The Heron's Nest Award
Hilary Tann's intriguing haiku opens itself to each reader's interpretation much more than is often the case, and this haiku articulates many possible messages. For example, the poem may have been inspired by the recent total solar eclipse. Many observers reported that one of the striking features of "totality" was that birds went into nighttime mode, falling suddenly silent. This and other causes for an abrupt silence of birdsong are potentially at play here. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have become hyper-alert when they perceived a daytime absence of birdsong.
Maybe, though, this haiku is about finding a quiet space in our busy life and readily enjoying the perfect companionship of birdsong. City dwellers speak of stars lost to them by canyoned streets of flashing neon and other light pollution. That isn't the only barrier between us and the natural world. Even far beyond the metropolis, cacophonies of sound pollution keep silence as rare as city stars. We become accustomed to traffic noise, blaring phones, and people jabbering incessantly (some into those phones). Many of us deliberately plug ourselves into radio, television, the latest music.
Still, something beckons us to remember a quieter world. During a weekly staff meeting, the conference room windows draw our attention from another budget crisis to the first winter snow. We remember awakening to the soft, distant call of a mourning dove instead of the jarring alarm. And when the opportunity arrives to find that quiet space, to immerse ourselves in peacefulness, we count ourselves blessed to share that moment with songbirds.
I am well aware that the poet is a musician and composer. The element of sound is an area of heightened awareness for her. And I am aware that, on planet Earth, silence for most human beings is a relative and not an absolute term. When we can hear nothing else, the play of our circulatory and nervous systems is audible to us. And so, this poem could be about where we draw the line between what is notable sound and what falls into this relative area of "silence." Surely a meaningful distinction for a musician and a poet, too.