Persimmons – part 7

Posted in Haibun, No/All season with tags , on September 20, 2018 by sosui

. I should like to end my haibun with a paragraph or two on kakishibu (persimmon varnish). I do not know exactly how it is made, but suppose it must be by condensing and fermenting persimmon juice. It is used mainly as a coating for traditional Japanese paper, thereby not only strengthening it but also making it waterproof. Thus a raincoat called kamiko came to be made, first for the priests of the Risshu sect to wear, but later for warriors and travellers as well. It was both light and warm. It was one of these raincoats that Basho took on his journey to the North. Persimmon varnish is also used to coat paper umbrellas. Seeing pictures of them on the Internet recently, I was surprised by the variety of designs. The traditional colour was brown, but now they seem to come in bright colours like red and green and make good decorations for restaurants and hotels.

. I have fond memories of persimmon-varnished fans. They were always sturdy ones and kept me very cool. I always used to pick out a fan of this type from the bamboo case in which we kept our fans at home. Nowadays, the Internet shows fans of this kind in many different colours, but mine was dark brown. I prefer this traditional colour. When summer comes again, I will probably buy a new one.

Let me take a nap,
Using a fan coated with
Persimmon varnish.

this instalment concludes Nobuyuki Yuasa’s haibun 
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from the Icebox inbox – 42

Posted in Spring, Submissions, Summer with tags on August 28, 2018 by Tito

Early spring morn —
again, that pair of silent crows
atop the old pine

A black caterpillar
eating a big taro leaf —
the long dry spell …………………………. (Yoshiharu Kondo)

Wandering at night
I see my father’s face in
an old cobblestone.

A lonely thatched hut
two poets shared—one leaving,
one staying behind. …………………………………. (Maria Lin)

The smell of honeysuckle …
the night lights up
with first lightning bolts ……………………. (Julia Guzman)

Gion Festival Reading and Ramble

Posted in Event report, Reading, Summer with tags on August 9, 2018 by Mayumi Kawaharada

Late afternoon, 21 July 2018. A dozen Hailstones fell together for a reading in the Museum of Kyoto’s Maeda Café, which used to be a vault of the Bank of Japan, Kyoto branch. At a long table, we took it in turns to read our own, or others’, haibun or haiku sequences.

The programme was:
Branko Manojlovic, 2018 Genjuan GP haibun The Forbidden Pet
Ursula Maierl, haiku Mantis Yoga (from Lost Heian) & sequence Aftershock
Eiko Mori reading David McCullough’s 2018 Genjuan HM haibun Reflections
Mayumi Kawaharada reading Doris Lynch’s 2017 Genjuan GP haibun Season of Snow & Milk
Ayako Kurokawa, haibun Boomerang in the Blue Sky
Hitomi Suzuki, haibun Lanterns on the Water
Kazue Gill reading Tito’s haibun A Scottish Journey
Tito, haiku sequence Roller Coaster (using work by 15 poets; see previous posting)
Four others were present, but did not read.

Evening. After the Café meet was over, most participants went for a short ginko (composition stroll) to enjoy the spectacle of the huge festival yama and hoko floats parked in the nearby streets and lit with tiers of lanterns. Some private houses had opened their windows and doors so that all could see the treasures inside. There were several small shrines to visit down narrow alleys. The Gion Ato-matsuri proved much less busy than the main Saki-matsuri and therefore more conducive to haiku-senryu composition! Many people wore yukata.

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A small sample of the verse that emerged:

Innocent girls chant
a song about their folk talismans –
Gion Festival eve              ………..   (Hitomi)

Divine emissaries*
watching over the Festival crowds –
that pair of turtle doves    ……….. (Mayumi)

Flute players tonight
nearly two stories high
on the deck* of an ancient float       (Duro)

Exploding
earth sensation
of the taro* in my mouth –
a dinner with friends                    ..  (Tito)

.

* emissaries, 使い tsukai messengers of the warriors’ god, Hachiman
* deck, 大船鉾 ofuna-boko boat-shaped float
* taro, 里芋 sato-imo potato variety

Roller Coaster, a haiku sequence

Posted in Rensaku, Summer with tags on August 2, 2018 by Tito

The Kansai region of Western Japan was hit by a damaging earthquake (mag. 5.5) on 18 June, then by a monsoon-ending deluge on 5-7 July, and has been gripped by a severe heatwave ever since. 19 July saw 40 degrees C in Kyoto. The only respite in temperature was the typhoon of 28-29 July, which was cruel in its own way. I compiled a haiku sequence from recent work by 15 Hailstone poets in order to commemorate the fearsome summer we have had so far. You’ll see that haiku poets find ways to ‘coast’ between the ‘rolls’.     (SHG)

QUAKE (4)

morning birdsong
in the monsoon garden:
epicentre
right beneath my pillow!                             Hisashi

35 floors up
an earthquake rocks
and rumbles –
it clutches my heart                                    Sydney

summer earthquake –
ground spangled with glass,
sky full of stars                                           Mizuho

after the tremor
healing my unease,
the fragrant white gardenia                          Hiroko

RAINS (9)

broken muzzles
of the shrine’s stone foxes –
the rainy season returns                              Yaeno

gray rain-screen,
a fear of floods …
yet a kingfisher
blesses the pond                                        Teruko

endless rain –
in our entrance hall
a large garden spider
now resides!                                              Tito

to this land of
green ears of rice,
the Thunder God’s
long siege                                                  Hitomi

helicopter hovering
by people on a rooftop –
never-ending rain                                       Kyoko

a village
obliterated by the rains –
a cicada’s chant                                          Mayumi K.

the rain eases …
along a path between paddies
coloured umbrellas move                             Takashi

jumping into the puddle
with his tiny boots on
the wrong feet –
the rains let up                                           Hisako

monsoon away –
new sunlight on the girl
in the red coupé                                          Akira

HEAT (6)

leaving for work –
the heatwave,
no longer air at all
but wall                                                       Tito

crimson coins of blood
on the bike park floor:
the heatstruck lad
clasps his nose                                             Ursula

on the fence
two turtledoves out of breath …
sagging grasses                                           Branko

fierce sunlight –
a bitter gourd hanging down
like Godzilla’s tail ………………………………………….. Mayumi S.

the brook at my feet
murmuring away heat –
the mountain peak ahead                             Akira

the sun beat down …
but, slowly now, enjoying
the long night wine                                      Hiroko

Persimmons – part 6

Posted in Autumn, Japanese Classic with tags , on July 14, 2018 by sosui

. Among haiku poets, both ancient and modern, I think it was Shiki who loved persimmons the most. Let me quote the following passage to prove this point. It is from his work entitled “Two Persimmons”. Shiki calls it a novel and uses the third person singular for the main character, but to me, it is a piece of haibun, in which the author describes his own experiences:

Soon his sister stood up, shaking threads from her knees. She wanted to take a tray of the remaining persimmons to her sick brother, the master of the house.
“Is that all that remains,” her brother asked her, casting a sidelong glance at the persimmons.
“Yes, this is all. You ate so many of them yesterday,” she answered. There were only two persimmons on the tray.
He was a great lover of food, and especially liked all kinds of fruit. But, above all, he loved persimmons.

. He must have decided to save the two remaining persimmons till he had finished his work as reviewer of haiku. When he had done so, he wrote the following poem:

Three thousand haiku to read —
Finishing them all, I eat
The two persimmons.

. I think Shiki is implying how hard his reviewer’s work was, and also how quickly the persimmons disappeared eating them at such a pace.

. Shiki indeed has many poems about persimmons, but the following is perhaps the most famous:

A bell rings out while
I’m eating a persimmon —
Horyuji Temple.

. Personally, I find it a bit difficult to understand. If the haiku simply describes a time sequence, then perhaps it is not such a great poem. Among scholarly commentators, there is one who says that it should be taken as a poem of greeting to Soseki, who had written a similar poem. Another points out that Shiki was so ill during his visit to Nara that he probably never actually went to the Horyuji Temple. I do not find these comments very helpful for the interpretation of the poem. For me, there must be some meaningful relationship between Shiki’s eating the persimmon and the ringing of the temple bell: otherwise, the poem falls apart. The only connection between them that I can think of is the sense of satisfaction. Shiki adored persimmons, and whenever he ate one he found pleasure; while the temple bell brought him pleasure of a different sort. I think we could say that one was a physical pleasure and the other spiritual. So I take this haiku to be an expression of both physical and spiritual satisfaction. Incidentally, the poem has a short preface saying, “I rested at a tea shop near Horyuji Temple”. In an essay elsewhere, he also comments:

For a long time persimmons have been neglected by poets. I had never thought of combining persimmons and Nara, but was overjoyed when I found this possible. It was a new combination.

I believe that this combination was in fact an old one, for Imperial Palace Persimmons have traditionally been grown in Nara.

. To the end of his life Shiki remained an admirer of persimmons, and the following poem should be used as his epitaph. It is indeed prefaced “After my death”.

Let it thus be known:
A great persimmon eater
And haiku lover.

(To be continued…)

Thinking of Angelee

Posted in News, Tribute with tags , on July 1, 2018 by Tito

For those planning to take part in next year’s Genjuan International Haibun Contest, we are very sorry to have to announce that our colleague Angelee Deodhar, one of India’s foremost haiku poets, passed away quite suddenly on June 28 in Chandigarh. She had been in recent correspondence with us, not only about the Contest and publications, but also about a planned visit to Japan next spring. Those of us who have worked with her at the Cottage of Visions are greatly saddened. She made a splendid contribution to English haibun, by editing the epic ‘Journeys’ anthology series and helping to judge the Genjuan, yet she herself always remained modest, tactful and warm. She signed off her letters, to me at least, with the phrase, ‘Love and light’ …

This graciousness will surely continue to be felt and cherished. Our thoughts are with her family and close friends at this time.

It is appropriate to share what she had apparently once referred to as her 辞世 jisei, or death verse:

water-worn boulder
so smooth now
against callused feet

RIP

Spring ending . . .

Posted in Haiga on June 28, 2018 by Gerald

click on the picture to read the poem