Archive for December, 2008

Winter Solstice Haiku Ireland Joint Event

Posted in Event report, Winter on December 31, 2008 by Tito

(reporter: Moya Bligh; photos: Stephen Gill)

Toji no Hi. Greeted warmly by a proselytizing believer and an explanation of how her group are gathered to expurge their own guilt and the sins of their ancestors. Eventually, we manage to slip away, receive our authorized white sashes at the Iwafune Jinja office, and open a cage-like door into the rock: our own journey of rebirth has begun.

p1080702Down sturdy steps into a dark recess composed of giant boulders. Patined with green moss, some are soft to the touch and comforting in their roundness. With a little natural light shining through the trees far above, we pick our way over stones and past pillars towards a narrow wooden bridge. Rickety, it bends under our weight, but brings us deeper into the cave. A spring runs through, and at one point there is a small waterfall – life in the womb. From here we follow discreet arrows painted on the rock, guiding us to slide down a tight crevasse … to be reborn again into a chamber composed entirely of boulders and covered by a gigantic capstone.
….Slipping, squeezing
….Through narrow openings:
….The year’s rebirth   (John Dougill)

p1080704We cross the creek again and work our way upwards toward the light, where a little Inari shrine and an altar to a snake god are ensconced in the grotto’s driest corner.

p1080720Lit by dim sunlight,
An eggshell from an offering
To the dragon of the cave.    (Tito)

There, a candle flickers, and we scurry to find a replacement before we leave … to emerge into a glade strewn with autumn leaves and rain now spitting. Our journey of rebirth complete, we return to the shrine compound, where preparations for the year ahead are underway.
….Old man sits in the rain
….Beating straw with a mallet,
….Next year’s shimenawa    (Ted Taylor)

p1080722Later we regroup at a nearby lodge to eat our packed lunches and work on some tan-renga. Earlier this year, I had participated in a haiku weekend near Newgrange, the site where the ancient Irish had celebrated Midwinter. Using the haiku composed there, we have been trying to add Iwafune couplets to make a tanka, thus combining the two meets in an international collaboration.
….Crisp frost underfoot
….sun on the rim,
….still, the sacred space:   (Moya Bligh at Newgrange)
……..Only white breath
……..seen in the air.    (Masako Fujie at Iwafune)
A stranger approaches as we settle into a quiet corner to compose. Who is that tall Afro-American with the deep voice? Gerald, just returned from a hike over the mountains – he has found us!
….Winter swans,
….after death they fly
….my soul and them:    (anon. at Annesbrook)
……..A curved pine guards
……..the star viewing-bridge.    (Gerald above Kisaichi)

Some of us decide to do the hike up to the ‘Ama no Gawa’ Bridge before retiring to a cafe by the river in Kisaichi for a workshop, at which we share and discuss the tan-renga. A memorable Midwinter’s Day.

Finding a stone on the West Highland Way

Posted in Autumn, Haiqua on December 31, 2008 by Tito


Shapeshifting in rain …

until a stone

like the lead-grey silken

ripples of the loch

(Cailness, Loch Lomond, 4.9.94)

Literary Pilgrimage: Scotland 1, Highlands

Posted in Haibun, No/All season on December 30, 2008 by sosui

..Scotland is a mountainous country, whose highest peak is Ben Nevis, 4,406 feet high. I saw it shortly after the first snow of the year from Glen Nevis, a valley where highland cattle were grazing. They were all covered with long hair —  so very long that I wondered how they could see at all. Keats climbed the mountain in August 1818, but according to the sonnet he wrote on this occasion, the cloud was so dense that all he could see was “mist and crag”. I did not climb the mountain, but luckily I was able to see Ben Nevis beyond a field of snow, looking somewhat like a pan laid upside down.
..The first poem I recall about the Highlands is Wordsworth’s Solitary Reaper. It is a beautiful poem about a highland lass who sings by herself while reaping in the field. I find the last two lines of the poem full of suggestiveness: “The music in my heart I bore, / Long after it was heard no more.” Wordsworth actually said that he took the last line from a friend’s unpublished tour of Scotland. We do not even know where it was he met this highland lass. Wordsworth enjoyed a tour of Scotland with his sister Dorothy in 1803. According to Dorothy’s Recollections, they met two highland girls, descending the hill towards Loch Lomond. One of them was exceedingly beautiful. So Wordsworth wrote a poem in praise of her, in which he says that he will never forget “the cabin small / The lake, the bay, the waterfall; / And Thee, the Spirit of them all!” I cannot help thinking that this girl is the source of his highland lass.
..I had had the pleasure of seeing Loch Lomond on several occasions. One summer evening, I had a sudden desire to see it again with my wife. My guidebook said we could get there by train. We started out from Glasgow, but soon discovered that the last stretch of line had been removed. We got off at the terminus and looked for a taxi, but there was none. So we went into a fish-and-chips shop in front of the station, where a gentleman spoke to us as we were waiting to be served. When we said we wanted to go to Loch Lomond, he kindly offered to take us there in his car. The fish-and-chips were truly delicious when we ate them by the lake in the slowly-darkening twilight.

..Snow on the mountain,
..Highland cattle with long hair
..Grazing in the glen.

…………….On my highland tour,
…………….The song of the reaper girl
…………….Resounds in my heart.

…………………………….Lingering summer sun,
…………………………….Loch Lomond begins to sleep,
…………………………….The lake of my dreams.

Omiwa Haibun

Posted in Autumn, Haibun on December 20, 2008 by John Dougill

When you climb Mt Miwa, you’re climbing the side of a kami. This is the goshintai (sacred body) of mighty Omononushi aka Okuninushi, one-time ruler of Izumo. His kingdom was formerly the biggest rival to the Yamato, yet their shrine at the foot of the hill, which claims to be the country’s oldest, honours his memory following the submission of Izumo to the tribe of the sun goddess. Here in the heartland of modern Japan he now serves as tutelary deity, and the folklore of near two millennia are written into the fabric of the place. Beyond it the mixed woodland speaks of the unspoilt lure of ancient times. As I climb I’m aware of entering a different realm: one of birdsong, and autumn leaves, and the wonder of being. A gurgling brook runs alongside the path as it ascends past boulders and through groves to a small dip where amidst the russet browns a small tree dazzles the eye with its vivid yellow splendour. It’s a golden gift from the spirit of place that speaks of an oriental Eden, one with no hint of poisoned fruit or moral fall. Instead, at the summit, stand a group of rocks anointed by a pile of purifying salt while in the clearing a lone pine points towards heaven…

Little beetle
Why hurry and scurry?
Dappled sunshine


Indian summer haiku

Posted in Autumn, Haiku on December 15, 2008 by John Dougill

It’s raining
This sun-blessed day
Willow leaves

Lucky 13th

Posted in News, Tanka, Winter on December 14, 2008 by Tito

……….Lucky thirteen,

……….The moon is in the sky:

……….To her lapel

……….A talisman bunny

……….Hanging by its ear.

Jane Wieman moved from Matsuo to Shugakuin. The Icebox received its 10,000th hit. Please keep the comments coming in! Words on ice …

Mt Takachiho

Posted in Haibun, Winter on December 9, 2008 by John Dougill

For many years now I’ve longed to climb the hill where the gods first descended on Japan.  Tradition ascribes this to Mt Takachiho in southern Kyushu.  Here, according to Kojiki (712), the heavenly grandchild of the sun goddess was sent to rule the realm after the submission at Izumo of mighty Okuninushi.  Like the gods in their rock-boats, I too am flying in from heaven courtesy of ANA, scanning the Kirishima mountain range for a place to land.  Prominent among the peaks is Mt Karakuni, from which on a clear day it is said that you can see across to Korea and the continental homeland.

The path to the top of Takachiho leads up the steep shingle side of a sulphurous volcano, then round a small crater and along an unnervingly narrow precipice to where is rooted an ancient spear stood upside down in the ground.  Its provenance is lost in time, and folklore claims it as that of Ninigi himself.  Today, appropriately, it is wreathed in mist like an oriental version of an Arthurian romance.  Mountains are the nearest earth comes to heaven, and here at the peak one feels close to the ancients.  Myths have the power to move even as we recognise their untruth, and in the exhilaration of the climb comes light-headed fancy.  I close my eyes, and there before me stands long-nosed Sarutahiko, the coquettish Ame no Uzume at his side.  Lead on enchanters, guide me down this mountainside!  Though I am not made to dance to your tune, here on Takachiho’s sacred slope I’m powerless to resist …

Halfway to the gods
On this first day of winter
I’m kissing red rocks