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The Heron’s Nest

a haikai journal ...


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Volume VI, Number 2: March, 2004.
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

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


Heron’s Nest Award


      low tide—
      stones that have dried
      among those that haven’t

                                       John Stevenson

What a surprise to again find myself writing commentary for a poem by John Stevenson. And so soon! Well . . . not such a surprise really. What is it about this man’s way with words that time and again tweaks us into perceiving familiar things in fresh and profound ways?

In the role of reader, I stepped into John’s shoes (though he may not have been wearing any), to allow the images he presented to stimulate my own thoughts and emotions. In other words, I made the moment my own. As a writer, I’ll now draw on my own experiences to express (in the form of a haibun) what I intuit to be the core of John’s fine poem.

The sun, having floated free of the horizon, now seems to hover in a clear sky. The chill of early morning is gone yet there's no one but me on the beach.

I am weary. The last few weeks of work have been exceedingly stressful. As deadlines loomed, equipment broke down. Progress slowed and frustrations were vented. The home front has also been hectic. There’s been a steady stream of appointments: doctor, dentist, tax consultant, audiologist, ophthalmologist, and car mechanic. There have been several dinner parties, two poetry readings, and a jam session. Friends just had a baby, another friend has died. For the most part, these are now things of the past. Finally, I have a little time to myself, yet some emotions linger and I feel hollow, filled with echoes. I’m at a low ebb. A breeze has sprung up. The paper mill's pungent smell mingles with those of brine and seaweed. The Klikitat ferry rounds Point Hudson on its way to Whidbey Island. A gull flaps up from a buoy. The bell clangs . . . just once. (C.H.)

low tide —
stones that have dried
among those that haven’t      (J. S.)

My experience of John’s inspired moment is just that, my own. You will come to it differently. Writing a haibun to accompany his poem was illuminating; it increased my empathy for the moment John shares with us. You might enjoy doing the same.

The practice of reading and writing haiku takes us through unending stages of development. With tenacity, we can reach a stage that R. H. Blyth described this way: “At the moment of composition or appreciation, there is no distinction between inner and outer. Life runs so freely between them that we perceive things by introspection, and our experiences of the ’outer’ world have the same immediacy, validity, and certainty as have states of pure ’self’ consciousness.” Anais Nin put it another way: “We don’t see the world as it is; we see it as we are.” We may not always be aware of this while writing our own haiku, but if we aren’t aware of it while reading other poets’ work, we are likely to miss a substantial part of what makes haiku so special. Ideally, the poet, the object of inspiration, and the reader become inseparable.

John Stevenson made it easy for me to take his place on the beach. His sandals fit so well I don’t feel them — the sign of an expert craftsman!



Christopher Herold
March 2004


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