Burns’ Haiku?

Posted in Poem excerpt, Translation with tags , on March 21, 2019 by Tito

On April 2, two or three members of the Hailstone Haiku Circle will join the Meguro International Haiku Circle for an English haiku ginko and reading event in the Yanaka-Ueno district of Tokyo. For many years, their kukai was led by Catherine Urquhart, who has now returned to the UK and created the Edinburgh Haiku Circle. In the MIHC’s 2014 book, Haiku: 20th Anniversary, kindly sent me by Yasuomi Koganei, there is a piece by Catherine entitled, If Burns had been a haiku poet …, and with her permission, I will here reproduce five of her lovely ‘Japanese haiku’ versions of passages from poems by the 18th Century Scottish Bard, Robert Burns, who was a contemporary of Issa and, with his eye on the poor man, animals, insects and the uncompromising weather, very much kindred of spirit.
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鋤牛を放す農家や日短し
sukiushi o hanasu nouka ya hi mijikashi

farmer unfastening
his oxen from the plough
fast the night draws in

(from The Cotter’s Saturday Night)

 

霜柱乞食仲間の酔いと恋
shimobashira kojiki nakama no yoi to koi

needles of frost
love and drunkenness
among beggars

(from The Jolly Beggars)

 

礼拝す美人の帽に虱着く
reihai su bijin no bou ni shirami tsuku

Sunday worship
a louse takes up position
on a beauty’s hat

(from To a Louse)

 

友土葬草におのおの露の玉
tomo dosou kusa ni onoono tsuyu no tama

friend in the earth
on each and every blade of grass
a dewy diamond

(from Elegy on Captain Matthew Henderson)

 

夜の滝迷子羊の帰り待つ
yoru no taki maigo hitsuji no kaeri matsu

in the night
the waterfall and the wait
for my lost lamb

(from My Hoggie)

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Poll: Chief Characteristics of English Haiku (Mar. 2019 update)

Posted in News, Poll with tags on March 10, 2019 by Tito

If you scroll down the right-hand margin of the Icebox top page, you will find a poll, in which everyone is still most welcome to participate – just once! The software has the ability to prevent second-timers or those who would try to choose more than 3 options. People from all over the world have taken part. If you click on the words ‘See Results’ at the bottom of the poll area, you will see the latest number of votes for each characteristic. Clicking there in Mar. 2019, I notice that we have now had 200 people return their idea of what might be the ‘Three Chief Characteristics of English Haiku’, so perhaps it’s time again to look at some of the poll’s emerging conclusions.

The two categories of Juxtaposition and Cut/break now total 89 votes together, which means that almost one in two people think that aspect is crucial. In Japanese haiku these are known, respectively, as 取合せ toriawase and 切れ kire and may be viewed as related features. It is true, however, that there are ‘un-cut’ haiku in both the Japanese and the English haiku-writing worlds. No, break is not an absolute requisite.

In second place, I notice that Originality and Poetic voice have thus far together polled 72 votes … and Resonance and Open-endedness garnered 71 between them. For now, allow me to put aside the first, Originality, which is a requisite of all poetry, not just haiku. I shall keep that quality of ‘expansiveness’ (Resonance) in mind, though, as we continue through the top of the league.

More or less equal in third place, we have Moment and Present tense (aggregating 64), and Brevity and Omission (aggregating 57). Ordinary present-simple and present-continuous tenses clearly rule the roost in English haiku-writing, but a ‘Present moment’ quality is not something that is considered in Japan, where verbs may come in many different tenses and might even sometimes be a touch classical in tone. Brief expression is obviously a requisite of haiku, though how brief exactly is open to debate.

As most will already know, the three chief characteristics of the classical Japanese haiku are: 1. 5-7-5 form, 2. Seasonal reference, and 3. Break (often using a cutting word). In spite of plenty of experimentation over the last 100 years, 5-7-5 kana letters as a single line is still today the normal style in Japan.  Looking again at our poll results, I find that 5-7-5 and 3-lines together polled only 31 votes from 200 people. Seasonal reference gathered in just 38 votes; the same number, interestingly, as Real experience. I propose now to add Real experience (38 votes) to Present moment (64): and we get 102, which brings it to the top of the charts!

It is thus tempting to conclude that the three most important characteristics of English haiku, at least from this poll as it stands today, are:
……… 1. The present moment (102 votes)
……… 2. Break (with or without punctuation) (89)
……… 3. An expansive quality felt at poem’s end (71).
Concision is in fourth place (57).

The English haiku poet’s craft, when thus analyzed, may appear to be quintessentially about the vividness of the Present situation and the utilization of Break as a technique through which to create Resonance for the reader learning of it. Being a Brief expression is evidently also highly valued, as it should be, although free-form haiku is clearly the current norm. For me personally, I was a little sad that Sound/cadence has thus far only polled 21 votes – one in ten: not insignificant, but definitely a minor characteristic for most. This is no doubt partly because of the almost puritanical minimalism that has reigned supreme since around 2005 in most of the leading haiku mags and sites, according musicality little importance. Icebox is in this respect rather different. Seasonality is probably in fifth place (38, and there’s nothing to couple it with): again, slightly disheartening for one who was born in Britain and now lives in Kyoto – a city with a deeply seasonal flow. The English-writing world is such a big place!

Your comments on this interim overview are welcome. Just click on the word ‘comments’ below to open up the reply box. Feel free to tweet it or to share it on Facebook. Next report? Perhaps after another 200 have responded!

Ellis

Posted in News, Tribute with tags on March 1, 2019 by Tito

Dear friend and Hailstone member, Ellis Avery, passed away on Feb. 15 of this year. She had been fighting cancer for quite a while, and several of her friends here in Kansai knew of this. A few of us were fortunate to have had dinner with her on what we now know to have been her last trip to her beloved Kyoto, in December 2018. Some of us were given her latest Haiku Datebook containing her daily English haiku for the last full year of her regretfully shortened life. The first poem in it goes:

………. Bright sun, blue Charles,
………. her hand in mine. So thankful
………. for this day, so keen for more.

The Charles is the name of the river running through Boston, MA, where she lived with her wife, Sharon Marcus, and where my own grandmother lived in later life and died (but at more than double Ellis’ age of 46). This haiku especially brings tears to my eyes.

Some of you may remember Ellis as a contributor to Hibikiai Forum, as a judge of the Genjuan International Haibun Contest or perhaps, more likely, as a prize-winning novelist. Amongst her works outside of haiku were The Smoke Week (2003), The Teahouse Fire (2006), and The Last Nude (2012). She was not only a brilliant writer and fine poet, but also a most compassionate person: in fact she had been training to become a nurse. Our thoughts go out to Sharon. Her artistic legacy will survive!

Ellis’ latest haiku collection can be purchased here: http://www.harvard.com/book/haiku_datebook_2019/

This is the penultimate haiku in the book:

………. The leaves are dead,
………. but not the trees. They rest
………. with arms aloft. They wait.

RIP

all alone

Posted in Haiga, Winter on February 20, 2019 by Gerald

click on the picture to read the poem

Seeking Buson

Posted in Japanese Classic, Winter with tags , on February 10, 2019 by Tito

click on any picture to enlarge

.. Approaching a shaft of light in the winter grey of the Japan Sea at Miyazu, I came across some wild ducks sleeping in a loch. The pine-clad isthmus, Amanohashidate (the Bridge of Heaven), stretched on, pointing towards Buson’s Temple, a rickety shack at the back of the town – Kenshōji 見性寺.

.. At the gate, a sign with a haiku on:

…….. 楠の根を静かにぬらす時雨哉
.. kusu no ne o shizuka ni nurasu shigure kana 
…….. The roots of the camphor
…….. being quietly wet …
…….. passing winter rain

.. With that image in mind, I stepped through into the precincts, soon to be greeted by resident priest, Umeda Jikō, gaunt and smiley.
.. “Have you come for Buson?”, he asked.

.. Shoes off – how cold the floor! Respectfully offering a prayer before the Amida Buddha there, we turned to an improvised display of things from Buson’s time in Miyazu, including two or three remarkable paintings – not haiga, but nanga – of what I took to be Chinese immortals. But which immortals? And why the mysterious plumes of white breath? Do they indicate a type of energy (qi 気) perhaps? Or it is just that the air was cold (seeing one’s breath)? For a moment, I focused in front of my mouth and … sure enough, my breath was visible, too!

.. Buson had come to Miyazu in 1754, aged 39, to stay with his friend, the priest of Kenshōji, Chikkei 竹渓 (barefoot on left in the picture below by Buson). He spent much of the next few years there, participating in a haiku circle, changing his family name from Taniguchi to Yosa (a village by the Bridge of Heaven) and taking a local wife, Tomo, who soon gave birth to a daughter, Kuno. In Miyazu, he also developed his skill as a painter, turning to this profession when he eventually returned to Kyoto. I wondered if the assured brushwork of the paintings in the temple might just be that of a senior painter at the time, with whom he was studying.  One of the paintings has a signature, the second character of which looked like the kei 渓 of Chikkei 竹渓, but the first is not recognizable and is surely not chiku 竹 bamboo.

.. As I left the temple, Jikō turned to me and said, ‘Next time, please stay.’

……………… Puffing out
……………… towards the valley-head moon …
……………… my white breath

P.S. If anyone has an idea who the breathy mountain men are in the pictures, or who might have painted them, please leave a comment below. It didn’t seem as if Jikō himself was sure.

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2019 – deadline approaches!

Posted in Challenge!, Haibun with tags , on January 9, 2019 by Tito

Three more weeks till the deadline for entries into this year’s Genjuan International Haibun Contest. Details here. The office is usually lenient with entries arriving a few days late. The three judges include newly-appointed Toru Kiuchi, Vice Director of the International Division at the Museum of Haiku Literature. They will read your works without knowing authors’ identities and will be looking for haikai style, best understood by reading examples. Check out our haibun pages through the page links at top right. Click the hailstones ‘Icebox’ header photo to return to this top page anytime. Good luck!

Finding Sekitei

Posted in Autumn, Japanese Modern, Winter with tags , on December 28, 2018 by Tito

Late November. I climbed Mt. Takamiyama (1,248m, ‘Kansai’s Matterhorn’) on the border between Nara and Mie. Found a little snow at the top, where there’s a shrine to Yatagarasu, the giant three-legged crow, guide of the first emperor, emblem of Kumano Jinja (and of Japan’s national football team). The scene was almost biblical: a mountain ark.
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The Messenger Crow’s Mount —
there below, autumn ranges
north, south, east and west ……………. Tito
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After the descent, took a dip at Takasumi Hot Spring. Of this, another time. The bathhouse receptionist gave me a map, however, on which was marked “Sekitei-an”, a haiku poet’s hermitage elsewhere in the village of Higashi Yoshino. I remembered the name from Blyth’s History of Haiku. Although Blyth has him in Meiji, he is actually one of the best of the Taisho period haiku poets. I began to envisage a Hailstone event there next year. In the meantime, here are two of his beautifully alliterative/assonant verses for the winter season. Happy New Year!
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koshiyuki no / yama mite shouji / shime ni keri
Gazing across
to the snowed-up mountains …
then shutting up
my paper window-screens ……………. Sekitei, 1913

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getsumen ni / samukari no ei / kakari keri
The face of the moon:
in silhouette
flying on through it,
a flock of winter geese …………….. Sekitei, 1951