— Kelly Sargent (USA)
(published previously in Frogpond, 45:1, 2022; Touchstone Award for Individual Poems nominee 2022)
“Campfire sparks” is a vivid image. It lets us pause and imagine the scene, which is realistic yet imaginative and subtle in several ways. One can wonder about the setting, which can be either a recreational camp or a refugee camp. It connects us with both sides of the story (visible/tangible and invisible/intangible) where one can see not only the mundane but also the spiritual side.
In addition, campfire sparks show transience but it also reflects how beautifully they are transformed from the ashes of wood into something that carves the darkness with their unique structure. However, they also demonstrate how our existence can become fragile over time, especially when it passes through hardship like the wood in a fire.
Teenage is a period where an individual’s personality is developing and reshaping. This is a stage of life when the focus can be more on heroism and risks that may end up in thrills and joy. Teenagers may concentrate less on lessons that nature displays than adults. Teenagers usually can’t see the subtlety or delicacy of life and its realities that spark off and on. This is shown in the closing line where the poet takes us from a vivid image to something that disappears either as part of the subconscious or as a memory.
With no punctuation and soft sounds in this haiku, the poem is more open for interpretation. I liked the way sparks are highlighted and well connected with perhaps the most significant part of life.
Campfire sparks are a powerful visual to start with. The sparks can speak to our primeval life and spirituality. The word “campfire” could be referring to a student camp or a fire made while camping—both are relatable for readers.
The focus on teenagers is interesting. It is a peculiar age to be, as one is in the middle of being a child and an adult. It is easy to be unsure of oneself at that age. With “slip away,” I feel there are several dimensions to it in the context of teenagers. The teens could simply be bored and want to go away to do other things instead of being around a campfire. Or, “slip away” could be more metaphoric in that teens often seem distant from parents and loved ones. It could also have a more somber meaning in that many teenagers commit suicide or follow a path that leads to an early death.
This kind of haiku is difficult to write in terms of the subject matter, but I believe the poet did well in keeping it simple and concise.
— Nicholas Klacsanzky
As a spark proceeds from the fire, it has been said jivas (individual souls) with their respective karma emanate from Shiva (universal Divinity).
I feel the campfire could be a summer kigo, though I like that this haiku could apply to any season or time of year.
I feel the campfire resembles the emotions of teenagers (which are often difficult to self-manage) and passion. The teenagers slipping away could imply impatience and wanting to express love, away from society and its conditioning. I also see the fire as a symbol of the transience of a human lifetime, though I do believe in life after death.
There is a balance of concrete imagery and mystery in this haiku, allowing us as readers to enter the experience in our own way. Teenage years are a challenging time. A powerful haiku.
Photo Credit: Public Domain