For the second time this month, Australian haiku poet Jo McInerney has been the winner of the weekly ‘re: Virals’ competition on The Haiku Foundation website: Jo’s response to a haiku by Charles Easter – ‘dry heat’ – can be found below.
In the meantime, however, Jo has again been given the chance – as the latest weekly winner – to choose a haiku to which other readers could respond: following on from her selection of Lorin Ford’s ‘cellophane’ one-liner, earlier in January, this time Jo has selected a further monostich from another Australian haiku poet, Janice M. Bostok –
envelope my thumb opens the seal of his tongue
For posting on Friday morning (Eastern US Time), responses to Janice’s one-liner would need to have been received online by midnight Tuesday (New York).
Guidelines for contributing through the THF’s Contact Box – using a subject header of ‘re: Virals’ – can be found through this link:
Jo McInerney’s latest success with ‘re: Virals’ has come through her extended response to the following haiku:
dry heat —
to the same withered flower
a bee returns
— Charles Easter, ‘Frogpond’ XXII:3 (1999)
After quoting another response (by Marion Clarke), The Haiku Foundation website notes: ‘But Jo McInerney found something more from the ecology’:
‘A dramatic decrease in the number of bees, especially in the northern hemisphere, has become yet another marker of environmental degradation. In 1999 concern over declining bee numbers did not appear necessary.
‘In Charles Easter’s haiku, the bee displays a curious persistence, a pointless return to a flower which can yield no pollen. However, it does not make an appearance until line three. What the reader is shown first is “dry heat” and then its impact on the physical environment — the “withered flower”. Despite the dash at the end of the fragment, line two functions like a pivot, the flower is affected by the heat from line one and visited by the bee of line three.
‘It is interesting that it is “the same flower”. This suggests the ongoing nature of the environmental damage. This is not a dried flower; it is a “withered” one. Its loss of vitality is not deliberate and preservative, rather regretted, yet in its desiccated state it has been effectively embalmed. This is the conservation of death, carrying the awful suggestion of a lifeless and unchanging world.
‘The last line gives us the bee. Two features of this line seem particularly significant. Firstly, it is a single bee; there is no abundance of insect life. Then there is the fact that it “returns” to this flower. It appears there are no life-giving options available to it. It seems analogous to the dove in Genesis, flying out repeatedly over the devastating waters seeking somewhere to land. But here a lack of water is the affliction and there seems no likely hope of fruitfulness or forgiveness. It is impossible not to sympathise with this small creature in its doomed endeavours.
‘I recently listened to an interview with Francine Banwarth videoed by The Haiku Foundation. She suggested that some forms of political statement are the legitimate province of haiku. Not crude propagandising, but an attitude of awareness which grows out of the acute engagement with the natural world which haiku fosters.
‘Whatever Charles Easter’s intent, this haiku seems a powerful warning of some of the consequences of climate change. To observe faithfully can sometimes be to predict.’