Michael Dylan Welch’s Scattered Petals
by Nicholas Klacsanzky
Commentary first published on the Haiku Commentary blog, 14 July 2016. See video.
scattered petals . . .
the thud of my books
in the book drop
Michael Dylan Welch (USA)
The first line most likely refers to late spring, when the petals on blossoms regularly fly off, though some petals scatter in early spring as well. Instead of “scattering” we have “scattered,” which denotes that we are seeing the petals after they have already spun through the wind and landed in a formation. The kireji or “cutting word” as the ellipsis works well to show the continuous motion of the petals. Though Welch does not specify which petals, I imagine them to be pink.
Then we have an abrupt action: the thud of books. It is important to note the use of “my.” It could mean the books the author wrote himself or simply the books he is returning to a library. The use of “my” gives the books more weight, no pun intended.
In the third line, we get to know that the thud of books is coming from a book drop, which are located at libraries.
Though books and petals have much different physical weights and the actions described in both parts seem to be different, they have a similarity: transience and a circular nature. Through seasons, petals come and go, illustrated nicely by the ellipsis. But even if they appear to be transient, they always come back each year. On the other hand, when we get out books from the library, we eventually return them, and then someone else will take them out. Though the author’s reading of the books was temporary, there is an endless cycle of reading them from the countless readers at the library.
Another thing to get from the juxtaposition is how the two actions connect. Did the dropping off of the books, and their thud, cause the petals to scatter, or vice versa? Kind of like a trick of the mind, I find myself hearing the thud of the books as I imagine the petals scattering, possibly around the library courtyard, or parking lot. I also see how the definite thud of the books correlates to the now still petals on the ground. Though cause and effect is usually avoided in haiku between the two parts, it is not a “sin” to imply it.
The sound of the haiku works well. The “s” sound in “scattered,” “petals,” and “books” make a rustling sound akin to scattering petals. The “o” sound in “books” and “book drop” illustrate the dropping motion and maybe the sensation we feel when dropping books off.
The use of “the” twice seems right, as both the sound of the books dropping and the book drop itself need to be important. If it was “a book drop” I think we would feel the impact less.
The mood of the haiku is somber and introspective. For me, it instantly puts me in a state of looking for higher meaning in what I perceive in everyday life. Many haiku poets would agree that it is one their goals for readers when writing haiku: to allow people to see greater significance behind mundane existence and to see the connection between the myriad things we perceive.
If you want to learn more about Michael Dylan Welch and read his fantastic essays on haiku and related subjects, visit Graceguts.