Elliot Nicely’s New Love

new love . . .
offering the firefly
cupped in my hands

(first appeared in the 2018 Holden Arboretum Haiku Path)

© Elliot Nicely (USA)

We start off with a romantic theme. The use of the ellipsis gives way to thinking about feeling the joy of being in love and bathing in it. It also allows the reader to remember his or her first love and what that felt like.

Then we get into contact with nature. I like the use of “offering” as it is poetic and fits the mood of the first line. I also enjoy the “f” and “i” sounds in this line.

But let’s get into the subject of the firefly. New love is transient, much like the lifespan of a firefly and the light it emits. Offering it to his new lover is poignant. It can symbolize the beauty of something so fleeting yet so enrapturing.

The third line adds to the reverence with which the firefly is offered. “cupped” shows care and also could be a comparison with the “bulb” of the firefly. In addition, the solid “d” sounds in this line add more weight to the last line.

It’s a haiku with a distinct mood and atmosphere. I think Nicely captured the feeling of a new love well with his choice of words, sounds, and imagery.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

“new love” could be the first, could be the last, it could be a fragile bud after a disappointment, delicate and perhaps ephemeral, like a firefly.

The hieratic gesture of offering the firefly in cupped hands seems to be a part of a pagan ritual. The heart burns to be consumed on the altar of feeling, just as the light of the firefly is consumed in the ritual of mating.

A very simple haiku without sentimentality and, within the limits of the subject treated, with the right amount of detachment.

Margherita Petriccione (Italy)

This haiku to me can be seen in two ways. Without the ellipsis, it reads like a run-on sentence and where there are possibly two people enjoying the presence of a (ホタル) firefly, which is a kigo word for mid-summer to early autumn in Japan. It’s a lovely image if read as an ichibutsujitate haiku (single image with a run-on sentence).

What intrigues me about this haiku is that the ellipses somewhat forces me to pause where I see another interpretation that perhaps the person is alone and finds compassion for the firefly cupped in their hands. The juxtaposition in this haiku is in the phrase, which contrasts and then harmonizes with the first line because the word “firefly” in Japan is also a metaphor for passionate love which contradicts my thoughts of this person being alone. Since there’s a juxtaposition, it now reads as an ichimonojitate haiku, which is still a single-image run-on sentence poem if the ellipses are ignored (there is an ichibutsujitate and an ichimonojitate, which sounds the same, but the latter has a juxtaposition).

Lastly, I like the sound of the haiku between the vowel “o” and “i,” and between that, the words “firefly” and “my.”

Fractled (USA)

If we consider Japanese culture, there are two symbolisms of fireflies. First is love and the second is the souls of dead soldiers who died in the war (“war” here indicates World War II).

If we stick to the first meaning, the fragment evokes an image of first love. The innocence and freshness of first love, along with fireflies, works very well as a spring kigo. The writer knows that adolescent innocence is transient and so is the magic of first love—still she surrenders to the beauty of love by offering fireflies to her beloved. The act of offering fireflies is a poignant metaphor of the fragile courage in giving your heart to someone for the first time.

But if we keep the second interpretation of fireflies in Japan in mind, the meaning of the haiku changes entirely. Now, we know that “new love” is not first love. It is most probable that someone dear has died in the war and the act of offering fireflies to the “new love” is a metaphor for offering memories of ceased love to move forward. The haiku thus becomes a bittersweet expression of human resilience.

Pragya Vishnoi (India)

The feelings of being associated with a new person, along with expectations and hopes, are obvious in this haiku. The word ‘new’ reflects the beginning of a new life that may or may not be associated with the past. Love is an endless journey where a person passes through an evolution process of knowing what is best and that makes him or her move from one relationship to another.

The firefly symbolizes moving through darkness with the light of hope and the rejuvenating emotions that silently seep into one’s heart during the night. It may also reflect the dreams of love that a person yearns for throughout his or her life. Cupped hands, in this case, may reflect capturing a moment of love—holding fast to beliefs and prayers for the fulfillment of desires and longings.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

If you enjoyed this poem and commentary, leave us a comment.


“Lightning Bugs” by Tomas Philips


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