What is virga? Or what is common language…

…to one may not be common language to all?

I am feeling a bit militant so this might be considered a rant.

Recently I re-joined an organization that I had chosen to avoid for the past six years. In my opinion it had become too elitist since newcomers were not exactly welcomed. In fact, I felt dissed more than once. I suspect I was not the only one. Having said that, I decided to re-join because I felt that those in the Midwest had Midwestern sensibilities and tastes. The last two coordinators were very welcoming and inclusive so when the newest one invited me to a closed Facebook group for the Ohio group, I jumped at the chance to share and have my haiku critiqued by the other members, even meeting with a few of them.

Like most haiku writers, I am a work-in-progress; like 87-year-old Michelangelo was attributed to have said, “Ancora imparo,” which means I am still learning. I am still learning and will probably never master the form; however, that doesn’t deter me from writing them, nor for desiring to improve.

The other day I received the quarterly journal called “Frogpond” and read many of the haiku, senryu, and the other haiku forms included within the pages. I also read some of the other articles, reviews, and essays written by fellow poets. Some I felt informative; some frankly pissed me off with the attitude presented.

In particular, one essay, “Haiku Diction: The Use of Words in Haiku,” I felt would help me considerably and there are sections that are helpful, but one particular section irritated me to no end (At this point, it should be stated that my husband told me to stop reading as this was just the reason he encouraged me, to quote Disney’s Elsa, “Let it go, let it go…” several years ago before I discontinued my membership[long before Elsa made her debut, but I digress]).

This section was labeled ‘High-falootin’ Talk’ about poets who use words that are not in common use or are more complicated than they need to be. He then illustrates this by noting two haiku that weren’t accepted for publication because of this. Okay, I will give him the first one as being difficult to understand with flowery, unfamiliar words, but the second one seemed pretty straightforward to me. Not only that, but I thought it be a decent haiku, but obviously, what do I know? Anyhow, it is as follows:
smoking cessation
a cigarette butt
in the grackle’s nest

Nothing in it, to my way of thinking, is very difficult to understand. Granted, I am a pharmacist so I have dealt with smoking cessation (I presume that was the high-falootin’ language he was referring to since the other words are common) in my pharmacy practice. Pharmacy patients often ask questions about the subject of smoking cessation.

Yet, even going outside the pharmacy itself, the term, smoking cessation, is often used on television commercials for Nicorette, Nicoderm-CD, Chantix, and other products used to help a person quit smoking. While the term once may have been foreign to many people, I don’t think it is any more as the advertisers are making the assumption that people understand those words.

Which brings me back to virga…the same author of the essay used the term virga in one of his other contributions in the journal. In his haiku sequence of haiku poems, he included the words distant virga. I admit that I had never heard the word before; I didn’t understand the word even in the context of the individual haiku**, but figured it to be a particular land formation. It isn’t, by the way.

As I stated earlier, I am still learning, and I am the first to grab a dictionary to learn the meaning of new words, and more important, use them and make them mine*. That is one of the reasons I love reading on my Nook and Kindle: there is a built-in feature that allows the word to be highlighted and looked up, but I digress once again.

What is the difference? There isn’t in my opinion. One man’s smoking cessation is another man’s virga. To me, that using virga is just high-falootin’ talk.

For what it is worth, here is the definition of virga from the Random House Webster’s Dictionary (College Edition, 1996): noun (used with a singular or plural verb)–streaks of water drops or ice particles falling out of a cloud and evaporating before reaching the ground. I think that most people have seen a virga, but only a meteorologist might know the word as it is a meteorological term.

I should write this as a letter to the editor of “Frogpond” but I suspect that they would never publish any of my writing ever again; however, this is my attempt of getting it out. Fortunately, there are other haiku publications who have found my haiku to be worthy of publication, and it is gratifying when they do. I also appreciate the Midwest sensibilities of my fellow Ohioans who write and share their haiku with me, and help me improve as well. They really have spurred me on.

Exiting soapbox mode…
* My poem, Dictionary Elles, from my book, Three Breaths about making words mine.

*Lewd, lascivious, licentious, lustful, libertine…
Who found them?
Was it Christy?
Or, perhaps, another?
No matter, we learned them
Different words with subtle nuances
All with the same meaning

We knew them, used them
We were the Dictionary Girls
Virgins all,
Dateless on Saturday nights.

We believed our teachers,
The ones who said,
“If you use a word ten times,
The word was yours forever.”

And we made them ours,
Lewd, lascivious, licentious, lustful, libertine.
It became our mantra; each having her favorite

Mine, licentious…
I loved the sound, the feeling of it in my mouth
Feline, lithe, lean, and smoldering,
A svelte woman in a skinny black dress.

We’re grown now,
Having lived the lustful life of the mind
Still Dictionary Girls
…and have become, in turn,
Lewd, lascivious, licentious, lustful libertines
At times.
but mostly we are just
Dictionary Girls.

mattock in hand
alone on this rocky road
distant virga

About pedometergeek

A pharmacist by profession, a haiku poet by nature, I read and write. I have a book of haiku, Ohayo Haiku, and another somewhat alternative haiku book, Three Breaths, but write other genres. I also read...lots of novels! My favorite is, and remains, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged but I am also a big Harry Potter fan. I truly am a pedometer geek strapping on my pedometer as soon as I awaken.
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7 Responses to What is virga? Or what is common language…

  1. julespaige says:

    You know vigra is very similar to that other word for male um… enhancement. So I was really confused there for a bit. I think there should be a well rounded rant about using words that are too similar to words or names that mean other things that could be assumed to be in similar meaning if one weren’t inclined to look up the word in a dictionary.

    So I am inclined to agree that some words ought not be chosen for common consumption.
    If we are to be serious about expanding the likes of the poetic arts to everyone – then for crying out loud use words that can be understood. I know what cessation means. I did not know what vigra meant. And actually the assumption implied for ‘distant vigra’ (which by the way the spell check doesn’t like at all) had me crossing my eyes thinking of a man, well separated from his paramour.

    I dislike editors that change things to suit them and their ideas. Perhaps that is why I have not been so quick to submit my own works. Especially in regard to haiku. I know I have not mastered the traditional guide lines. And it is very much a Scarlett O’Hara situation. I don’t give a darn. I like what I write and so do a good many folk. I get comments now and then that I am a rebel or have made a unique application concerning the short form in its various guises.

    I write because I enjoy it. I will grant that some ‘rules’ could be used as ‘guidelines’. But after that – all bets are off. I am going to continue to learn, explore and be innovative.

    Cheers, Jules

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Jules,
      Thank you, thank you, thank you for these well-thought out remarks. I happen to agree with you in so many of your points.
      This is the same group that once included the male enhancement product to which you referred as a one-word haiku in a linked form and then proceeded to write a paragraph explaining how this word as well as all these one-word haiku were haiku with kigo, etc. I thought it was a bunch of crap then and still do. I think that is when I developed what I call haiku reduction poems. I don’t follow all the conventions, either, and frankly, that is probably why I don’t fit in with this group.
      C’est la vie! ~nan

      Liked by 1 person

      • julespaige says:

        I was born a rebel, told I was a rebel and then I am expected not to rebel? Really.

        I just am not a ‘stuffed shirt’ kind of person. Rules are fine and all, but I couldn’t tell you an old kigo from a new one. And well just some things aught to be left unsaid. Like that Vegas commercial. Some things I just don’t want or need to know.

        One word haiku. Give me a break. I’m still fighting with The American Sentence. Now that, the American sentence is just extreme mini fiction or non-fiction. And more than not the plot is just simple lost.

        I thought about joining a group. But I tire of not being listened too. I get more respect from net-folk than breathing entities. Besides I think the one group was lead by a hell and brimstone kind of person and I just don’t think we would have gotten along too well. *smirk*

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for including the selection he was blasting- seriously? I think most folks who read poetry are well read and know what a grackle is, as well as cessation. I’m with Jules, The haiku’s beauty, in my humble opinion, is it’s simplicity of style.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Annette. I know…it seems simple, complete as is…a perfect haiku.Now the other one was high falootin’ (musical terms, I think). It is as follows:
      A capriccio
      Temple and Grand bumpers glare
      I think that would confuse anyone not familiar with them, but to repeat, one’s man’s virga may not be another man’s common language.

      I would guess he would not have liked this haiku of mine because of its language:
      placebo effect…
      Vicodin now in hand
      patient’s face changes to smile

      Oh well…


      • julespaige says:

        I’m not even going to look up capriccio or Anagnorisis – really? Never mind another language on the same planet – they must come from another world.

        But I understood your haiku perfectly.

        Anyway… at least three Canna Lily’s are about a foot to two feet high.

        Hugs, Jules

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jules,
    I didn’t look up either one, and I agree with the essayist totally about that one. As for the other one (discussed in the post), I still disagree with him. Smoking cessation isn’t that difficult to understand. Glad you understood mine about the placebo effect; it happened all too often at the pharmacy counter.

    Our canna liliies are up a bit higher (we planted them first though) and the first one is starting to bloom, bursting open like fireworks. Happy Fourth! ~nan.


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