what it is
. . .mating season
Schenectady, New York
. . .early evening rain—
the man at the bar
folds his paper into quarters
Tauranga, New Zealand
what it is
. . .
When the lines of the poem are taken at face value, “it is what it is” can be viewed
as an absolute truth, applicable to any object, and the mole hill is a mole hill,
exactly. Here, the author applies the idiom to “mole hill,” the small, mounded trail
of loose soil made by the nearly blind, rat-like creature burrowing and eating its
way through plant roots. However, being long familiar with Alice Frampton's work
and fresh insight, I'm not surprised to find that this remarkably spare haiku has
more to offer beneath the surface of its seven syllables. Inevitably, different
readers will find various shades of significance in its depths.
“It is what it is” implies that there's nothing to be done about it (whatever it is), that one shouldn’t dwell on it. It’s a variant of what has previously been identified as a "mole hill" in the expression "making a mountain out of a mole hill," suggesting that it’s unwise to make a small thing seem bigger by carrying on about it. In essence, the poem repeats itself: it doesn't matter; let it go. And that reminds me that what matters and what does not matter is not the same for everyone. In fact, each idiom carries its own nuances, which exist purely through any speaker’s or listener's perception.
For some, “it is what it is” may seem defeatist and dismissive, and rightfully so, according to the individual. A realist would also agree that at times the commonplace is appropriate, that to accept an absolutely unchangeable object or situation for what it is and deal with it to the best of one's ability is the better, more productive choice. This may be especially true for naturalists and lovers of the outdoors, who often make peace with different aspects of nature, deciding to live with how things are, albeit alertly and with common sense. Still, one person's mole hill may be another person's mountain. I believe there are times when a mountain should be made of certain situations and information. Certainly readers can think of numerous examples to validate or invalidate their perceptions of each platitude.
Alice Frampton's haiku is a fine example of the symbiosis between poet and reader. The poem's superstructure doesn't immediately reveal what lies beneath; an astute audience will "get it" by going deep. Indeed, to grasp the poet's message, one must tunnel into the haiku, and there may learn that the message resides within the reader.
Associate Editor–Ferris Gilli