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haiku commentary: Ajaya Mahala

mosquito wings —
the colour of evening 
so thin

          — Ajaya Mahala (First Place, Shiki Monthly Kukai, May 2014)

It’s probably a default approach to use visual images when writing poetry and I know I consciously nudge myself now and then to consider the senses of smell, sound, touch and taste too. And, sometimes taking it a step further, to consider if synaesthesia ~ when the sensory stimulus from one sense is mixed up with another sense ~ might also be effective with the material I’m working with.

The use of metaphor, in any form of poetry, needs a light touch, and even more so in haiku where the minimal form has no space for a grandstanding author to hide. I want my haiku to encourage a reader to reflect on their own experiences, through the filter of mine, and not reflect on how clever with language I might think I am!

‘mosquito wings’ is written with an incredibly light touch, subtly using synaesthesia to blend visual and textural qualities. We automatically associate mosquitoes with evening so the scene is set by the end of the first line. But ‘the colour of evening’ is something that’s likely to differ between readers. Darkness, sunset, dusk – they all have their own identities as well as our own interpretations. Yet when I read the third line ~ ‘so thin’ ~ any depth of colour falls away and I’m left with a feeling of fragility that evokes a paleness and translucence. A feeling that I might test the evening air between my fingers, like the finest sheet of rice paper. Which, of course, takes me back to the ‘wings’ in the first line.

For me, the best haiku make me think and feel. This one does. It enters my mind and my body and makes its mark.

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