December 10, 2012 3 Comments
I was fortunate to have one of my commentaries in the latest issue of A Hundred Gourds. It is below.
Alexis Rotella’s ‘canoe through water lilies’
by Jim Sullivan
canoe through water lilies
his eyes measuring
On the surface we have a man and a woman in a canoe. The strongest paddler, often the man, is in the back of the canoe. They are navigating through water lilies on a lake. The man in the back is also thinking about (measuring) the woman’s waist. Men do this; it is what happens every day. If the above reflected the sum total of this haiku, it would be a rather one-dimensional poem.
The words of the haiku also tell another story. Go back to the water lilies. These are strong plants growing in a lake with a delicate flower in the center. The canoe needs to navigate through the water lilies without damaging them. This is not a headlong, all-out, row as hard as you can. It is measured movement through the gaps with respect for the plants and flowers. The paddler is measuring the distance between water lilies, the width of the canoe, and his companion. He might be measuring her as a future partner, as a spouse, as a potential mother of his children, or as a wife of many years who has (as he has) added a few inches.
Whose point of view is this? Is it the woman worrying that the man in the back of the canoe is “measuring” her as well or is it the man taking a measure of the water lilies and his companion in front? I believe it could be either way. In its best interpretation, the paddler in the back is measuring the woman in front, taking note to tread carefully through her space, and treating her with respect. Do not crush the flower in the water lily!
What I do know is that if one re-wrote the haiku as a prose sentence and began a novel with that sentence, it could lead to many different stories.
-Rotella, Alexis K. On a White Bud . Westfield, NJ: Merging Media, 1983.