juniper the tether end of larksong
© Alan Summers (UK)
(Poetry & Place anthology issue 1 ed. Ashley Capes and Brooke (Close-Up Books, April 2016)
I really love the imagery of the juniper and larksong. Larksong itself is a strong image created by fusing a visual and audible image!
The brevity of the poem makes it very direct, but I feel there is much more to it than can be seen at first glance…
…It took me a few reads to see what is going on, but I can see how the wonderful song of the bird is drawing the observer/reader in close, like the juniper berries are drawing in the lark. The song is making the observer/reader take a look at the natural scene—beyond the everyday view, deep into a wondrous microcosm, a symbiosis of the bird and tree, the bird eating the berries, spreading the juniper seeds through its faeces.
The juniper bush also reminds me of a funny scene from the movie “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” where it is the only means of food for a recluse who has taken a vow of silence.
Brian is fleeing from an unwanted following of fanatics looking for a savior and arrives on a mountaintop. He falls into a recluse’s hole, hurting the man’s foot. The man shouts out in pain, cussing about breaking his 5-year silence. But soon, he starts singing, as he might as well. Brian is trying to keep him quiet so his following doesn’t find him, but to no avail of course.
When the mob arrives and they hear what has happened, they decide it is a miracle performed by Brian. Soon though, they wonder why there savior “led” them to the mountaintop where there is no water or food.
Then Brian points out a nearby juniper bush and its presence is declared another miracle!
The scene ends with the recluse fighting Brian’s following over the juniper bush.
I guess the point being that the recluse’s voice led the group to discover the juniper bush, like the lark’s song draws us into the haiku moment.
– Michael Smeer (Netherlands)
There have been some eastern poems about drinking, but they were not corrupted. They look like saintly poems. I think that this author drank the gin “juniper” to the limit “tether” until morning when the larks were singing—but heaven’s gate closed, because the larksong ended.
Bad habits will make you lose your mind, and it will be its own tether. Maybe we think that the past drunkard poets as saintly because they stand far from power. They say Santoka was always drinking, but his haiku is popular now.He wrote many haiku, begging and drinking while he was wandering. I think there isn’t a commonality between this author’s life and Santoka’s life, but they can’t stop drinking to their dream.
– Norie Umeda (Japan)
I imagine this juniper as an old, dying, or felled tree. Lark sparrows (based on what I have read) tend to favor more open grassland. Could it be that the bird is singing a happy song?
Alternatively, the tendency in places to plant and save more juniper trees (ecotourism) means the larks in those areas are in decline. In this case, could it be that the bird(s) is singing a sad song?
Thirdly, if we define juniper as an evergreen (from the Latin, junniperus) the youthful image that arouses contrasts with “the tether end of larksong” which one could imagine meaning that the birds are getting ready to migrate, taking with them their beautiful sing-song. Does it mean winter is on the doorstep?
Lastly, in certain countries, poachers trap birds (including larks) and eat them. I can picture a bird glued (birdlime) to a branch. It’s a slow death and would surely provoke a heart-breaking song. I am not sure larks are trapped in that way (they nest near the ground) but the image jumped into my mind.
– Corine Timmer (Portugal)
The juniper has distinctly sharp shoots and often the shape of the tree itself forms to one side, and I think comparing it to the “tether end of larksong” is a fine association. Besides showing an intriguing connection, I believe the image brings the reader to a state of mental silence, watching the lark’s song in its last sound.
Juniper berries are a summer kigo, or seasonal reference. The call of the lark is reflective of summer, in my eyes, as it has an uplifting and energetic resonance. The juniper is also reflective of summer, with its sharpness matching the blaze of summer heat.
The “r” sounds in this monoku also associate with the call of the lark in its curved song.
You can easily feel the moment of the haiku when you read it, and it brings one peace and introspection.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)
Did you enjoy this haiku and commentary? Let us know in the comments.