river’s edge
the broken branch
joins up with itself

Cynthia Rowe

blue-sky

Haiku selection and comments by Rodney Williams

It goes without saying that the best haiku – like most powerful pieces of writing – often work on more than one level of meaning. For me as a reader, this very fine piece by Cynthia Rowe does just that.

In one dimension, it prompts reflections upon one’s own experience, especially in relation to memories of travelling within Australia.

Every time I read this haiku, my mind’s eye finds itself returning to images inextricably linked to an epic road-trip that I undertook with one of my best friends, driving from down here in southern Victoria, all the way up through Mildura, and then out along the Darling River Valley – past the Menindee Lakes – to Broken Hill and Silverton: right into the mythical outback …

Yet one of the other joys to be derived from this poem lies in the precision of its choice of language. For it is not the bank of a river which gives this haiku its context, of course, much less the sense of a curve or bend created by the power of the stream’s current carving its way through the land. Instead, it is the notion of an edge which gives this haiku its tension, as well as an initial point of focus. And that suggestive element is right at the heart of this poem’s power.

For this is a haiku which dares to deal – despite its brevity – with a set of large ideas: it begins with a sense of extremity (with things being out on the edge), before focusing in upon damage, only to resolve itself with a sense of repair: all in just three compact lines …

Aurally linked by alliteration, the “broken branch” has been visually re-united – most of all – through the poet observing its reflection on the surface of river water, where it thereby “joins up with itself”.

On a deeper level, however, there truly is a Zen-like quality to this thought-provoking haiku, in the sense that opposites – on the margins of things – are brought into a state of unity and completion, offering the reader a comforting sense of resolution, through wholeness being restored.

Dare I add that I likewise find myself coming full circle here – just as the broken branch has done, as a reflection at the edge of a river – as I pass my Executive role in the Australian Haiku Society over to the capable hands of Simon Hanson, already the convenor of this very section on Featured Haiku.

As for Cynthia Rowe, not only has she written many other resonant haiku, along with this one: she was the previous President of the Australian Haiku Society too, of course – indeed, she was the person who invited me to become its Secretary in the first place … Along with Cynthia and Simon, my heartfelt appreciation also goes to Vanessa Proctor and Lynette Arden, Lyn Reeves and Jacqui Murray, Beverley George and Lorin Ford, for all their support across time. In parting, my very best wishes extend to everyone else who also shares a passion for haiku that dare to arise from the ‘river’s edge’!

Rodney Williams

First published: The Third Australian Haiku Anthology, edited by Jacqui Murray & Katherine Samuelowicz, paper wasp, 2011 (p. 58).