Reflections …

Published by Snapshot Press 2014

In Matthew Paul’s post on the haiku of Thomas Powell last week, he made the point that ‘Haiku concerning reflections in water (especially ponds and puddles) were done to death in classical Japanese haiku let alone English-language haiku of the last half-century’. With this in mind, he says that’s it’s difficult to write a poem about reflections that is in any way original. As I’m very much feeling my way in this discipline, I appreciate Paul’s comments (click on the link above to read them in full). The poem he chose to illustrate the point that ‘reflection’ poems do sometimes still hit the mark, is the following:

peat-tinted river
the squirrel’s reflection
eating a mushroom

(taken from Clay Moon by Thomas Powel, Snapshot press). I think this is a beautiful example – that ‘peat-tinted river’ is such a strong opening, conjuring the setting and mirroring the rufous fur of the squirrel (yes, they’re rare, but in my mind’s eye I’m picturing a red squirrel).

To this, I’d like to add a haiku by another Snapshot Press author, Ron C. Moss. A poet friend of mine, Sue Riley (winner of the 2019 Ginko Prize) leant me The Bone Carver by Moss and I’ve loved it from start to finish. The ‘reflections’ poem I’m going to quote is this one:

highland lake
burnt button grass
on both sides of the moon

Firstly, I’m impressed that this ‘reflections’ poem doesn’t actually mention the word ‘reflection’. We see the image of the ‘highland lake’ as a mirror in which the moon appears without the writer having to hammer it home. The idea that we can see ‘both sides of the moon’ somehow suggests, to me at least, that not only can we imagine the reverse, the dark side if you like, but we also see a half moon rising above the water, with the other half reflected below. If so, this might also indicate the time of day – twilight.
The very specific type of grass, ‘button grass’ locates the poem in the southern hemisphere (Moss is a Tasmanian writer and artist, plus Wikipedia will tell you that button grass forms part of a unique habitat in Tasmania). The alliterative use of ‘burnt’ is precise in its evocation of place too (Wikipedia says ‘buttongrass is relatively flammable and the ecological community is adapted to regular burning’). So, within three lines the poet has managed to convey both the visual image of the moon on/ or reflected in, the lake, draw a comparison with the button grass’s spherical flowerer heads and the rising moon, and also imply a contrast between the heat of the bushfire with the quenching waters of the lake. In the author information, it says that Moss serves as a volunteer firefighter, but it’s not necessary to know this – the poem subtly conveys his knowledge and experience without needing to state it.
So, I want to say thank you to all those mentioned in this post. You created a web of connections that led to me focus on this poem and write down my thoughts on this chilly Sunday afternoon. Outside, the paths are slippery with wet ice and the dog is content to lie on his back near the radiator rather than go trekking across the fields. Nevertheless, I shall be going out shortly, well wrapped up, to experience the thaw, such as it is, and hopefully to take inspiration from it for a ‘reflections’ poem of my own.

6 thoughts on “Reflections …

  1. This was my take written about a time many years ago … it’s never found favour but I like it.

    still waters
    a fish jumps … through
    my reflection

    There was a lake I used to visit, in winter and spring, not far from my home in Wiltshire, where I spent many hours as a teenager watching ducks. There was an island church at one end of the lake.

    Colin ((Blundell) said “… ‘reflection’ here means two things at the same time – something on the water and meditation interrupted by the conceptual fish that often disrupts ordinary thinking in everyday life.”

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    • There’s a lovely feeling of calm in those still waters, and I like the image of the jumping fish because I see the ripples, those concentric circles widening in the mind’s eye. The ellipsis is interesting too, because it’s not at the end of the line, but making us pause mid-line. The pause returns us to the meditation/ contemplation, and gives time for the water to settle and your reflection to become clear again, the reflection being there both before and after the fish jumps. Thanks so much for sharing this poem. And I realise, after much faffing about, that a reflection poem is a really hard thing to pull off successfully, so hats off to you!
      Julie x

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      • Thank you Julie. This was one of my first attempts at writing haiku back in the distant days of early 2019. Somewhere Colin picked up on it and sort of mentored me through its many many iterations … Clive 😊

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      • Thanks Julie! I was quite proud of my use of the ellipsis here, allowing a further pause for reflection and as a representation of the expanding ripples from the fish, both real and conceptual, inviting us to jump through a portal into perhaps a higher plane. A meditation as well as an slightly oblique and allegorical (by inference) reference to the Adventures of Alice …

        I do wonder whether I should replace ‘my’ with ‘our’ and possibly add an ‘s’ to ‘reflection’ – which may improve the poetic flow and may be more inclusive for the reader.

        still waters
        a fish jumps … through
        our reflections

        Clive 😊

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      • Hi Clive,
        The ‘through the looking glass’ image does come through, for me at least. It’s one of many possible allusions I think. As for the redraft, I think I prefer the original. I have Jack Kerouac’s ‘first thought, best thought’ in mind here!
        Julie x

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  2. Hi Julie, thanks. I do really prefer the ‘original’ – I was just wondering. Mind you I went through about 12 iterations before that so I don’t know that ‘first is best’ on this occasion (perhaps as my karate sensei used to say – ‘last one best one’!), but generally my most successful haiku are the ones that intuitively spring to mind and are captured with little editing.

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