp cut at the end of the first line, and the sparseness of all the words save one — these factors lend physical and lingual shape. Use of the present participle is the key to the poem’s musicality. Rounder in pronunciation than the remaining words and having a third syllable, “borrowing” slows the pace. I immediately read “village square” aloud several times to enjoy its rhythm, and quickly became fascinated by the implication of the last two lines.

With apparent ease and a perfect economy of speech, H. F. Noyes describes an intriguing occurrence, one that is representative of humanity’s interactive relationship with its surroundings. Though the animal kingdom was the first to participate, humans are major players in this ancient and continuing phenomenon. The poet sums it up with one word: “borrowing.” Not only do our creative outward expressions reflect our inner states of being, we seem to take on the appearance of our milieu, whether it be artifactual or nature’s creation.

All things, including humans, show the effects of time and the elements. Nowhere is this more evident than among people who spend much of their lives out of doors. I first began to notice this as a child growing up in a South Georgia farming community. Working long hours season after season, in relentless heat under a glaring sky, the people who worked the farms lost the bloom of youth by the time they reached their early twenties. The lean, wiry men and women became more sun-dried with each passing year. By middle age, their faces and necks had become leathery and as furrowed as the plowed fields, and all those who stayed lean developed a certain angularity.

In many traditional Greek towns, the stone-built houses, stone walls, and cobblestone streets have been preserved and are still in use. I imagine H. F. Noyes as he strolls through a village square, absorbing the sunlit beauty of whitewashed stone, red tile roofs, and large earthenware pots spilling with colorful blooms. Perhaps he sits agreeably among some of the elder residents, men and women of indeterminate age, who live in the houses their ancestors built. He sees that the faces of his companions, like the ancient buildings, reveal the essence of the village.

Whether we experience it in a mountain burg, a small farming town, a fishing village, or a bustling city, most of us will be able to share the poet’s insight. In his excellent book, still here*, H. F. Noyes shares a comment from a letter he wrote to vincent tripi: “Growing old gracefully is giving back to life what was never ours.” With “village square,” the poet seems to be showing us that we are no more separate from our habitats than any other species.


Ferris Gilli
March 2003
* Northfield, Mass.: Swamp Press, 2002


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