Editors Choice Haiku

WHR December 2019

Editor’s Choice

a winter walk

stirrings once clearly heard

now echo in old bones

Marie Shimane

Traditionally, autumn has been associated with old age in terms of one’s life progression and winter with the inevitable. Death is sad but old age is in a sense even sadder. Winter is clear cut and black and white, whereas autumn holds all sorts of complicated elements. Autumn colours are a symbol of the last glory of things beautiful before their decay. Melancholy permeates heaven and earth while fruits (the culmination of life) abound. Love affairs are quieter but riper than their spring counterparts. All these layers of human emotions and nature’s decorations will have been sorted out in winter when things are more straightforward and asleep.

The first thing which came to my mind reading this issue’s Editor’s Choice was that it resonated with emotions of Basho. Yes, that is a high praise but not something to be surprised at. Basho had a lot of emotions going on inside but exercised control over them so that when they were tapped and expressed in haiku they had the right constraint. The mixture of self pity and self-mockery as is presented by ‘old bones’ in this instance was a common sentiment in those days among the elders.

In spring as in one’s youth things begin to move and human emotions such as love take on shape with everything in motion, full of colour, light, sound and freshness. The contrast between line 2 and line 3 is superbly depicted. The choice of words cannot be more apt or right: ‘once’, ‘now’, ‘clearly’ and ‘eco’. The change in emotion and sentiment is cleverly rendered by way of sound, which also reminds one of Basho’s favourite technique.

The ‘walk’ in line 1 can be said to be double entendre: one, the usual physical walking and the other, steps in the whole journey of the author’s life. Thus, she may simply be taking a walk in the season of winter, or she may also be in the last phase of her long walk called life. The author has the courage and grace with which she can share her inner feelings with us in such an honest and dispassionate way. The joy and sorrow we all human beings experience in life are summed up in these short three lines. This must be one of her best haiku poems, a masterpiece. If not, I would put it among the best haiku poems ever written.