Posted in Haiku

Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian’s Power Outage

power outage—
the neighbourhood cicada
bursts into a song

Creatrix, #31, 2015

© Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian (Nigeria)

Interesting and profound haiku. Perhaps the cicada was singing all along and only noticed when the distractions of what’s unnatural was shut down.

– Fractled (USA)

Love it! It is funny and profound on at least two levels. One, as a previous comment notes, the cicada was “singing” all along and were only noticed when the humans no longer had electrical distractions, or else the (cicada) was so happy that there were no distractions that it did, indeed, burst into song. This is another one of those that I think, “I wish I had written that.”

– Dana Grover (USA)

The haiku shows a moment of “light” to me. It makes me think of the many precious things slipped out of our sight due to this modern life—like the cicada’s song.

I love the use of”—” and bursts. Both give a strong impression of suddenness.

Also, the repeating of r, similar to a cicada’s sound, brings the scene to life to me.

– Lucky Triana (Indonesia)

In modern times, a power outage is an inconvenience, an impediment to productivity, or even a cause of dollars lost (I think of food, thawing in the freezer). We are reliant on electricity. Its loss is a major disruption, and generally not welcome, within the structure of our lives.

Kalusian’s haiku, on the other hand, takes the power outage as a celebration. A first reading of the poem implies that the celebration is the cicada’s, that it’s reacted to the power outage by bursting into song. A second, more thoughtful reading, is that the celebration is our’s. As others have mentioned, it is likely that the cicada was singing before the electricity was lost. But its song was missed under the hum of the current, or beneath the sounds of our various devices. The loss of power, therefore, opened up the world around us. There is a beauty to be celebrated in nature when we slow ourselves down, remove our distractions, and listen. Sometimes, an event like a power outage helps bring that beauty to us.

– Dave Read (Canada)

An appreciation of the more mundane things, as in the song created by cicadas, takes a deeper meaning when technology assumes a back seat. Here, I believe, it is being alluded that the absence of electricity made the writer contemplate about the simpler things around us—and that this may be, to some extent, hard to experience as the former seems to make us take things for granted.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Location is so important. Kigo can really become meaningless in the context of global haikai. Looking into cicadas on the African continent, they seem more of the “wall of sound,” very large and abundant species. So, I think the singular here is a bit strange, especially with “neighborhood cicada.” How could a neighborhood only have one?The only context where I could see the singular reading to be consistent and interesting is if the “neighborhood cicada” is a metaphor for a loud and obnoxious neighbor, perhaps one prone to bursting out into song, and generally you can’t hear them over the din of the city, but in this moment of quiet, their voices comes out loud and clear.

However, that’s a stretch. I still think its stronger with the plural noun, but that may just be my inner etymologist getting hung up on scientific realism.

Another way around this would be to have it be a particular cicada one can see or at least realistically single out:

power outage—
from the neighbor’s tree a cicada
bursts into song

Something clarifying like that. However, I think

power outage—
the neighbourhood cicadas
burst into song

Really is succinct and nice and doesn’t bring up any awkward “wait, but…” objections for me. I’m totally fine with surrealism and metaphor, personification, or other literary effects in haiku, but they need to have a purpose and add something in terms of resonance to justify bringing the audience outside of the moment. Here, the singular completely pulls me out of the poetic thought-space into critical mode because it doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t create a pleasant irony or paradox either.

– Clayton Beach (USA)

What do you think or feel about this haiku? Let us know in the comments.



Meditator, writer, editor, musician.

3 thoughts on “Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian’s Power Outage

  1. Can it possibly be an alarm device that is activated with a power outage? In that case would express all the anguish of man in finding himself in a sort of primordial darkness – I apologize for the language but I’m not very experienced

    Liked by 1 person

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