the deep down cool
of a riverside rock
© Susan King (UK)
(Previously published in Lacewings, 2010)
A poem that, despite the modern form in which it is presented, recalls classic haiku in its atmosphere and content … The first that comes to mind is a famous haiku by Issa:
already in these words,
In King’s haiku, as in Issa’s, freshness and rest interpenetrate, meaning freshness reveals what suffocates the soul even more than the body. Here, the freshness is at its best: the coolness of the rock made even icier by the waters of the river and is accentuated by the fluid sounds of words.
But a rock on a river also awakens in me the image of someone motionless, meditating on the shore, wrapped in the freshness of nature, purified and new in his or her mind … It is really “resting” read as a verbal form that strengthens me in this opinion.
The last image involves me to the point that, immersed in reading, I think of nothing else. I feel a great freshness inside me and an even greater lightness. Chapeau!
– Margherita Petriccione (Italy)
This haiku has a good use of visual space but to me the use of sound through vowels (“i” and “o”) reads well out loud which is an important technique in haiku and poetry in general.
The word “cool” is a seasonal word in a Japanese saijiki that refers to summer.
While there seems to be an emphasis on “riverside rock” because of the adjectives “deep down,” it can also read as a noun “the deep.” This makes this haiku quite interesting depending on how a reader reads it.
While there are many breaks in this haiku, it can be also be read as a phrase in one breath. It’s more apparent as a monoku:
resting the deep down cool of a riverside rock
…as opposed to a concrete fragment on line one followed by a phrase that is typically used in haiku, which commonly starts with a noun and not a gerund.
But in three lines as the reader, “resting” does intrigue me for an opening line in combination with the following two lines (phrase), which forces me to wonder and conjure my own images of what’s resting. While some might see this as a shashei (sketch of life) haiku, it also isn’t because of the thinking room that does not state the obvious—but that’s up for the reader to decide on this well-crafted haiku.
– Fractled (USA)
This haiku gives a continuity of deep thoughts about a person who is in search of eternal peace. The starting line ‘resting’ reveals both physical and mental states of a person who really wants to get some rest. It is not simply rest that she is referring to, though. It is the state of mind of seeking for serenity and calmness.
“riverside rock” is beautifully used in this profound poem, where it reflects the metaphysical side of the elements of nature. The riverside rock remains wet and cool all the time because the flowing water of the river constantly strikes it and keeps it cold. It seems the poet has kept her head on the riverside rock, which gives her an intuition about the inner peace she felt through the first touch of the riverside rock.
Metaphorically, our head is more like a riverside rock that needs a constant flow of thoughts like river water, which keeps us calm, positive, and peaceful. It is all about absorbing those thoughts to the core so that we can experience the serenity of deeply rooted positive energy and actually feel relaxed.
– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)
I think starting with just “resting” allows us as readers to relax. That kind of pause is necessary in our lives.
The second line soothes even further with “deep down cool.” King conveys with sound how cool the rock is. I also enjoy how we can read it as the rock resting or the cool itself resting. Coolness chilling out multiplies the effect of serenity, which is a hallmark of haiku.
The focus and simplicity of this haiku are admirable. It soothes us and brings us into a semi-mystic state by reading it. A lovely composition by King that employs that right pace, wording, and sound to bring us into meditation.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)
Did you enjoy this haiku and the commentary? Let us know in the comments below.
– Art by Godai Katsunaga