the dancing clothes
stiffen into people
Frogpond, 31:1, 2008
© Ken Jones (1930 – 2015) (UK)
When love and kindness is not returned, it takes the joy away from people.
– Malintha Perera (Sri Lanka)
This reminds me of when I was a youth living in a really cold part of the world. Mom would do the washing, hang the clothes outdoors (in winter), they would freeze stiff, and when they were brought in, she would stand them by the stove to unfreeze. Seems perfectly normal to me.
– Dana Grover (USA)
If I was writing it, I’d put “stiffen” at the end of line two.
– Eric Lohman (USA)
Straight away, you are transported into a bleak picture… freezing wind, yet the next line ‘the dancing clothes’ seems almost joyous, a festive celebration. Then the reality strikes… ‘stiffen into people’.
This haiku has joy and sadness, a mixture of emotions.
On first reading, we have a happy yet harsh scene… that moment when even the festivities become too cold to enjoy fully.
Maybe the author has seen this ‘dancing clothes’ from a distance yet through the ‘freezing wind’ and as the author nears the scene, it becomes apparent they are only actually people… a far-to-near focus that feels quite disappointing.
Most of us have experienced extreme cold at some point and can relate to the ‘stiff clothes’ syndrome!… but also, as we get older, our bones feel like they are doing the same!
Is it just the clothes stiffening? Possibly attitudes are ‘stiffening’ too as the occasion becomes lost in a freezing wind!
I believe this haiku is showing us that while dancing and fun is being had by all with everyone joining in and interacting, once it is too cold (possibly metaphorically) everyone becomes how they were before… no interactions, everyone going about their separate lives oblivious to each other.
– Brendon Kent (UK)
I can relate to this happening to clothes on a line and to people as they get older. I remember my grandma hanging washing on the line, and how the clothes would freeze and become stiff as boards. People also become stiff with age, both physically and mentally, losing the joy and flexibility of youth.
– Martha Magenta (UK)
Well, a really nice idea—if I wrote it, I would have made it shorter:
– Hannes Froehlich (Germany)
The content and its message has been sufficiently touched upon, so I would like to mention the sound and rhythm of the haiku. To me, the strongest sound in the haiku comes from the letter “i” in “freezing,” “wind,” “dancing,” “stiffen,” and “into.” It seems to give the sense of cold that the haiku portrays. Also, the significant sound of “z” of “ff” makes a palpable impact on the reader. The word “stiffen” hits the reader hard, and makes for a solemn rhythm in the last line, which adds to the mood of the haiku.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)
Ken Jones was not only a haiku poet, contributing regularly to UK haiku magazines and represented in British and American anthologies. He also played an important part in pioneering the western development to the haibun—an ancient Japanese prose poetry genre.
Ken Jones was until 2013 one of three editors of the print journal, Contemporary Haibun, and the online journal Contemporary Haibun Online. For his contribution to Pilgrim Foxes: Haiku and Haiku Prose, co-authored with Jim Norton and Sean O’Connor, Ken was awarded the Sasakawa Prize for Original Contributions in the Field of Haikai. He resided in Ceredigion, Wales with his Irish wife, Noragh. (The Living Haiku Anthology)
What do you think or feel about this haiku? Let us know in the comments.