white cat
in a window--
almost a statue

—Harriot West

About the author: Harriot West (htwest at mindspring.com) is a poet and writer who lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Responses to the haiku for 21 August 2003 by Harriot West

    2003-08-21 21:42:02

    Very nice.... I would have used, "on a window sill" but that's me... :)

    2003-08-22 02:55:59

    I think that would have been a different image, Phil. With Harriot's
    in a window
    the visual frame is the window, whereas in your suggestion that focus is changed.

    While I'm not suggesting your haiku would in any way be inferior, it's really not the same haiku.


    Michael L. Evans (trailermike at charter dot net)
    2003-08-22 04:07:32

    I think this may be a case of the poet putting
    too much of themself into the poem. The final
    line reads like a conclusion, or interpretation,
    to me.
    Think it could be a better haiku with a different
    3rd line - of the poets choice.

    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-08-22 08:07:43

    i was going to pass over this piece, until i heard "norm" was here.

    i am in agreement with n's usage of "sill" changing the focus, suddenly, i can imagine the cat being outside the window.

    it is written, "in a haiku" personal interpretation should be avoided; however think about it, isn't every haiku the writers interpretation just "as" the metaphor being suggested to be avoided, aren't all "juxtapose" a metaphor with the omission of the word "as"

    i can appreciate the third line. i have seen things i thought were real that turned out to be statues, and then there were the statues i thought were real that turned out being something representing a person or animal...

    a thought:

    white cat
    window frame...
    almost a statue

    Margarita Engle
    2003-08-22 09:47:59

    I love this haiku. It captures the stillness of the moment, reminding us to slow down and notice the beauty and piece of everyday surroundings. thanks for a wonderful aha! margarita engle

    Margarita Engle
    2003-08-22 09:49:37

    oops, that should have been peace on my comment, guess i was just so peaceful it turned to laziness, sorry, should have proofread...Margarita Engle

    todd claus (todd dot claus at us dot army dot mil)
    2003-08-22 13:52:27

    I agree with Michael. "almost" is commentary. The reader is being told what to see; cats are art, moving about the house in a continual state of redecoration.

    Telling me a cat is in a window is fine by itself, but it doesn't leave me with anything to discover on my own.

    It shifts the way I read and understand the poem. Instead of reading the poem with all my senses, I'm reading with just my ears and dependent on the author for more information.

    2003-08-22 16:35:29

    I understood from Michael that his issue was with the metaphor not the adverb. And he has a point - that middle ground is hard to claim.

    Todd, telling you a cat is in a window leaves you plenty to discover - it just depends on where you go looking, and that is dependant on what more the poet lets you have. In this case Harriot may have let you have too much, with her "commentary" as you put it.

    It's a constant challenge in haiku, to strive to let the reader generate within themselves the emotions the writer has, without telling them what to feel. So how might Harriot have shown us the cat in such a way as we might feel intuitively that it was "almost a statue"? Short answer is I don't know - Harriot has written a fine piece and I wouldn't assume to suggest a rewrite.


    2003-08-22 19:27:35

    Norm writes - so how might Harriot have shown us the cat in such a way as we might feel intuitively that it was "almost a statue"?

    some ideas might be:

    winter stillness
    evening calm
    frozen icicles
    the longest moment
    clock ticking

    However, I like the original the way it is.


    2003-08-22 23:00:08

    I liked Margarita's first comment...isn't haiku a piece of everyday surroundings? lol

    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-08-23 01:19:31

    wow, twice in one commentary, i find myself in agree with norm.

    harriet wrote what she saw, and in passing it on, she kept it simple, and gave us a starting point; there-in is it's beauty, although upon looking/reading deeper, you "might" understand what lies within, if you are fortunate, and learned.

    sorry deborah, i have to say all you've said is one's interpretation. what you have written are phrases suggestive to the student on how to symbolize a haiku moment and season.

    what's so difficult in comprehending the beauty seen in a cat, sitting stone-like, in a window.
    yes, there is also something deeper being shown, however unless we can see the beauty in the (front line) how can we go in search of that which lives deeper.


    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-08-23 01:34:33


    i feel, most try reading, much more than need be and/or is necessary, into a haiku. when i hear some say, "this piece means this or indicates that, showing the star rising in the fifth zone, on the cusp of the quarter moon", i think two things; first the individual may actually see it this way, but they lack persuasion. secondly, why can they not realize i am seeing it another way.
    there is a time and place for each interpretation, remembering to claim it as one's own, and effectively be able to defend one's position, instead of saying it should be the law.

    i enjoy the haiku for it's beauty, and for it's mystery, in my interpreting it, i keep it simple because simplicity says it best. we are taught synonyms, which are composed of from two to three times the numbers of letters in the smallest word, smiling inwardly aren't we merely showing off, rather than assuring ourselves of being understood.

    2003-08-23 14:59:31

    >>sorry deborah, i have to say all you've said is >>one's interpretation. what you have written are >>phrases suggestive to the student on how to >>symbolize a haiku moment and season.

    That was the purpose of my post. So why are you sorry?

    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-08-24 06:39:19

    i realized "that" was the purpose of your posting;
    however, you failed to realize the context of my opinion.

    i was referring to some being against one's "personal interpretation" being presented in a haiku. then, i was referring to your posting as a classic example of how individuals are taught to use the exact same things they are taught not to do; confusing.

    bird preens it's feathers
    she looks in the mirror...

    sorry, i am sorry to say, i was not being apologetic. i was feeling compunction towards your example; yes, regrettably so.

    paul m.
    2003-08-25 18:30:46

    I agree with deborah and anyone else who thinks this haiku too telling. This haiku is too closed for my taste. I get a two line setup and am "told" what it means in the third. I'd rather discover the statue-ness of the cat myself.

    bob richardson (orgob at webtv dot net)
    2003-08-26 00:47:09

    paul m, i am confused. if the writing is "too telling", how can it be "closed", shouldn't this signify being opened.

    i am trying to understand what the haiku has hidden, surely, it is more than being about a statured cat.

    i read it daily since it's placement on-line. currently, i am pondering the cat's view-point or what has caused it to remain so unmoving, if only for the moment.
    then, i see the "almost a statue", is this the involuntary movement of it's tail, while it views a possible feast.

    does the whiteness of the cat imply looming death.

    i am filled with questions, and i sense an approaching answer.

    paul m.
    2003-08-26 15:25:04


    A distinction between haiku and senryu that I employ is that a good haiku is "open" and reverberates for a long time. Perhaps its meaning is never fully discovered. A senryu, on the other hand, is "closed" to further understanding. I am told everything--like a joke. After the punchline, there is no reason to hear it again. This is not to say that I find this poem a senryu, but that after the initial reading there is nothing left for me to discover. I have been told what to think, how to interpret the scene. Nothing is left for me. It is closed.

    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-08-26 17:17:41

    paul m., i appreciate "your" explanation

    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-08-26 17:36:01

    paul m., another thought, "have you tried looking (past), the obvious"

    i must explain my using the term "past", rather than "pass", or perhaps you noticed my sentence structuring.

    "looking, preceding to this moment", not present nor future

    the haiku(haikus) i currently read, i ponder if they are simply an observance, or within their make-up, a mystery lives, to be address by the reader, as a detective solving a crime, as to the why, or perchance a riddle has been poised before us...

    and for the naive reader, a sharing of enlightenment being missed out on.

    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-08-26 18:05:16

    "bird preens it's feathers
    she looks in the mirror...

    it was brought to my attention, some interpreted this haiku being addressed to an individual, not true; the truth be known, i feel it could be addressed to all, myself included; sometimes, during our conscious moments, we smile at ourselves, in the name of vanity...

    in writing the above, as i have explained to others, i could have used "he" looks in the mirror
    or even "they look", through my choices, i chosed "she".

    i feel, "mankind" is rather vain, at times, this exhibited through momentary acts, as illustrated in my "spur of the moment haiku"; being delivered from the well, i call intuitiveness"

    David Wood
    2003-09-11 13:02:46

    Ill advised as it my be here goes. I checked the achives and drilled in on one with the most comments. Confused, but trying to learn. Glossed over the comments but the avoidence of personel interertation puzzles me???? I thought the sighting or event was to be conveyed as it struck one. If a conclusion was made that is the effect it had on you, individually. Agrement by all who may have viewed was unnecessary as all have different experience to relate with. No? I realize Paul M. has a track record which precedes him, but??? Confused and trying to learn. I await comment "like a statue"

    Todd Claus (todd dot claus at us dot army dot mil)
    2003-09-11 15:25:36

    The sighting or event is to be conveyed not as it strikes one, but as it is. Any interpretation should be left for the reader to discover on his/her own. There isn't such a thing as direct translation since each translator brings their own experience and prejudices to the translation. In haiku/senryu the trick is to capture and convey an event with all the mysteries, suggestions, and intimations that are present, without stepping on your reader's toes. Haiku/senryu should speak to the reader, it shouldn't speak for the reader.

    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2004-07-14 17:54:59

    ah yes, the white cat yet remains "unmoved"
    amazing, how quickly time passes


    still, magnificent swan
    takes flight --
    with the dawn