Some background about the British haibun tradition

An interesting article has appeared in the e-zine, Haibun Today. It is called ‘Transmissions of Haibun’ and is penned by David Cobb. In it, he makes the point that at present Japan is rediscovering haibun as an import from abroad (a bold claim, but not without a grain of truth, as so very, very few use the term in Japan today). One exception is perhaps Toshinori (Nenten) Tsubouchi, who has been encouraging the genre these past few years using Japanese language, partly under the stimulus of Hisashi Miyazaki, who in turn was influenced by SHG (Tito) and Ken Jones (both of Britain). At the head of all this sits Nobuyuki Yuasa, whose translations of Basho’s travel haibun (kikobun) and writings on the subject of haiku prose helped to transplant the Japanese tradition to the West. Haibun Contests like the Kikakuza and the Genjuan have been largely the brainchild of NY, too. David’s is not a very long article. If interested in haibun, perhaps you should take a look?

Hirosawa Pond Ginko & Sean’s Farewell Concert

Kyoto, Nov. 4. Hitomi Suzuki hosted a composition stroll (吟行ginko) round Hirosawa Pond in northwest Kyoto. P1210523-Clearing after rain. Reddening persimmon and maple leaves. Traces of nocturnal animals. Waterbirds galore. Priest Zuigen 瑞元of Inkuji Temple 印空寺 welcomed us in and showed us how to write with a pointed pebble on the back of the leaves of his 300-year-old tarayou タラヨウtree (also known as hagaki no ki 葉書の木). Used to write on before the invention of paper, or so we were told. Diagonal rays of afternoon sun. Past ancient cherries, reed-beds and flowering tea bushes – petite, white, with golden stamen bursts and an Earl Grey scent. John spotted a heronry at the foot of graceful Chiyoharayama (“Saga Fuji” according to Hitomi). Sean and Junko joined us for tea and haiku sharing at the Suzukis’ home – triple-decker cake stand crowned with sugared kumquats. A few of the haiku composed:

….. We gathered
….. At the postcard tree,
….. Then wrote poems
….. On its leaves
…………………………………….. Tito


….. Deer footprints…
….. Zipper-like
….. They dot the lane
……………………………………… Hitomi Suzuki

….. Wind changing
….. The shape of stripes
….. White, blue, green —
….. Surface of the pond
…………………………………….. Hisako Kutsuki

….. Far from the world’s care,
….. The expanse of Saga’s fields…
….. A place to breathe deep
…………………………………….. John McAteer

And on went some of us to Tree of Repose in Saga, where Kazue Gill was waiting with spring rolls, elderflower cordial and Stephen provided roast Ogura venison. P1210547a-Irish singer, Sean O’Connor, then entertained the gathering of evening poets with a traditional Tipperary home recital, adding some pieces specially for Belfast-born David, whose eyes were seen to glisten in the autumn night. In the interval, John McAteer read to us from Yeats. Gratitude to Sean and Junko, who bothered to come to Kyoto to say goodbye to their haiku friends here. At the end of the evening a bouquet of flowers was presented to Sean by Tito on behalf of the dozen or so assembled… and indeed those further Hailstone poets who would have liked to have come and may be reading this now. Godspeed back to the Emerald Isle.

….. Tonight’s moon unseen
….. a house lamp glowing deeper
….. in the pond’s last light
……………………………………. Sean O’Connor

Umbrella Party

a haibun by Bo Lille, Denmark

. Typhoon no. 26 is on its way.
. It is raining and the temperature has fallen from 30 to 15 degrees on this October day, as we walk up the Atago Pilgrims’ Path towards Kyorai’s hut. Our umbrellas are dripping with words, and we are both getting wet. A wetness we like. Learned and nice. We smile.
. Stephen-san quotes fine Japanese poems, mostly tankas and haikus, for he teaches literature at University; and I quote Goethe’s Ein Gleiches, the wonderful poem that marks this finest German poet’s famous turn from the “Sturm und Drang” to the “Classic”. Amongst green mountains Stephen points out places of literary interest.
. Words are dripping. We are dripping. We are smiling. There is Basho in the air; Basho, and other poets besides. Typhoon no. 26 is drawing near, but we are smiling.Japan 2013 Basho og templer 213-
. At Kyorai’s hut, we take a composition stroll. I am stunned by the bamboo boar-scarer, a cunning device that makes a regular “click!” and keeps the wild hogs away. I am also fond of the old trees, and the old Japanese style house. Afterwards, we sit down separately, writing notes for haikus. I sit at the doorstep and look at Kyorai’s persimmon tree which has already, much too early, lost its fruits. I think of the story of Kyorai’s persimmons – how he had sold them to a rich merchant, then lost them in a typhoon, and finally had had to pay the money back to the merchant. A sad story of riches that never came to the poor poet. Only a short whiff of money. I wonder if it is the very same tree.

Kyorai’s persimmons —
their dreams falling to the ground
the tree coughs

. We go up into the village for a cup of coffee and cakes sweetened with fresh haikus. Typhoon 26 is approaching. The rain and wind are gaining strength. Poems are dripping from our umbrellas as we go down the path to the station and say good-bye.
. A little later, a friendly Japanese gentleman helps me to my hotel. I leave my umbrella in the umbrella stand and go to my room no. 102 for a cup of tea.
. Typhoon 26 is near.