The haiku we choose to review this week is the following one by Johannes Manjrekar:
the silence heavier
after the barking
In what is normally supposed to be a relaxed Sunday afternoon – the protagonist seems to be clearly uneasy. There are two possibilities here – either his dog’s incessant barking distracted him momentarily or a heated exchange with his spouse akin to barking left him more upset.
In both situations, the silence that follows becomes even more stark when the noise stops…
Touching upon the technicalities, as I am wont to do, I note the tell tale words ‘afternoon’ and the word ‘barking’ [which implies the presence of a dog] — both terms being Summer kigo.
L2 says the silence is heavier, which means there was a heavy silence even before the barking started. Immediately the question arises: Why this heavy silence?
Could it be the silence which accompanies a Sunday afternoon nap? Could it be something deeper, a more serious reason? Then again, perhaps the poet persona is alone at home, with only a dog keeping guard at the doorstep or gate, and an intruder comes along to set off the barking.
And on a more morbid note, which cannot be dismissed — Could there be a mourning in progress?
As can be seen, there is a lot more lateral space for interpretations than meets a less perceptive eye. A less perceptive reader would take only the interpretation most obvious to him and make a grandiose judgement. But for the more perceptive among the readers, there are a myriad nuances and meanings to be read and deciphered, nuances that enrich a haiku which would otherwise have been rendered insipid and shallow with a naïve ‘directness’ at best.
Raamesh Gowri Raghavan:
There are few things more precious than a Sunday afternoon. So to have your society-given license to laze shattered by the paranoia of a suspicious dog is doubly tragic. If you’re a pet owner, especially in a pet unfriendly neighbourhood, your dog barking his head off at a perceived slight to his dignity or security, is added pain. That it is also often comical, when your dog’s offender is a neighbour’s pajamas fluttering in the breeze, only as to the disquiet.
That I could read so much into Johannes’ piece must weigh as a tribute to him. I’m not quite sure he leaves a lot of lateral space, the barking and the silence stand in sharp contrast to each other, and the reclamation of the Sunday afternoon resonates.
When we were looking for a haiku to review with enough lateral space to give us room for interpretation, this one stood out.
Presumably, it is a silent Sunday afternoon, a peaceful and restful time of day, broken by loud barking. Was the poet dozing and interrupted by the barks? Perhaps.
Is it the poet’s dog or is it a stray outside the window? No idea, but it leads to that lovely second line and the weight of the silence.
The simplicity of the haiku is appealing. Everyone has experienced silence after sound but it takes a poet’s sensitivity to describe it’s heavier quality.
A beautiful haiku with a meditative feel about it.
‘Heavier’; a three syllabic word that adds so much weight to a potentially banal Sunday siesta. Eyelids heavy with sleep? The silence after a crime witnessed by dogs alone?
A delicious lateral space to be coloured by the reader in the nuanced shades of his/her own life experiences. Not to mention the synaesthesia between sound and substance, used to describe the silence. All the tell-tale signs of a master at work.
What is the cause of the intrusion in the haijin’s consciousness? Only he can tell. But the imagery of a hot summer afternoon punctuated by disturbance serves up a good contrast, pivoting around the one word ‘heavier’ that makes the Ku so effective to me.