The Heron's Nest

Volume XX, Number 3: September 2018

Editors' Choices

spring wind
a young sheepdog
skedaddles the lambs

Claire Everett
Northallerton, North Yorkshire
United Kingdom

his life ends
snow softens any sounds
the stars make

Gary Hotham
Scaggsville, Maryland

my world
sits on my lap

James Schlett
Rotterdam, New York

The Heron's Nest Award

spring wind
a young sheepdog
skedaddles the lambs

Claire Everett

What probably jumps out of this poem for most readers is the word "skedaddles." I know that, if it has ever been used in an English-language haiku, I certainly haven't seen it. When a word stands out from a haiku to that degree the poet has created a crisis / opportunity. Something must be done about it (in the area of craft) in order to ensure that the haiku does not become hopelessly unbalanced and go off like a rapidly deflating balloon. Or a senryu.

That potential for a struggle between balance and imbalance and the strong forces engaged in it seem to me to be what this poem is all about. The first impression here is youth, youth, youth! Spring is the young season. We are told that the sheepdog is a young one, possibly learning the trade, somewhat overeager and less than graceful about it. Or at least not yet entirely serious, but still play-learning. And then we have those scattering lambs, for whom a relationship to man and dog is new, mysterious and intermittently terrifying! The surging energy of beginnings and new life is prominent in every line of the poem.

But is there something ancient, too, in that spring wind? Does it signify new birth or is it reincarnation? How long have people and their dogs been herding sheep? Could this image be one from today and from thousands of years ago in the same moment?

We come back to that word. Does it have a sort of "old time" quality? One source says, of its origins, "American Civil War military slang, of unknown origin, perhaps connected to earlier use in northern England dialect with a meaning 'to spill.'" I note that the author lives in northern England. And by a fantastic coincidence, I happened to have been traveling through North Yorkshire recently, on my way to Edinburgh. I say fantastic because this trip to the UK was the first travel outside of North America that I've ever undertaken. What that experience added to this poem, for me, was an image of rolling green hillsides. The perfect setting for this display of elemental energies.

Has the poet found the right sort of light humor for a haiku? Each reader is entitled to a judgement on that point. Our group of editors are united in thinking that she has.

John Stevenson
September, 2018


The Heron's Nest XX.3 (9-2018)

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