shadow of a mayfly
in the depths
Mainichi Daily News (April 13, 2011)
© Svetlana Marisova (1990 – 2011) (Russia/New Zealand)
Overall, I can see the serenity, calmness, and productivity in this haiku. Three words—stillness, shadows, and depths—depict that life is on the verge of either death or life. I can see the positive side of it—new life, reproduction, renewal in a season when there is no interference and disturbance.
Metaphorically, a still pond can be a meditation process where life flows in moments, and a person’s deep experiences of life reflect as shadows and show the true image of the self.
– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)
Reading this haiku a few times, I could not stop feeling pulled down by the deep sound of the vowels in it…. This ku seems to be a hymn to “o” and “ou,” so it deals a lot with meditation and mantras (“om” or “aum” …).
Through its images, I’m pushed to linger in an introspective mood: it opens me to a feeling of impermanence with the ephemeral presence of a mayfly, and its shadow …
The haiku invites us also to see beyond the surface of things, bringing us into the circle of life and then death. “Death” can be easily recalled at the end of the poem thanks to the assonance with “depths” used by the poet…, as if ending a life should be something natural, but also perceived as an emotional event that cuts through our own lives—deeply helping us to grab the essence of our existence, its core, the meaning of us here and now, because life and death are always together, although we try to hide from this fact most of the time.
A haiku that can be read and read again—finally reaching a new awareness ….!
– Lucia Fontana (Italy)
Not only is this haiku deep (no pun intended), but it is also meditative. The brief life of a mayfly is commonly seen as a metaphor of the extremely short span of time we get to live on this planet (according to cosmic time). Mayflies, crane flies, and cicadas usually remind us that we aren’t immortal. They give our egos a pinch. And in the context of the poet herself, she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Maybe the poet saw the mayfly as a representation of herself.
The contrast with the peace of the still pond and the deep shadow of the mayfly creates poignancy. Even this little insect with such a brief life can reach down into the depths of the pond with its shadow. Also, this can be seen as expressing the idea that when all is peaceful outside and/or within, even the smallest creature can have a big influence.
This haiku is also a nod to Basho’s famous “old pond” haiku, I believe. Instead of sound, though, we have the sense of sight. But we can derive a similar conclusion: the mayfly, in a sense, has become the pond—or at least a part of it.
With plenty of “s” and “o” sounds, the haiku is musical. In my reading, the “o”s slowed me down and allowed me to take in the haiku in a bit more. There is also a judicious use of the em dash, making the reader pause to realize the stillness of the pond.
A classic haiku from a poet who was taken away from us way too early. I hope more people read her work.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)
Did you enjoy this haiku and commentary? Let us know in the comment section.
© Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)