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Valentine Awards 2000

The Heron's Nest
a haikai journal ... 

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Volume II, Number 6: June, 2000.
Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved by the respective authors.

Editor's Choices •  Haiku: 1, 2, 3, 4 •  Index of Poets

Heron's Nest Award

      croquet . . .
      a butterfly flits
      through a wicket
                                            Emily Romano

The butterfly accomplishes effortlessly what we humans approach as a sporting challenge. We often play with the intent to win, and in this regard (with the exception of a tie) there are two possible outcomes: success or failure. The butterfly however, passes through the wicket without thought–no trace of ulterior motive, no possibility of winning or losing.

A nearly weightless butterfly and a heavy wooden ball. The contrast is cartoon-like. Undoubtedly some folks will say that this poem is a senryu. So be it. And so it's time for some free association . . .

Imagine a wicket, a thickish wire about two feet long, bent, with both ends thrust into the lawn to form a low arch. For fun, let's imagine being quite close to it. Let's sit on the grass, focus on the nearby wicket, and wait. Soon comes the solid sound of a wooden ball getting whacked, and a second later the ball comes rolling into view. A close one! It smacks up against one side of the wicket and abruptly stops. “That very moment and second, o Best Beloved,”* a butterfly appears in all its fragile whimsy, and flits right through.

To what degree does this poem express human foible? We dote on the ludicrous: the butterfly intentionally poking fun at us! It's easy to make the leap, to externalize our own amusement with ourselves. Yes, we could call this poem a senryu.

Yet the humor in Emily's poem is as light and non-judgemental as the butterfly. We can easily forego contrasting any human egocentricity to nature's more unselfconscious activities. We could just shout bravo, and applaud the butterfly's unwitting performance. Or, we could quietly marvel at the way all things seek to go about their business despite the wickets that pop up along the path. Surely this is haiku.

Tongue-in-cheek humor, delight, awe. One or all of these are potential responses to this poem. It seems to strike a perfect balance between haiku and senryu. And when a poem is this good, who cares what it's called. It's transcendent.

At this point I could delve into specific observations about the craft in this poem, but I won't. It would only serve to diminish the wonderfully cathartic effect it has. So I'll just end with some gush. Brief. Vividly clear. Not a wasted word. Terrific phonetics. Excellent rhythm. I'm impressed with how well balanced this poem is. Absolutely delightful!

* Rudyard Kipling, from the Just So Stories

  Christopher Herold
June, 2000