Maria Laura Valente’s First Snowflakes

road to home—
first snowflakes fall
on my memories

Italian original:

strada di casa
sui ricordi d’infanzia
la prima neve

© Maria Laura Valente (Italy)

(previously appeared in “My mandala – Haiku Anthology”, Cascina Macondo, 2015.; also appeared in “Inchiostri d’Autore”, Accademia Barbanera Edizioni, 2016; “La couleur d’un poème”, Milan, 9 July 2016 (1st prize))

I am not conversant in Italian, but I enjoy the sound of the English translation of this haiku. The “o” sound in “road,” “to,” “home,” “snowflakes,” “on,” and “memories” gives a sense of something drawn out, as in a journey home. Also, the alliteration of “first” and “fall” works well to give emphasis.

Though this haiku seems nostalgic, it mixes with the present moment with “first snowflakes.” I think this mixture gives a sense of introspection or a sense of an ever-changing life.

Though the first line indicates a road home and then a personal reference is made in the third line, the “road” could be the journey of the snowflakes as well. There is also a connection with memories of home and first snowflakes, in that memories of home are usually childhood memories. The first snowflakes one sees or the first snowflakes of the year can be a symbol of our childhood: beautiful but extremely transient.

Another side of this haiku is that the snowflakes is in a sense burying the memories of the poet by covering what she can see from the train window. All of her familiar sights are clothed in the ubiquitous form of snowflakes.

This blankness connects well to spiritual philosophies. At the end of our spiritual journey, as expounded by many spiritual teachings, we will be blank—simply a vessel for a higher power to work through us. It is an elimination of the ego and a passing into collective consciousness. I do not know if the author wanted to imply this meaning or reference it, but as a reader of spiritual books and follower of spiritual traditions, it seems this spiritual meaning could be within this haiku.

The snowflakes cannot talk, but in a sense, it seems nature is telling the author: forget the past, and be in the present. Is the author’s home still her real home? Where is our home in actuality? Home is often an abstract concept, though we may live in one place all of our lives.

Getting back to the technical side of the haiku, the use of a kireji, or cutting word (punctuation for English) works well to separate the two parts of the haiku. It is interesting that she did not use an ellipsis (…) to show the continuous motion of the journey. I believe she used an em dash to show the “isness” of the present moment being portrayed.

There is also a certain rhythm to having three words per line that lends itself to showing a journey, which is also reflected in the original Italian version.

There are several pathways of reading this haiku, but it can be said clearly that this haiku gives a sense of awe of the moment, especially in relation to our most poignant memories.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)


2 thoughts on “Maria Laura Valente’s First Snowflakes

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