rise and fall
of my navel —
© Andrea Cecon
(appeared previously in Paper Wasp, spring, 2010)
This is a fine example of a haiku that goes from details to generalities. In the first two lines, we have an extremely focused subject: the navel of the author, and its rise and fall (maybe from running). Then we move onto “summer evening,” which shows us the kigo, or seasonal reference.
Though the first two lines can be taken literally, and is an interesting image on its own, we can ponder the symbolic consequences of the image as well. A navel can be a symbol for innocence, for beginnings, or something cut away and what remains of it.
“Summer evening” can be either a contrast or a comparison of the first two lines, depending on how you take the symbolism. Also, if you take the first part only as the observation of the author’s navel rising and falling, it might be suggesting that summer is coming to a close or that despite it being summer, the seasons always continue to change and are fleeting.
As a side interpretation, it could be said that the haiku shows that despite it being an evening in summer, the up and down motion of the navel matches the motion of a heatwave. Thus, it demonstrates an aesthetic of continuation.
As you can see, there can be many interpretations of this haiku, and almost any haiku, if it is written well. But let’s take the mood into consideration. By reading it out loud, we can feel a sense of melancholy and introspection. Haiku do not need to present intellectual ideas. Instead, they usually aim to show a feeling or atmosphere. In the attentiveness of the author to such an essential and even mysterious thing as his navel and in viewing a summer evening, there is a sense of looking back and reflecting on what he has become.
The use of the ellipsis works well to separate the two parts and give a pause for the reader to consider the moment presented. It may be a moment without exact meaning, but in the now, we can find peace and deep introspection, even in the most trivial of happenings.
It seems the stress in each line is at the end of each line. This creates a rhythm of something pressing or demanding, or at least something we should take seriously. The sound of “e” in “navel” and “evening” make it clear that the author is putting these side by side.
I can see this haiku as a one-liner, or monoku:
rise and fall of my navel summer evening
However, even though this version might have more interpretations possible for readers, the rhythm and somber mood of the original might be lost.
I think the power behind this haiku is not only the focused topic, but the juxtaposition as well. It seems simple and classical, yet it has its own originality and implications that make this haiku multi-layered and subtly introspective.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky