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Who remembers the heffalump?




Last week I had the honor of judging honkadori poetry, written as haiku or senryu, for the Poetry Pea podcast. First I had to choose a poem to analyze among twenty or so submissions. There were prompts for allusions, known in Japanese as honkadori, relating to well-known works such as Harry Potter and Winnie the Pooh. I loved the haiku about the last heffalump appearing at sunrise written by Melissa Dennison. The podcast airs in late February, and I plan to share the link then. Hearing the way all the judges interpret their choices is inspiring!


Why refer to other works? The use of allusion in writing allows the poet to connect one moment in time with other writings on a similar theme. A chain can be constructed through mentioning a word or action that reminds the reader of the older poem, or it can provide a contrasting tension. The allusion adds to a deeper reflection on a given subject. I found the poem about the heffalump, an imaginary creature, to be a kind of warning about extinction but also a signal of life's seasons. The heffalump belongs to childlike imaginings, and children eventually grow up and move on from their rich, creative world. Both of these aspects seemed to be a reminder that we can rise to the challenges of the real world through a creative mind, if only we remember to pay attention.

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