from the Icebox inbox – 20

Cherry blossoms
in mourning
having vanished

….. Kyoko Nozaki

Not a single poem
But just pain in my heart’s core
This spring disaster.

….. Sosui

a butterfly
lost in the black clouds …

….. Keith A. Simmonds

three weeks adrift –
the dog is brought to her owner
in new spring light

….. Mayumi Shigeta

* For one further Tohoku Quake haiku, please see Apr. 3 posting ‘Feeling’ (below).

6 Responses to “from the Icebox inbox – 20”

  1. Very nice reflections on the Tōhoku disaster.

  2. John Dougill Says:

    It’s difficult to write about such an overwhelming event as the Tohoku disaster without resorting to cliché or false sentimentalism. I think it’s why such matters are often avoided by writers. Subtle hints seem to work best. In this respect I can’t help feeling the poems are a little too explicit for my taste… the first two lines of the first haiku for example are wonderful and would work well with a different image I can’t help feeling. I think in this respect the recently posted renga ‘Echoes’ was rather effective in making subtle allusions that gave pause for thought in a delicate way, rather than having the point rammed home.

    • While I appreciated your forthright comment, I can’t help feeling it was largely prompted by the word ‘victims’ in the first haiku. ‘fellows’ or even ‘people’ might have been less of a ‘ram’? It does somehow catch the mood of the nation at present, as the sakura-zensen moves up through Tohoku. Nobuyuki’s is honest; Keith’s, fine juxtaposition; and as for Mayumi’s… wonderfully positive in all the gloom.

  3. Under ordinary circumstances, “pain in my heart’s core” would be a melodramatic display of emotion. It would be a cliche.

    Under these extraordinary circumstances, however, this line carries two charges. First, it makes use of vocabulary that one encounters rarely in everyday life but all-too-frequently while reading about the unfolding nuclear disaster: news reports are full of speculation about the extent to which the reactors have experienced a “full core meltdown.” Second, thinking about this technical use of the word “core” makes the reader slow down and appreciate the line, and even remember Shakespeare’s Hamlet saying that he will wear his friend Horatio “in my heart’s core.”

    The person who could write a beautiful/clever/novel poem immediately after the Tohoku disasters would be cold-blooded indeed. When tragedy strikes, there is “not a single poem” to offer in response. Our reactions are universal, cliche even. I salute your work both in making a cliche fresh and sharply-felt again, and reminding the reader of the time when the phrase was first used, before it became a cliche.

    • Ellis, fascinating insight regarding the word “core” in the second line of Sosui’s poem. For now, under the known context of the poem being part of a Tohoku disasters tribute I can see your reading of associating the word “core” with the specific events of the meltdowns at the nuclear facilities.

      In the future though, if the poem were to be read isolated from the Tohoku context, I feel that the phrase “pain in my hearts core” is intensified by the contrasting combination of “spring disaster” in the final line. Perhaps another example of making a cliche fresh? I think in this reading, the poem expresses a deep touching tormenting pain which is shrouded in mystery to the reader. Therefore, is the mystery of “This spring disaster” sustainable in lieu of a concrete image?

  4. I enjoyed both haiku and comments. It is tricky to use words like “pain in my heart’s core”. Tension in the juxtaposition of the double b of butterfly and black clouds, works with the repeated F of butterfly and the whoosh of sound in Fukushima.

    Mourning is appropriate for the weeping of cherry.

    I wrote this in Tokyo , at the Shrine in Shinjuku park, in one chilly April morning.

    briefcase, black suit, shrine
    branch’s weep, suzu shaken
    prayer stretching with wind sweep.

    on a similar theme of cherry blossoms in mourning:

    seasons change places
    unbudded branch, winter bloom
    snow melts
    blossoms snow


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