Archive for July, 2012

Shimmering Pavements

Posted in Event report, Renga with tags on July 29, 2012 by david mccullough

A shisan renku consisting of twelve verses that follow the progress of the seasons. The linked verse was composed at ‘Kaze no Ma’ (Room of Breezes) after a composition stroll through the heat and squalls of early summer in the eastern hills of Kyoto. Eleven poets took part and all contributed to this linked verse.

Shimmering pavements –
forgotten stones of the city
reflecting the sky

The rickshaw man
just waiting for a heavy shower

Birdsong rings
over the poet’s hut,
dripping eaves

Lifted on a breeze
the scent of boiling mushrooms

At nightfall
a gang of trolls comes forth
to worship the moon

Rabbits hide themselves
among the pampas grass

Seeking the meaning
in this shared cup
of steaming chocolate

Couples along the river
snuggle beneath frozen stars

The highest branch:
tenderly preening each other,
two crows

No traces are left
on the softening path

Ancient marble statues
reveal their eyes:
blue veronica

Deep in meditation
the reading lamp fails.

participants (random order): David McCullough (sabaki), Tito (shuhitsu), Keiko Yurugi (host), Toshi Ida, Mayumi Kawaharada, Michael Lambe, Masako Fujie, Kittredge Stephenson, Hitomi Suzuki, Yoshiharu Kondo, and Peter MacIntosh.


Posted in Challenge!, Haiku, Summer on July 22, 2012 by Tito


A downpour through leaves –
Unexplained scientifically
The lacquerware saucer flies!

(for David McC., Higashiyama, Kyoto, 21.7.12)

Imminent Rain

Posted in Haiqua, Summer on July 8, 2012 by david mccullough


out of the rivermist –

one hawk
another hawk
then the thunderclap.

The Sound of Water (IV): Lakes & Ponds 2. Lake Biwa

Posted in Haibun on July 6, 2012 by sosui

. Lake Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan. It was created by an ancient movement of the Earth’s crust. It has many rivers running into it, but only one outlet, which has several names: Setagawa as it flows out of the lake, Ujigawa as it passes by the famous temple Byodoin, and Yodogawa as it flows through Osaka. If you look at this river on a map, you might wonder about its rather tortuous course. Scientists say that originally this river ran into Ise Bay, but as the Suzuka Mountain Range rose higher and higher, it caused a change in its course. Its proximity to Nara and Kyoto makes this lake very important in many ways – political, religious, and economic. Basho loved this lake, as the following poem testifies:

At the end of spring
 I deplored its departure
 With my Omi friends.

Kyorai (1651~1704) has an interesting comment on this poem. Apparently Shohaku (1650~1722) criticized his master’s poem by saying, “Omi could easily be changed to Tanba or any other place.” To this, Kyorai answered, “No, that is not true. Omi is the best place to bid farewell to spring because mist over the lake helps us to deplore its departure.” Basho is reported to have sided with Kyorai by saying, “I agree. Many ancients, too, wrote poems about departing spring in Omi, no less than in Kyoto.” I believe this report shows that Basho had a special attachment to Omi, especially Lake Biwa. In Sarumino, an anthology published in 1671, a short preface is added to this poem, saying that it was written at Karasaki, which is a beautiful spot on the southwestern side of the lake. This place has long been famous for its Pine-tree. Even today, we can see a pine that stretches its arms in all directions. The Pine-tree of Basho’s time was a generation prior to the present one and much bigger. Basho’s poem runs:

 Dimmer than the cherries,
 The Pine-tree of Karasaki
 Hazed in thick mist.

. Kyorai recorded an interesting comment about this poem, too. Kikaku (1661~1707) is reported to have criticized his master’s hokku by saying, “The way the poem ends with にて (ni-te) makes it more suitable for the third verse. I wonder why our master has made it a hokku.” Kyorai admits that Kikaku has a point, but insists that the poem should be taken as a piece of pure description, and that it is indeed suitable as a hokku as it is.
. Not far from Karasaki, we have another celebrated spot, Katada, where there is an ancient shrine, Ukimido, standing out in the lake. Basho wrote a beautiful hokku here.

 Unbar the door
 And invite the moon to shine
 Into this floating shrine.

When I visited the shrine, its entrance door was open, and all the shining statues housed in it were looking out on the lake as if praying for its safety. Beyond the far shore, I could see the comely cone of Mt. Mikami, about which Basho wrote the following poem:

 Like the heavenly swan,
 Heron, bridge the snowy mountains,
 Hira and Mikami.

Mt. Hira and Mt. Mikami are on opposite sides of the Lake, so Basho is telling the heron to fly across the water like the legendary swan which soars across the Milky Way once a year to bring together the stars of the Two Lovers, the Cowherd (Altair) and the Weaver (Vega). I am impressed by the scale and warmth of Basho’s vision in this poem.

(to be continued…)

* Lake Biwa area ; ** area to the northwest of Kyoto