Posted in Haiku

Hortensia Anderson’s Pause

lattice window —
the lacemaker pauses
to gaze at the moon

© Hortensia Anderson (19??-2012)
tinywords, December 24, 2004

Before giving commentary on this haiku, let’s get to know Hortensia Anderson first. Hortensia Anderson is the author of numerous chapbooks as well as a volume of poetry, Trust (fly-by night press, 1995). She maintained an interest in renga and other forms of collaborative poetry with other poets around the world and explored paintings by Frido Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe via ekphrastic poems.

Her work has been published in Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest, Ribbons, Simply Haiku, The Mainichi Daily News, Asahi Haikuist Network, tinywords, Lynx, Haijinx, Hermitage, Woodnotes, South by Southeast, Modern English Tanka Quarterly, Contemporary Haibun, Haibun Today,Prune Juice, Ambrosia, Concise Delight, Modern Tanka and Haibun Prose, and moonset.

Awards and Other Honors include: Best of 2002: Haiku in English, The Mainichi Daily News; 5th Annual Suruga Baika Winner; Honorable Mention, Mainichi Contest (2003); Tanka Splendor Awards (2003, 2004); and Third Prize, Kusamakura (2004).

Her work has been selected to appear in various anthologies, including edge of light: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2003 (Red Moon Press, 2004), dust of summers: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2007 (Red Moon Press, 2008); Rose Haiku for Flower Lovers and Gardeners (Price-Patterson, Ltd., 2005); The Five-Hole Flute (MET Press, 2006); The Tanka Prose Anthology (MET Press, 2008); Ash Moon Anthology: Poems on Aging (Lulu Press, 2008); and Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka (MET Press, 2009).

Books Published: Trust ( fly-by-night press, 1994) [ISBN 0-9639585-1-8]; Georgia on My Mind (Imp Press, 1992); Awareness of Rose (Imp Press, 1993); Beg, Borrow or Steal (Betty Elyse Press, 1994); Living in Frida’s Body (Imp Press, 1995); The Plenitude of Emptiness: Collected Haibun (Darlington Richards, 2010). [Adapted from The Living Haiku Anthology]

Commentary

As you can see, Anderson was a widely respected haijin (haiku poet) and one can see clearly why in this haiku. We start with a unique first line: “lattice window —”. A lattice is a structure consisting of strips of wood or metal crossed and fastened together with square or diamond-shaped spaces left between, used as a screen or fence or as a support for climbing plants. So, it seems the poet is talking about a window screen in the form of a lattice.

But from the second line, “the lacemaker pauses,” we understand the lattice is made out of either cotton, silk, or a different thread. I enjoy how the word “pauses” is at the end of the second line as an actual pause. If gives us suspense and maybe a moment of silence for ourselves.

In the third line, we get to know why the lacemaker was pausing: “to gaze at the moon.” And directly after envisioning this in our minds, we see a correlation between the lace and the moon: its white color and its softness (the moon’s light and symbolism). Also, we have a relation between space: close and far. Haiku often contrast distances to demonstrate many things, or to show an emotion. The lacemaker, in this instance, might feel guilty for building a lace to partially block the splendor of the moon.

We do not know the true reason why the lacemaker looks at the moon, though, but there could be multiple reasons: the beauty of the moon is enchanting, the lacemaker sees something spiritual in the moon, the lacemaker recognizes that the lace and the moon have a correlation and ponders it, or the lacemaker might feel some pull to give up worldly life for a spiritual life, seeing the contrast between his or her lace and the majesty of the moon.

Whatever the reason is exactly, or if there is no reason other than what is, this haiku has a feeling of reverence to it, especially when it is read out loud. There is a spiritual tinge to it that is hard to pin down, but you can feel it.

The dash used in the first line points to the calmness of the moment. The lines are paced in common fashion for English haiku, with a short first line, longer second line, and short first line. In terms of sound, the strongest letter is “a,” which seems to increase the reverential mood of the haiku.
A meditative, spiritual haiku, I believe Hortensia Anderson got to the essence of this form with this poem.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

 

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Meditator, writer, editor, musician.

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