Choice — Favorite Poems
Runner-Up — vincent tripi
Deathbed . . .
my old friend’s imitation
The effectiveness of this wonderful haiku begins with the starkness
and immediacy of the raw emotion it evokes — the imminent
death of an old friend. vincent tripi’s use of the single word
“deathbed” demands the reader’s attention and reflection,
capturing the most basic human frailty and leaving us to contemplate
all of its implications.
We are not left in this state for long, however. The haiku strengthens
and deepens by providing a simple but vivid reminder of the brevity
of life. This reminder comes in the form of a firefly, whose care-free
floating through summer breezes belies its short lifespan. How very
much like our own experience this is — a balmy night
of flutter and flash, seemingly timeless, but over much too soon.
It is this very analogy that completes the haiku, the realization
that our own existence, so full of cares and worries, is nonetheless
fleeting, and in that sense is not at all unlike that of a firefly.
vincent tripi’s use of the word “imitation” is intriguing
in that the dying friend is most likely not trying to consciously
mimic a firefly. Instead, this imitation occurred in the mind of the
author, who, in gazing at his friend, drifted back to a moment long
ago, a seemingly endless summer night. Like the flashing of a firefly,
however, this moment, too is short-lived, leaving only the resonating
words of this sad and lovely haiku.
— Paul David Mena
Runner-Up — Allen McGill
the valley darkens
farm by farm
It has been claimed that many of the stones in walls built by the
Incas were made to fit so perfectly that it is impossible to wedge
a razor blade between them. The same could be said about the words
of this haiku. Allen McGill could not have expressed his experience
more simply or more effectively. The surface images are perfectly
clear and yet there is ample room for readers to delve deeper. The
juxtaposition of storm clouds to farms gives rise to several interesting
associative meanings. In his July commentary, Paul David Mena pointed
to a few of those associations. There may well be others; it is up
to us to find our own.
Impending disaster is implied by those heavy clouds. Soon there could
be flooding, loss of crops, loss of buildings, even loss of life.
The foreboding is tangible and this feeling can be projected to include
other current events as well: political, martial, economic, or domestic.
There is something more basic to this poem, however, than sharp imagery
and a variety of meanings. I am first and foremost struck by its emotional
intensity, its quality of ominousness. The storm has not yet struck.
The shadows of massive, cumulo-nimbus clouds are gliding into the
valley. There’s no time to waste. The livestock must be gathered,
pets brought inside, windows shuttered, and doors secured.
Editors and readers alike agree that this is a haiku of remarkable
— Christopher Herold
Runner-Up — John Stevenson
sometimes you can’t be
It’s nearly midnight. My wife and I are in bed reading our
books. All at once, something about the silence causes me to turn
to look at her. Eyelids drooping, she’s falling asleep.
In the morning, I’m the first one to the meditation room.
I settle on my cushion and wait. It seems I’ll be sitting
alone today so, at the appointed time, I ring the bell. A minute
or two later the door opens. Someone crosses the room and sits down.
Then it’s quiet again, but there’s a distinct change
in the nature of the silence.
I’m sure you’ve been in a large hall filled with people
who are not speaking, a candlelight vigil maybe, or perhaps outside,
for a funeral committal, or a moment of silence at a ball game.
Imagine how different those silences are. How many qualities of
silence are there?
Night has fallen and the surrounding world is slowing down, drawing
inward. Snow begins to fall . . . Can you feel the change, even
in the silence itself? Yes! As it accumulates, snow becomes a muffler,
softening and calming the rough-edged world. It was at such a time
John Stevenson was moved to stop what he was doing to listen. When
he resumed his activities, even the slightest sounds appeared harsh
in contrast to the deepening drift of silence. John is a natural-born
poet, a haiku poet. It would be impossible for him not to seek words
to express wonderment at such a subtle but perceptible change. John
did find the words and we would be hard pressed to find others that
come close to matching the way he conveys this special experience.
The syntax is not typical of haiku. The tone, so casual that it
almost comes across as an after-thought, a scribbled a note, is
quite a contrast to the moment of awe described. That this is so
illustrates the great skill with which John Stevenson writes. His
down-to-earth use of language puts us at ease and welcomes us to
share his experiences. And now, I too am moved to a respectful
— Christopher Herold