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I. HAIGA SETTINGS FOR A POEM BY MICHAEL REHLING

Last fall, Mike left this haiku on my wall at Facebook. Avidly I read and reread it, and knew that I wanted to set it as haiga:

virgo moon
yellow birch leaves fall
from her hair

This is a very layered poem and to preserve that, I'd have to do a close reading, understand what the author was thinking and what exactly the poem is saying exactly, as well as my own responses to it.

Do you see birch trees in the moonlight? I did, at first—but then remembered that the color receptors on our retinas close down at night. Even if this were a very bright autumn moon, you wouldn't see the color of the leaves: they'd be pale bluish gray, not quite as light in value as the trunks. Thus it has to be a day moon and indeed, the moon charts reveal that in autumn the Virgo moon is a day moon. In 2009 this was early October, leaf season in Michigan, which as we know is where Mike lives. So I picture walking in the woods, the white trunks of birch trees and sunlit cascades of leaves in the autumn wind.

What if "yellow" refers to the species of birch? Betula alleghaniensis (yellow birch) is native to eastern Canada and the northern United States. Traditional to the Native Americans, It's a timber tree with exfoliating bark that is yellowish to gray, and its leaves resemble beech more than the fine, arrow-pointed leaves we associate with birch. Now the haiku evokes sunlight through forest canopy, a birch bark canoe, a primeval goddess. . .

The possibilities for setting a poem like this are endless. I've selected four: photo haiga, scanned drawing and painting, leaf printing, and digital manipulation.

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