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Volume X, Number 3: September, 2008.
Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Editors’ Choices • Commentary • Index of Poets • 
Haiku Pages:  1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6,  7,  8,  9,  10,  11,  12
Celebrating Robert Major - Pages:  1,  2,  3 • 


Heron’s Nest Award


    the falling snow
    turning the snowman
    back into snow
                                       Mark Arvid White


One of the joys of haiku is the opportunity to share a “now moment of awareness” of a poet whose poem springs from a present-minded encounter with circumstances different from our own. Good readers are willing to engage a poem in an imaginative encounter. Thus, when poetic craft shapes the unfolding of an experience, both the event that sparked the poem and the event’s relationship to the universe become accessible even to readers of different backgrounds. My personal experience with snow and snowmen has been infrequent to say the least, but from my first encounter with this fine haiku by Mark Arvid White to my many happy reunions with it since, I find myself watching, along with him, in quiet awe.

Consistent with the disorientation one might experience in a heavy snowstorm, there is no guidance from punctuation in the poem, though I feel a natural pause at the end of line one. (Perhaps there once was an ellipsis but it’s been covered by the snow?) The lulling sound of the double l’s in line one and the soft vowel sound that ends lines one and three convey a feeling of deep silence and tranquility that encourages contemplation and meditation.

Though the poem is only nine words long, “snow” appears three times, once in each line. Repetition of this degree is unusual in English language haiku but here it effectively expresses the relentless nature of the snowfall and the ubiquitous nature of the snow at that moment.

Like autumn’s scarecrow the snowman is a fascinating creature. In Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac1 William J. Higginson writes that the Japanese term for snowman is literally translated “snow-Daruma” or “snow-Bodhidharma” after the First Patriarch of Zen, or sometimes “snow-Buddha.” Higginson attributes this to the round shape both the snowman and certain representations of the monk and Buddha have in common.

White’s poem gives us deeper similarities as well. At birth a proud creation who is fussed over, adorned, and posed with, the snowman is soon abandoned. He endures both his moment of celebrity and his all too brief existence with acceptance and equanimity very few humans could muster. The fate of this snowman is quite different from that of the famous “Frosty” and all the snowmen I ever knew. Not melted by rain or sun, but sitting silently he resumes his original nature flake by flake.

As do all fine haiku, the poem’s simple, objectively depicted images, through the poet’s skillful expression, resonate with the deepest experiences of our existence. On behalf of the other editors and all our readers I thank Mark Arvid White for this wonderful poem.



Robert Gilliland
September 2008


1 Higginson, William J., Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac, Kodansha International, Tokyo, 1996, p. 261.



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