Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Poetic Musings: 9/11 Haiku by Jack Galmitz

Below is excerpted from my review of Jack Galmitz's yards & lots, which was first published in A Hundred Gourds ,1:4, September 2012

Of the six sections of haiku, I like the opening section, titled "memorial stones," the most in terms of formal, stylistic, and thematic elements. It starts with the following heartfelt haiku beautifully crafted in the traditional style – three lines, 5-7-5 syllables, with a caesura/cutting after the second line emphasized by a dash.

two light beams shining
where there were once twin towers –
my son, my daughter

The first two lines delineate the most significant memoryscape in the first decade of the 21st century, where the present encounters the past and both reflect upon each other. In L3, the thematic focus is shifted from the socio-cultural/public to the personal-relational/private. It indicates that redeeming hope of the future begins with the generational basis of remembrance of things past. And the psycho-sociopolitical significance of number two stirs the reader to further ponder past trauma, present reflection, and future hope.

To continue exploring the theme of remembering, the second poem, written in the contemporary style with syllabic asymmetry, begins by evoking the horrific image of United Airlines Flight 93 crashing in an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania ("in a field somewhere/a plane went down"), and it concludes with a heartfelt plea – "remember us" – from the deceased passengers who fought fearlessly to take back their plane in an effort to stop a 9-11 terrorist attack. Out of the four hijacked planes, Flight 93 was the only one not to reach its target.

Turning to the third haiku, I am surprised to find that there is no human figure or voice, and that there are two blank lines used to separate the two parts of the poem.   

in Bryant Park
2,753 empty chairs

not a breath of air

The first two lines refer to a sea of empty seats, 2,753 in all, flooding the lawn of Bryant Park in surging waves of loss and grief on Friday, September 9, 2011, two days before the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. This unforgettably poignant exhibition used one empty chair to represent one 9/11 victim at the World Trade Center, and 35 rows of empty chairs completely covering the lawn faced south towards the fallen Twin Towers. The third line in the poem painfully evokes a persistent absence, indicating that this haunting exhibit was a visual reminder of the loss. Galmitz's thematically effective use of blank space adds emotional weight and psychological depth to the poem.

Further exploring the theme of loss and remembrance, the fourth poem, written in the shasei style, keenly captures the most moving moment in the annual 9/11 memorial ceremony: each and every one of the names of the dead read aloud at Ground Zero by fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, siblings, and coworkers, some choked with emotion ("the names of the dead/ read at ground zero"). The opening line ("the end of summer") successfully sets the scenic and emotional context for the poem, signifying the beginning of the process of decline that is initiated by Mother Nature.

I conclude this post with my 9/11 poem, which was first published in Shot Glass, #7, June 2012

ink-dark smoke of a life jumping from the north tower


  1. Below are 9/11 haiku taken from The Quest for Hard Haiku, World haiku Review:

    ground zero –
    a sparrow hopping
    beside the black pit

    Origa (Olga Hooper), US

    twin towers
    repeating their absence
    day after day

    Bill Kenney
    New York, US

    911, in memoriam
    his son’s voice lifting
    to meet the moon

    Carol Raisfeld

  2. Thank you for sharing these poems today, Chen-ou. There is a haunting absence in all of them.

    A great reminder to the world of all those who lost their lives.


  3. Marion:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful thought.

    I second your concluding comment and will publish a haiku sequence about Other 9/11s later this afternoon.