Not sure if this haiku needed an ellipsis at the end of line 2, but in the end I decided to go with it. Partly it’s informed by reading and reviewing Kanchan Chatterjee’s Scattered Leaves for Presence magazine. The review will appear in the next issue, so I won’t say anything about the book on the blog until it’s been out a couple of months. However, I can say that Chatterjee is liberal in his use of the ellipsis, which prompted me to use them in some of my haiku.
Another influence is John Wills’ wonderful haiku:
where the river goes
first day of spring
(taken from Allan Burns’ Where the River Goes, Snapshot Press 2013).
I love the spare use of language in this poem, the plain-spoken and utterly clear image of following the river’s path, the sense of freedom it suggests, but also the possibility that we’re not free, that the river must take the course dictated by the lie of the land, and therefore we can only take certain paths as circumstances allow. There’s a sense of adventure too – rivers are beautiful to follow, and yet they can be difficult as well. Sometimes the river bank has eroded and the path falls away. We turn back, or we scramble on. Either way, it’s spring and there’s that feeling of optimism that comes with longer daylight, birdsong, milder weather. Wills’ haiku opens with a single verb; it’s hard to pare writing back further than this. By leaving out the subject, we can place ourselves in the poem (I am going) although it’s equally possible to read the haiku as ‘the river is going’. Either way, the journey this poem evokes is at once truthful and metaphorical, as much about stillness and contemplation as it is about movement. For me, this is one of those poems that stays with you. I often hear it in my head when I’m out walking. I don’t walk by the river much, but when I do, it’s the River Don, which starts its course just a few miles up the valley from where I live. The photographs, above and below, were taken further downriver near Deepcar, where the river widens and the remains of old iron works can be seen along the way.