The First Hailstone, Michio Sano, 1927-2014

Early this year, Michio Sano of Yao, Osaka passed away and he is already greatly missed. He was one of my first haiku students (from 1996) and one of the strongest supporters at the inception of the Hailstone Haiku Circle in 2000. He co-edited the YBC haiku anthology, To Gigeiten. His grave is at Saishoji Temple in Ono, Fukui.

Firstly, then, let me share a few comments by his friends and admirers.

“I mourn for Sano-san. I was impressed with his tender-heartedness and his knowledge of ancient Japanese history.” (Keiko Yurugi)  “I imagine the excitement he must have felt composing haiku with and for an international group, not to mention giving his sensei from abroad insights that at those moments only he could do.” (John McAteer)  “宇宙をつかむかのような世界を表現するすてきなhaikuが多い … in many of his wonderful haiku he expressed a world in which it seems he has managed somehow to grasp space itself.” (Yoshiharu Kondo)  “Michio Sano’s news was very sad for me, too. I haven’t seen him for many years, but I still remember that he, Midori Inoue, Kei Goto and I sometimes used to go to a coffee shop after Gill-sensei’s lesson (at YBC in Namba). Michio 1It was great to make friends with a much older person.” (Mayumi Shigeta)  “He was a fine gentleman with wide knowledge. I pray for the peaceful repose of his soul.” (Hisashi Miyazaki)

And now, let us enjoy some of his English language haiku, the characteristics of which include humour, taking compositional risks, and an ability to juxtapose beautifully the present moment with a sense of history. Michio’s joy at working along the so-called ‘vertical axis’ is evident throughout.

Michio, for all you have taught me and given other poets along the way we walked together, thank you!

by a window ………………………….. Emperor Nintoku –
putting pampas grass ……………. at Mozuno, hunting pheasant
into a flask – …………………………. for his amusement
the agricultural lab

the great bare tree – ……………… the short night –
as if a net had been cast ……….. on and on and on I read
onto air …………………………………. ‘The Life of Kukai’

willow fluff snowing ……………….. long, long ago
to the beat of hooves …………….. an equestrian corps
……………………………………………….. had crossed these plains –
hailstorm … ……………………………. starlit night
to mountain village
decorated with frescoes …………  wind-pollinated
……………………………………………….. rice flowers –
gazing at the mountain …………. since Yayoi times
with its hidden story –
dusk cherry blossoms …………….. loquats ripening
………………………………………………… suggestively –
moonlit Lake Biwa ………………….. the statue of Artemis
has entered the rule …
of the White Emperor …………….. escaping
……………………………………………….. while describing a sine curve –
Xavier’s coffin …………………………. the earthworm
at rest on the hill:
Malacca Strait ………………………… wishing to add
in the haze …………………………….. to this painting by Munch
……………………………………………….. a red spider-lily

5 Responses to “The First Hailstone, Michio Sano, 1927-2014”

  1. Does nobody at all have any comment about Michio’s haiku? I think they are very fine.

  2. Yoshiharu Says:

    gazing at the mountain・・・This mountain will be Mt.Fuji,I think.And the hidden story will be Kono-hana-sakuyabime(木花咲耶姫)of anient Japanese myths.Kono-hana(木の花)means cherry blossoms.
    I think that Mr.Sano was gazing at Mt.Fuji and it reminded him of 「古事記(Kojiki)」when the chherry blossoms were their best then.Go-shintai(ご神体)ofMt.Fuji Hongu Asama Grand shrine(富士山本宮浅間大社)is Kono-hana-sakuyabime.What do you think my idea? I want to ask the author about this haiku,but….

    • Thank you for the comment. No one can answer your question, Yoshiharu. We first published the haiku in the ‘100 Poets on Mt. Ogura’ collection, as if it were of that mountain he was writing. He seemed happy about that. However, he might indeed have originally been thinking about Mt. Fuji, I suppose. Or even of one the ‘utamakura’ hills in Yamato, which are closer to his home. There are almost endless possibilities!

  3. Yoshiharu Says:

    Thank you for your comment. I also think that the mountain might be Mt. Futagami(二上山).I’d like to think about “the mountain with its hidden story.” I think Michio’s haiku have the deep meaning.

  4. Thanks for this selection of Michio’s English language haiku. I’m struck by Michio’s light touch.

    Several of the historical poems bring out an emotional connection with a cultural past I’m not familiar with. I think the past and the present intersect quite naturally in these poems.

    I’m a little familiar with Kukai. “the short night” reminds me of the stories i’ve heard about him spreading Shingon Buddhism throughout Japan. It also reminds me of walking, late at night, from one end of the giant graveyard on Mt Koya to the other end to reach his mausoleum.

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