the smell of cedar
on my wool shirt
© Joshua Gage (USA)
The Heron’s Nest, Dec 2014.
The details in this haiku make it effective. The scene of pre-dawn is one of mystery, introspection, and calmness. The poet is drinking coffee to wake up and get energy for the day that has not begun yet. The smell of cedar, which has a strong scent, could either make the poet think of the work he did yesterday (probably) of cutting wood, or make him feel more calm and centered. So, we maybe have two opposing sides: the energy of the coffee, and the soothing scent of cedar. The mention of wool is a fine touch, as it relates to the season of winter. This is a great example of using a subtle seasonal reference. The poem, and the image it portrays, would have been weaker with just “on my shirt.” Not only is pre-dawn a quiet, reflective time, but doubly so in winter.
I think technically the poet could have added a dash or ellipsis after the first line. However, I understand not adding one due to already using a hyphen. As you might know, haiku poets try to avoid punctuation when not needed. We try to not jar the reader with too much punctuation.
Another consider would be to change the last two lines to:
the waft of cedar (scent)
from my wool shirt
… but I also enjoy the simplicity and sound of the original. “smell” connects musically with “wool” through the “l” sounds. Also, the long “e” sounds in “pre-dawn” and “coffee” show the calmness of the moment. In fact, the “e” sounds are carried into the second line with “the,” “smell,” and “cedar.”
This haiku showcases an enjoyable meditation on the sense of smell and time. The poet packed a lot into the haiku through details and a subtle use of a seasonal reference.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)
Do you enjoy this haiku? If so, please tell us why in the comments