Swallows, Ships,
and Childhood Desk Drawers

Peter Yovu offered this appreciation of two of my haiku on Virals 5.5 on The Haiku Foundation’s Troutswirl blog on 12 February 2010. I’ve made a couple of very slight edits where the context is missing. A nod of thanks to Peter for his kind words.     +     +     +

      by Peter Yovu


I would like to offer an appreciation for two poems by Michael Dylan Welch.

        Someone wrote to me recently saying he thought I’d over-analyzed a poem Michael had written [referring to comments made about my poem “toll booth lit for Christmas— / from my hand to hers / warm change” + ]. Could be, but what I realized, and wrote back, was that writing about his poem was my way of enjoying it. Ever enjoy a dream by talking about it, making associations and so on, and enjoying what someone else sees? That’s the spirit of these comments.


        landing swallow—

        the ship’s chain

        dips slightly


Because, prior to any thoughts about it, the poem feels and sounds right, I want to engage with it. I enjoy, of course, the contrasts it presents. I won’t name them all, but as they make a world, I see that this world has flying things and floating things in it, heavy and light things, and a little further in, things that are apparently fixed and things that apparently are free. It reminds me of my world. They go nicely together though not exactly comfortably; maybe they’re the same, and so I notice about my world that I am in it with a body which gravity has something to do with, keeping me on this earth, and I’m also in it with my thoughts and dreams, which gravity has less to do with.

        One thing about sound. The poem is short enough that when the O of swallow sounds, it continues for the duration of the poem and after, it is a drone behind the play of consonants and other vowels, as the ocean is an open sound behind my clunkiest thoughts.


        ~   ~   ~   ~   ~


I believe it was Michael, correct me if I’m wrong, who some time ago wrote about how a haiku may be experienced differently when read on its own and when it is read among other poems by the same author, that sometimes the latter experience is the more complete, or gives nuance. I wonder how I would have viewed “toll booth” had I seen it in proximity to this poem:


        home for Christmas:

        my childhood desk drawer                                                                                               +



Probably a little differently. I’m not making amends here exactly for my for earlier post which was a bit more reaction than response. I still think the word “warm” is too directive; in the context of Christmas, I have to fight off a number of associations. But all this changes somewhat given a larger context.

        Maybe talking about this in this way gives the poem and haiku too much or misplaced importance, and by implication, gives me too much importance. But what I realize is that Michael writes poems I never could. This is true of other writers, of course. And I want him to “succeed” in ways that surprise both him and me. I’m selfish that way.