Thursday, October 15, 2015

Romanian Monthly Kukai August 2015 Special Prize Poem

great drought –
on the bottom of the lake
not one bit of sky

(Maria Doina Leonte)

There is a certain apparent simplicity to this haiku. However, it is as such only for those readers already accustomed to the haiku poems dealing with the mirroring in the water process. The special beauty of the poem comes from its doing this in a negative way, eliptically. On the bottom of the lake there is now only dry earth, only dust. Mirroring, as a consequence, the drought. There is no drop of water into which one single bit of the sky, of heaven, can be reflected.

The gradation, which postpones the meaning till the end, alternates the dryness (great drought) with the deception of humidity (lake, bit), to finally let our eyes meet a reflection which is, in fact, prohibited. Only the last syllable is the one that rounds the meaning of the poem through an unexpected transfiguration: that which, until then, was just beginning to take shape, as a droplet (of water) suddenly becomes a bit, a crumble, a glitter (of heaven) which is, after all, absent. The dry bottom of the lake has more than dramatic consequences: the hot sky above us is no longer tamed by the cool, fresh water. We only have left a harmful radiation. Is it hostile or punishing?

Many of the best poems flirt with what could be considered a mistake of composition, if we judge harshly. Apparently, they go on the line of the least resistance and they give the impression of the continuity between the two parts because, ah well, following a prolonged drought is the the disappearance of water resources and the drying up of lakes. It is, unquestionably, the false, minimalist track, on which an ironic author sends us. If the last word were water, not sky, then banality would triumph and the haiku would be just the result of an abortion.

The well-crafted work consists, after all, of the idea that substituting the water with the sky is not just an irony defiantly thrown at the reader, but it represents a transfiguration of the literal meaning of the poem, a taking off of the images from the earthly common, everyday life, towards the sky which sets them free. Walking on the thread of logical continuity, the final finding is startling and overturns all that was previously painstakingly built. If you were Lefter Popescu from Two Batches by Romanian writer I.L. Caragiale, you would easily give in to the persecution mania: Vice-versa! You may not, sir! It’s too much! Vice versa! That's quackery, you understand me!

(comment by Corneliu Traian Atanasiu)

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