Readers’ Choice — Poem
of the Year
creak of the swing . . .
my feet still reach
From the first reading many months ago, Connie Donleycott’s
“creak of the swing” has nourished my spirit. It becomes
increasingly expansive and satisfying over time, holding true and
inviting new layers of association.
The long “e” sounds creak their way to what is surely
a clear spring sky. Subliminally the sound suggests bones that have
known the rigors of a good number of winters. That is all the more
reason for exuberance as the swing rises and youthful pleasure returns.
The long “i” rhyme of “my” and “sky”
melds self and infinite space, personalizing the limitless possibilities
the haiku celebrates.
Maybe the poem harks back to earliest childhood when a loving parent
pushed the swing and encouraged Connie to see her feet “reach
the sky.” Maybe she formed the phrase later on when she could
control the motion herself, pushing against the ground and then
lifting her legs to arc higher as she gained strength and skill,
experiencing the wonder of the universe and of her own achievement.
Maybe language has only recently joined the sensation, bringing
with it the symbolism of joyful capacity and continuing potential.
Whatever their origin, the words are just right.
As a rule of thumb, first-person pronouns in haiku require great
skill. They can overemphasize the ego or close readers out of the
experience described. On both counts the opposite is true here.
Gentle humor infuses the poem, exposing and universalizing the self-test.
Success and delight bring the reader right in, first with a cheer
of “Go, Connie!” and then with a compulsion to swing
The haiku rocks some paradigms. Certainly, well-grounded people
(and poems) deserve admiration. That a person has his “feet
on the ground” communicates his good sense and reliability.
I can’t fault the wisdom of well-wishers who, from time to
time, advise me to get my head out of the clouds and come down to
earth and realistic expectations. No one ever told me to get my
feet out of the sky, though! Relishing the image of Connie’s
up there, I enjoy a broad grin, once more becoming an observer and
then a participant in the 2003 Poem of the Year. I commend the voters
who selected it and invite all readers to return to it again and
— Peggy Willis Lyles