The Heron's Nest

Volume XIX, Number 1: March 2017

Editors' Choices

winter sunrise
butter finds its own path
across grandma's skillet

Frank Hooven
Morrisville, Pennsylvania

its own

Helen Buckingham
Wells, Somerset
United Kingdom

Queen Anne's lace—
a childhood spent
in second-hand clothes

Mary Kendall
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The Heron's Nest Award

winter sunrise
butter finds its own path
across grandma's skillet

Frank Hooven

Haiku can become successful poems in English through a variety of stratagems. We'll not soon see an end to the variety of ways in which this can be achieved. While recognizing this, The Heron's Nest has always expressed an interest in a certain band of possibilities. You can find a description of what we are seeking under the heading "Essential Qualities" on the "Submit" page of our web site. This hasn't changed since I came aboard as managing editor, though I do have a personal sense of it, as I'm sure every Nest editor does.

I am most attracted by English-language haiku that register first as strong sensory images and then, instead of dissolving into ideas, stimulate an indefinite sense of "something more." If this something more quickly becomes something particular, I find this less interesting than if it continues to retain that just out of reach quality. In other words, I prefer a haiku that stimulates intuition over one that expresses thought. This is not because either thought or intuition seems superior to me but because, in my experience, the rational mind, once it is engaged, tends to drown out or dull information arriving through the senses and intuition. As a result, intuition seems the rarer quality.

Having said that, I am aware that any poem that succeeds in stimulating intuition is going to read differently to different readers and that these various readings cannot be reduced to a correct reading, at least not to the degree that a poem presenting ideas may be. So, here are my intuitions about Frank Hooven's haiku.

The initial image could not be clearer to me—a particular time of year, a particular time of day, a particular room in a house, a particular appliance, cooking utensil, and starting ingredient. I am encouraged to add more particulars by the knowledge that the author lives in a similar physical and cultural landscape to my own. Grandma's skillet, to me, means a black iron skillet, heavy and requiring a pot holder when one grasps the hot handle. Something that has likely been passed down through several generations.

The poem could end early for me if the strongest impression was that the poet has juxtaposed the visual images of the cool, ineffectual winter sun entering its sky path with a pat of butter beginning to slide across the surface of a skillet. But there are other strong sense images here: the sizzling sound, the anticipated scents and tastes of breakfast foods, the chill of the room being brave on a winter morning and the close heat and warmth of the stove and its immediate surroundings. All of these impressions save me from my thoughts.

Something indefinite is suggested between the past and future, the new and old, fate and randomness, winter's chill and a hot skillet. All of this is in play, simultaneously, at a time called now, in a place called here.

John Stevenson
March 2017


The Heron's Nest XIX.1 (3-17)

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