Claudia Radmore’s Commentary on My ‘Flickering Thoughts’

Photo: Johanleijon/Creative Commons/Flickr

When you send art out into the world, it’s always fascinating to see how folks respond to it.

I had a lovely experience along these lines recently when the Canadian poet Claudia Radmore wrote to tell me that she had blogged about some poems, including one of mine, published in the most recent issue of Haiku Canada Review. In her post, “Enter the Frog, or Haiku from the Haiku Canada Review,” Radmore holds up three poems from the February 2017 issue of Haiku Canada Review as good examples of very short haiku.

Sandwiched between Radmore’s commentary on haiku by Charlotte Digregorio and Edward Cody Huddleston is her commentary on my haiku, and my haiku itself:

evening fire
thoughts flicker
in his words

(© Jennifer Hambrick)

In her commentary, Radmore notes:

This poem is a quiet one and brings to mind the times when people are together trying to share thoughts, when those people might wonder about what a person’s words might mean. It’s a poem of uncertainty. Flickering thoughts could indicate doubt, or hesitation. They could be very important in any kind of relationship and are sometimes hard to pin down. These flickering thoughts, and the image of the person’s face in the flickering light…even that image is strong enough to be frightening, or calming, or loving, or simply an exchange of philosophical ideas. This little poem is packed if you take time with it.

What I find fascinating is the range of emotional possibilities Radmore sees in my poem.  I wrote this haiku on a wintry Saturday evening, after a fun and lively conversation.  To me, the flickering thoughts warmed my spirit and stoked the flames of my imagination.  The conversation wrapped me in feelings of contentment, like an “evening fire” on a cold night, and left me with a certain emotional warmth and with a vista of new and promising possibilities.

In the moment that inspired the poem, I felt no uncertainty, doubt or hesitation, though I love that Radmore pulled those other levels of experience out of the text, and specifically out of my image of “flickering thoughts.”  Even though I wrote my haiku on the inspiration of one particular emotional experience, I also hoped that the poem would resonate universally from reader to reader.  But I hadn’t anticipated that it would resonate more universally across the boundaries among types of emotional experiences.

And this is one of the things that’s so great about art: When my thoughts and your thoughts find each other in a work of art, they can flicker away to new and unexpected ends.  And that makes life rich and endlessly fascinating.

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