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Haiku Classic: Dec. 3, 2017

Chopping kindling from

    a knotty block ... in each stick

    a part of its shape.


    James W. Hackett (1929-2015) From "Haiku World," by William J. Higginson, Kodansha 1996.

    Normally one wouldn't bother trying to chop kindling from a block of wood where the grain is not conducive to splitting. The poet here seems fascinated by the shapes of the pieces of wood that he separates from the block, as they curve and bend along the lines of the grain that remains hidden in the block until a piece is splintered from it. The shape of the block itself is formed from an amalgamation of the shapes of the like-grained wood masses within it. The interrelatedness of different things and the fuzzy lines we draw between what we perceive as individual entities are the topics of this poem. The form of the haiku itself is also of note. Usually an English-language haiku with a 5-7-5 syllable form contains too much content and/or seems overly verbose, but the present poem is an exception. It doesn't read as if the poet has padded it out with meaningless syllables; rather, it reads quite poetically with the assonance in both the first and second lines. The broken rhythm also meshes well with the content of the poem, which deals with a knotty wood block being an amalgamation of different grained wood masses.

    Selected and commented on by Dhugal J. Lindsay

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