In Search of Himiko’s Palace

Tall white heron
Squawking in surprise…
The scent of spring

Ah, Yamatai…
Pure white plum blossom
On an ancient stump


15 Responses to “In Search of Himiko’s Palace”

  1. wonderful language to life to a wonderful image: “…plum blossom on an ancient stump”

  2. oops! disregard the last comment. i wanted to say wonderful language to give life to a wonderful image: “…plum blossom on an ancient stump”

  3. The title of the posting will not mean much to our readers, I’m afraid. Neither will ‘Yamatai’. It might have been better to have written a few haibun sentences to go with the two haiku?

  4. John Dougill Says:

    Thanks Gerald… In the case of the Yamatai poem I was thinking of the white robe of the shamaness Himiko, together with the purity of spirit, while making reference to the ancient kingdom and the attraction of the past…

  5. How much more beautiful, meaningful, rich is the second haiku when seen in the light of the preceding comment.

  6. I may be some sort of prude, or too tight with my haiku beliefs, but I simply cannot accept the word “squawking” in a haiku. Herons do make sounds, but do they squawk? How ugly. Even if the birds do eat all the fish out of one’s dad’s pond, still they do not squawk in joy over the catch. The word spoils an otherwise nice poem. Well, but why is a heron surprised at spring? Can a heron be surprised? Maybe it is actually surprised at its tallness; or why would the poet mentioned such an obvious anatomical feature of the bird?
    As for the pure, white plum blossom on the impure, dead, rotten tree stump, if the detritus is that old, might it not be already a stone fossil? I have never seen a fallen plum blossom that still held on to its purity and whiteness after falling off its mother limb. They quickly turn a dank, even roric or roriferous and soiled brown, not unlike the droppings from, say, an heron’s tail feathers.
    Nevertheless, if Himiko’s hut were to be discovered in the spring, I’d guess the ground would be covered with plum petals. Or maybe the heron is squawking because John’s head suddenly bobbed up from the river bottom where he had been searching for the remains of a mythical dame’s place. Who knows?

  7. I see you’ve got your teeth in here, too, Richard!

  8. Richard, Richard, Richard… “plum blossoms on an ancient stump” flow with the imagination of the language; transport yourself to the past when the stump could’ve still had signs of life (your body here, dreams there); let the force be with you; let yourself go young skywalker.

  9. Seems John is still underwater searching for some virgin queen’s nest, or the heron’s. So he’s hired this lawyer to defend the language. OK. I take the challenge: syllables at 50 paces.
    I ask you, how many times in the recent 800 years (let’s stay contemporary) has the plum on a stump been immortalized? Even a rough guess would be in the thousands; the Japanese are all poets, to a man. “p b on an a s” has to have been brushed countless times. My point here, then, is the sheer triteness of the image. Way and far too common. A squawking heron now appears to me to be quite refreshing literature by comparison. Can’t John do better? He can. These two haiku are forced, obviously. Gotta write a poem, damn. Spring and plums. Can’t fail.
    Now, try these on for size, men and ladies:

    springtime, bring wine
    cherry blossoms salute us, mute us
    with their beauty

    “eternal now, no before
    no up next”
    says this mount’s tiny flower

    How many times in the last 800 have you read this combination of thots? Transport to the past? No thank you; now’s quite nice. The force is always with us all, Gerry, always.
    It’s your turn. And where’s John?

  10. Hear ye! Hear ye! the court is now in session.

    Your honor, I did not intend to step deep into the %&#! But, since I’ve been called out by the court to do pro bono work to defend a clump of plums on a poetic stump, I’d like to say your point is well taken about spring, and plums, wines and tiny flowers with voices, etc.

    Umm, can a lawyer throw himself/herself at the mercy of the court, right about here? As well as remind the court that even some things, or even people for that matter, that were believed to have been dead at one point in time have been reported to have been miraculously resurrected. Is there no place in your heart for the good ole days? An image of plum blossoms long gone? First love? Childhood? Whatever? So, with that, I’d like to conclude by saying that you’ve got to start somewhere before you can get here.

    “hip hop to the bang bang to the boogie that be” (a trite 1980’s rap lyric).

    I rest this case.

  11. John? What a sprig ye have laid!

  12. N obuyuki Yuasa Says:

    I found Richard Woodchopper’s argument very interesting. I think he is absolutely right about the repetition of similar themes and images in haiku. We must avoid this, but how? How many years do we have to keep writing before we can invent our own styles? Basho said he had written only ten verses or so in his lifetime which were truly his own. Dear fellow poets, let us not despair, but at the same time, let us not take haiku-writing as a mere hobby or a pastime.
    I think Richard Woodchopper’s point about ‘squawk’ is misleading. He calls it an ungly word, but the use of ugly words is part of haiku tradition. We call ugly words ‘haigon’. Onitsura strongly recommended the use of haigon. Basho also admitted the use of haigon was important though he said it was necessary to rifine it. I am afraid modern haiku is getting further and further away from haigon. I am not sure if herons really ‘squawk’ or not, but I do not object to the use of this word in haiku.

    • Reminded of a verse by Basho that mixes the lovely aspects of nature with the not so lovely aspects of nature:

      The warblerー
      It pooped on a rice cake
      At the veranda

      Would pooped be considered an ugly word, though a part of nature? Or would an ugly word be one more disagreeable to the senses (i.e., vulgar).

      • I am pretty sure that this is a good example of haigon, G. In the Japanese original, the word used by B. was 糞(ふん), which is only mitigated by the fact that it was the faeces of a delicate and auspicious bush-warbler!

  13. Ah, now I see. I did not know of haigon, this is a new aspect of haiku for me to think about. Yes, I have to agree with Basho, et al, that using haigon is OK when used with intelligence and humor, and not, as in Ellis’ sidewalk case, for shock or cuteness. Poop is really a children’s word, and hence permissible in haiku, according to me anyway (if it’s good for kids, it’s good for adults). I come from that generation where the f-word was not used so freely as it is today. Even among us high schoolers and college brats, we didn’t say it except in very special occasions; it was simply too dirty. I still maintain that attitude. So Ellis’ thing is offensive to me. Yuasa’s rendering cleans up the sidewalk a bit, but the oder remains.

    for affect, she broke wind,
    for effect, I ran off
    hope she likes the blossoms

    We should remember that today as in Basho’s day, japanese does not have anywhere near the astounding number of dirty words as we have in english. So, Basho could give the blessing to haigon use in haiku; the inherent beauty of the form remained. Where is the beauty of a spent condom on the sidewalk? I cannot find it. It is just quick, loveless curbside sex. Is this the way to bring into modern haiku some newness, so as to avoid repetition?
    As I wrote before, I’m beginning to like squawking herons, if my only other choice is what Ellis is throwing up at us.

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