the words grow
by the fireplace
— Florin Golban (Romania)
(originally published in Under the Basho, 2022)
I appreciate how this haiku demonstrates the power of stories. It reminds me how a story with depth and meaning lives long after the words themselves. Some stories also have so much depth that new meanings and interpretations can be found in them, even after many repeated readings.
This haiku also shows how stories are connected to other stories, and how one story can inspire our imagination to create new ones.
In this haiku, the fireplace setting could bring to mind a grandma or grandpa reading to their grandchild or grandchildren, or it could be a man, woman, or child reading in solitude and deep contemplation. The fireplace provides me with calmness, warmth, and focus.
Regardless of what we imagine, this is a haiku that bridges the past with the present moment, and the future. Perhaps this haiku could inspire us to leave behind new stories for future generations. A beautiful haiku that demonstrates the power of words and stories.
Old stories may refer to many things i.e. kinds of stories (fables, anecdotes, folklore, fairy tales, etc., or stories told in the past most probably in childhood that might be shared by elderly members of the family. I see it as a community-based storytelling session that used to take place in villages or towns where storytellers would share their personal experiences, voyages, or long journeys.
The second line in this haiku is impressive. It makes it profound and unique in many ways. The word ‘grow’ is something that is gradually taking shape over years. This is an excellent choice of words that can make a reader think deeper to justify its use. I can see it as an evolution of stories that pass on from generation to generation, growing in minds with changes and improvisations. Accordingly, modifications to these stories that fit well develop in each era. These stories provide lessons that people use to inculcate morality within communities, clans, tribes, and families. This is not something ordinary when there were no proper or modern means of communication.
The ‘fireplace’ could be the center of attraction for all those who gather and listen to those stories. This haiku could be set in winter when people gather around to exchange or share their life experiences or stories. I also see a connection between the fireplace and enlightenment or rekindling the mind to think deeply whilst listening to old stories.
I liked the overall imagery of this haiku that shares the vastness and significance of storytelling, which is missing in our lives now.
As Hifsa mentioned, this haiku is probably placed in winter, but it also might be in autumn. The contrast between growth and possible seasons of decay is poignant.
The poet made an interesting choice to use an em dash in the first line to “cut” the two parts of the haiku. With “grow,” I would expect an ellipsis to illustrate the continuation of action. However, an em dash promotes the idea of the eternal fireplace, in my mind.
The contrast between the season and “grow” is present, but also there is a contrast between “old stories” and the constant growth of the words of the stories. This growth could happen through retelling, the cultural context changing, and the resonance the words have in readers.
In terms of pacing, the poem follows mostly the standard line lengths of English-language haiku. It has a short first line, a longer second line, and a third line of the same length. Usually, we vie for a third line that is a bit shorter than the second line, but I do not think the length of the third line in this instance makes a marked difference in the rhythm. I think the somber and introspective mood is captured well.
Euphonically, this poem has a pleasing string of “o” sounds, which brings it charm. Nostalgia may be felt as well through the pleasant “r” sounds in each line.
The pivotal word “grow” in this haiku opens up many interpretations and feelings. And, as we read and reread this haiku, it grows on us.
Painting by Morgan Weistling