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The Heron’s Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume V, Number 7: July, 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


       storm clouds
       the valley darkens
       farm by farm

                                        Allen McGill

Allen McGill has crafted a haiku that resonates well beyond the duration of its brief eight words. The opening line instantly invokes the image of an ominous sky. In just two words we have all the information we need to begin to paint a picture in our minds’ eye. Then our attention is directed downward, to where we can see the effect of the clouds on the ground below: shadow meets earth. Finally, the image is put into context when we learn that these events are unfolding in farm country.

The haiku suddenly takes on a human face. The ground darkened by passing clouds is the source of someone’s livelihood. The clouds, in turn, are either harbingers of life-giving rain or a cruel joke of nature. Such is the dependence of the hard-working farmer on things that are beyond his or her own control.

I must mention that I see another possible reading of this haiku, one that hinges on the word “darkens.” Had storm clouds merely passed over the valley, as they undoubtedly did long before farmers sought to cultivate it, they would have warranted little notice. The clouds, however, cause one farm to darken after another, leaving us to wonder: precisely what are these clouds?

In the U.S., the past century has seen a continuous flow of population from farms to urban centers. Those who remain to work the fields face fierce international competition and sagging prices. Often they must struggle to keep land that has passed from generation to generation. By extension, clouds in the form of foreclosure have appeared over farm by farm, with little sign of daylight. Brought on by drought, clouds in the form of dust covered the U.S Midwest during the Great Depression. Clouds in the form of pesticide-resistent insects threaten farms continually. Allen may not have intended any of these tangents, but his haiku is an easy harvest for the fertile imagination. Such is the richness of a great haiku.

Allen McGill’s words are seeds that germinate and quickly grow in many directions, providing sustenance to all who partake of them, as well as comforting shade to all who pass on by.



Paul David Mena
July, 2003


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