Nine Words

Tracy Koretsky shared the following previously unpublished commentary at a National Haiku Poetry Day celebration at the Capitol Hill Branch of the Seattle Public Library in Seattle on 17 April 2012.

by Tracy Koretsky

winter wind—

kite string tangled

in the garden trellis

Michael Dylan Welch

To my mind, this haiku is an excellent demonstration of why we use seasonal references in haiku. Just like in any poetry, we don’t add words or images because we’re supposed to, because it’s some “rule.” We do so to be expressive.

        The seasonal reference is not just winter, but winter wind. It’s active, something is on-going. Connotatively, wind implies change.

        Of course, we associate wind with kites, which, taken together, we associate with good weather. If we didn’t have that immediate association, the poem wouldn’t work. But it does, because it takes our association and distorts it. We have to look again. That good weather—and the fun of playing with kites—that’s gone now.

        Kites are a toy, and bring to mind childhood. Within the trajectory of human life, childhood is a spring association. Winter wind is blowing; the toy is a memory.

        This reminder of childhood is tangled against a garden trellis. Garden—a word associated with the height of summer as well as perhaps healthy, full, adulthood. Within the garden, the trellis is the sturdy framework that the vine—the growing thing, the tangled, complex beautiful thing, the thing reaching towards the sun—can grow against.

        But now a winter wind, which can be read as a symbol of coming age, certainly as coming change, is blowing and, though the trellis holds, the vine is a memory. The kite is a memory, and more than that, a ruin, possibly lovely, but a ruin. It is more than a snapshot; it is a life passage.

        Nine words. I’ve certainly managed to find quite a bit to say about nine words.

        And that’s haiku.