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Haiku Classic: April 5, 2020

North star --

    poking the embers

    with the walking stick


    Garry Gay (1951-). From "HAIKU sans frontieres" (1998), edited by Andre Duhaime.

    The first line of this haiku sets the scene -- at night, somewhere outside in the Northern hemisphere, somewhere not surrounded by buildings or trees, far away from light pollution. In the second line, because of the scene set in the first, we can picture a campfire, rather than a hearth for example. The fire has died down to embers so it is long after dinner and the poet is not quite ready for bed or he would not be poking the embers, rather he is enjoying the moment of solitude and being with nature. This second line also gives a concrete time frame -- late at night or possibly pre-dawn if they are an early riser and are poking the embers to try and start the fire again. The atmosphere is more that of late at night, because poking embers leads to sparks being produced and rising upwards in the heat, making us imagine other stars as well as just the North Star and therefore requiring the sky to be black rather than in the early pre-dawn light. In the third line we are presented with a concrete image that includes the storyline. The poet's reference to "the" walking stick, rather than "a" walking stick shows they are very attached to that particular stick, presumably because it has accompanied them and supported them during their trek to this faraway place. The poem circles back to the first line here because of the walking stick and the association of the North Star with traveling, traditionally being the star by which one's direction of voyage was set.

    Selected and commented on by Dhugal J. Lindsay

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