a plover glides
over the cliff face
my open heart
Quoting a translation of Basho, Kenneth Yasuda (1) writes, “The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent we never tire of.” This enigmatic haiku is a wonderful example of this. Many possible interpretations lie within its suggestive lines and I am not inclined to offer any in detail. The reader will find plenty to ponder in the third line as well as be intrigued by the intuitive juxtaposition of the plover gliding over the cliff face. I use the word intuitive here because one feels the connection (or connections) rather than knows it. I hear the plaintive cry of a plover that carries within it too a tone of alarm. I feel the poet’s sense of vulnerability and am reminded of my own – a vulnerability we all share, fundamental to the human condition. Gliding out from the safety of the clifftop, it seems that birds enact a leap of faith, trusting themselves to their wings and the conditions that will keep them airborne; how often we are called to such leaps of faith, trusting ourselves to life, leaping into the space of our open heart . . .
Matters of love, emotion and aspiration have long been associated with the heart; but there is a deeper vulnerability here, a physiological one, a matter of life and death . . . and there for the time being I leave this deeply moving haiku knowing it is one I shall never tire of.
First published: Cattails, September 2015
(1) Kenneth Yasuda: Japanese Haiku – It Essential Nature and History, 2001
Selection & comments by Simon Hanson