Meteor Shower

commentary by Cyril Childs and Jerry Kilbride

The following is commentary by the judges of the 2000 Haiku Society of America Harold G. Henderson Haiku Contest, in which I won first prize. First published in Frogpond XXIV:1, April 2000, page 81. My poem originally appeared with an em dash to end the first line, but I later changed that to an ellipsis. + +

meteor shower . . .

a gentle wave

wets our sandals

Michael Dylan Welch

Eight words take us to the writer’s side, on the edge of an ocean, a lake or a stream. We look upwards in excitement and wonder to a clear night sky glimpsing the fast and peaceful arcs of meteors as they enter the atmosphere of our tiny spaceship Earth. We do not notice the approach of a small wave and it washes gently across our sandals. Such a small thing, yet it reminds us that all things in the Universe are connected and pulse with miraculous life; that our own lives are crucially dependent on the fragile atmosphere and hydrosphere of our planet. The haiku did not shout to us “choose me.” Rather it appealed through its subtlety, beauty, aptness and strength that grew on us with familiarity. It is the achievement of a writer whose eyes, heart and mind are open to Nature, a poet who knows the craft of haiku.

This weathergram featuring my “meteor shower” poem was made by artist Jacqueline Calladine in the autumn of 2014, also adapted for a greeting card. For more details, see “Twelve Weathergrams” and “Haiku Greeting Cards.” In the summer of 2018, this poem was made into a limited-edition letterpress broadside by Befuddled Press (shown below) in celebration of the Haiku Society of America’s 50th anniversary. For more information about the series of twelve haiku broadsides, see the HSA website.

On 23 July 2002 I received an envelope from Jerry Kilbride. Inside, he had enclosed five black-and-white photos, one of which was the following. It was taken on 29 June 2002, at Jerry’s home in Sacramento, and it may well have been the last time I saw Jerry. It was also the first and last time I met Cyril Childs, who was visiting from New Zealand. In this photo I’m pretending to “pay off” Cyril and Jerry (left and right) for choosing my “meteor shower” poem as the first-prize winner in the 2000 Henderson contest. Jerry is also holding a copy of my “Meteor Shower” trifold. My gratitude to both of them.

The following is an additional comment on the poem, from Matt Kelly, posted to his Midnight Ramblings blog on 25 January 2012.

“I didn’t choose this haiku as an opposite to the first poem on purpose [a Richard Wright poem also quoted: “Whitecaps on the bay: / A broken signboard banging / In the April wind.”]. The contrast between the first line and the second and third lines are what struck me. Meteors are as fast-paced as it gets and carry a destructive and frenetic connotation. I think the ellipses serves as a transition and perhaps the sensation of the water on the writer’s toes is so intense that it resonates [with] the image of a meteor in his mind.”