haiku #16

mockingbird sings
on the highest bare twig
warm January wind

About Greg Bryant

I teach writing and literature at Highland Community College in northeast Kansas.
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5 Responses to haiku #16

  1. bryon says:

    This is beautiful. I might switch January and warm around, were it me. Unless it’s that the wind is only January warm, and then I’d add a hyphen.

    • Greg Bryant says:

      I thought about that. I considered both, and settled on this because of the order of ideas:
      1. January (an expectation of cold stretching ahead)
      2. warm wind (a pleasant surprise)
      …which parallels my experience with the bird: I was walking up Jacksons’ drive and heard a mockingbird (I think). It surprised and delighted me: a hopeful note. Also, because of the disconnect that you noticed, it’s kind of like getting 2 sentences out of it.

      But by that logic I should do the same with the twig and the bird:

      on the highest bare twig
      a mockingbird sings
      January warm wind

      But what I don’t like about that is the too obvious parallel. There’s a head-turning feeling about the reversal of direction. You realize, of course, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

      And of course if the language is awkward it’s not doing its job. I’ll think about it. For some reason I like it as it is.

  2. bryon says:

    My final suggestion might be a comma between January and warm, but the writer must write to please himself first; that’s what I do. I agree the first two lines are already where they should be. I get more of an end rhyme when they’re switched, for some reason.

    “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.”
    — Albert Einstein

    That must hold true for writing as much as for theoretical physics.

  3. Amdi Veri Dharma says:

    It is really a nice and effective haiku. But I tend to put the efficiency and effectiveness as more challenging characteristics of haiku to pursue. So my comment is about how to make the haiku more efficient and effective. As you may have guessed, it must be related with the way to enriching the whole lines while keeping it short at the same time.

    I found it is possible to enrich the haiku and keep it short by believing that sometimes, although a preposition or an article is inevitable to make a sentence sensible, a sentence can be made more efficient and effective by changing a preposition or an article with a verb that trigger a richer or surprising nuance.

    So I am tempted to mitigate the lines as this:

    mockingbird sings ==> Mockingbird’s song
    on the highest bare twig ==> tickles the highest bare twig.
    January warm wind ==> Warm January wind.

    Reason: the verb ‘tickles’ represents a playful and enjoyable surroundings which is in contrast to what the usual highest bare twig represents in January. To make it grammatically right, the verb sings should be converted to a noun ‘song’ which is to my feeling left the same beauty as the word sings could do. So the first two lines do not loss any bit of richness, instead the richer nuance can be added to.

    As for the mitigation on the third lines, I somewhat follows the argument proposed by Bryon. I think, it is more consistent with the logic that it is the warm wind that more surprising, as it is more incidental in nature. As for January, it is laden with a meaning of a long period of time which may be fair to be assumed of a time where coldness is expected naturally, not incidentally.

    • Greg Bryant says:

      Amdi, thank you for that suggestion and your insightful explication of it. I love this kind of discussion because it reveals how densely a short poem may be enriched beyond our first assumptions. You’ve certainly improved this poem.

      I’m interested also in your and Bryon’s reasons for “warm January wind.” I’m not persuaded yet, but I’m still thinking about it. The difference in sense between the two versions that is subtle and multifaceted. For me, as the song “tickles” (great sound word!) where we expect only barren dullness, “warm” interrupts the expectation of January, and so for the third line to parallel the event in the first two, I wanted “January” to make its impression first, then “warm.”

      But now that I look at it, The first thing we see in line 1 is the bird, and the bare twig follows the song in the second line! So my argument is shot to pieces! I agree with both of you. Besides, the line is easier to read smoothly your way. With both your permissions, I will incorporate those changes.

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