Archive for February, 2018

Haiku Requiems

Posted in Haiku, Japanese Classic, Music with tags on February 11, 2018 by Tito
.. Following the inclusion of a long haiku sequence, ‘Singing Carmina Burana‘, in our most recent book, Persimmon, some of you might be interested to learn that a few of your singing poet friends are now enrolled to perform Faure’s Requiem with the Kyoto Muse Choir this July. Deadline for enrolment is March 2.
.. Practising, I was reminded of another beautiful, currently popular Requiem: one by British composer, Karl Jenkins. Its first performance was in London in 2005, so it is 21st Century music, but 5 of its 13 movements are based on Japanese haiku-style death poems (辞世) by, respectively,
.. Gozan 吾山 (Koshigaya, 18th cent.) in movement 3: The snow of yesterday / that fell like cherry blossoms / is water once again 花と見し雪はきのふぞもとの水
.. Issho 一笑 (Kanazawa, 17th, disciple of Basho) in 6: From deep in my heart / how beautiful are / the snow clouds in the west 心から雪うつくしや西の雲
.. Hokusai 北斎 (Edo, 18-19th, ukiyo-e artist) in 8: Now as a spirit / I shall roam / the summer fields 人魂(ひとだま)で 行く気散じや 夏野原 
.. Chiyo-ni 千代尼 (Matto, Kaga, 18th, most famous haiku poetess) in 10: Having seen the moon / even I take leave of this life / with a blessing 月も見て我はこの世をかしく哉 
.. and Banzan 晩山 (Kyoto 17-18th) in 12: Farewell / I pass, as all things do, / like dew on the grass まめでゐよ身はならはしの草の露
and are sung in Japanese, the last two with traditional Latin Requiem words woven in! If your interest or time is limited, just listen to those 5 haiku-based movements from the complete work. Surely, it is a successful blending of West and East. There is a shakuhachi 尺八 and taiko 太鼓 in there, too. English translations are from Hoffmann’s book, Japanese Death Poems, which is where Jenkins probably found them, too.
.. There are one or two live performances of this haiku-replete Requiem available on YouTube, but nothing special. The studio version you can listen to here is well performed by a choir and orchestra in Kazakhstan! Best to copy and paste the link below into a parallel tab; then you can look at the haiku here and think of the poets while you listen …
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Persimmons – part 2

Posted in Autumn, Haibun with tags on February 3, 2018 by sosui

. Nowadays I feel persimmons may be losing their popularity among consumers. Shops sell only a few varieties — two kinds of sweet persimmons called Fuyugaki (Prosperity Persimmons) and Jirogaki (Jiro Persimmons), and one kind of dried persimmon called Ichidagaki (Ichida Persimmons). Prosperity Persimmons are produced mainly in Gifu Prefecture, but they were originally developed from the Goshogaki (Imperial Palace Persimmons) very popular in Nara Prefecture. An enterprising Gifu farmer took a seedling back from Nara, planted it in his orchard and made further improvements. Mizuho City in Gifu Prefecture commemorates this with a stone monument, which reads “The birthplace of Prosperity Persimmons”. I am very fond of Prosperity Persimmons, and, whenever I see them in shops, I cannot resist the temptation to buy them. They are especially tasty just before they begin to mature. When they feel slightly soft, they are ready to eat, for it is then that they are at their sweetest and juiciest. Jiro Persimmons were originally developed in Mori Town in Shizuoka Prefecture. A farmer named Matsumoto Jirokichi found a young seedling on the bank of the Ota River and planted it in his back yard. It grew into a tree and bore fruits, but they tasted so awful that no one cared for them. When his neighbour’s house had a fire, the tree was burned down. But fresh buds appeared the following spring, and within a few years the tree began to bear fruit again. When Jirokichi tasted one of them, he was surprised how good it was. Thus a new variety was born, named ‘Jiro Persimmon’ after its owner, but strictly speaking, it was the product of an accident! Now they are widely produced aound Toyohashi in Aichi Prefecture. I think Jiro Persimmon is as good as its rival, Prosperity Persimmon, in size, colour and taste.
………………  Prosperity Persimmon —
………………  My mother is peeling it
………………  With her supple hands.
. Ichida Persimmons are produced in the village of Ichida in Nagano Prefecture (now a part of Takamori Town). They are relatively small dried persimmons, but very good in taste and colour. We have another kind of dried persimmon called Anpogaki, which look more like jelly because so much moisture is retained. They were originally made in Date City in Fukushima Prefecture, but now they are produced in other places as well, such as Wakayama and Toyama. What is common to the two types is that they are exposed to sulphur fumes in the manufacturing process. Perhaps because of this, they retain their beautiful orange colour. I live at the foot of Mt. Haruna, an area famous for plums, peaches and pears, but we also produce persimmons as a side line. In late autumn each year I buy big sour persimmons from a local grower and dry them. First I peel them, then hang them on strings to expose them to the sun. In several weeks, they will have a white powder on their surface and will be ready for eating. In sweetness, they are as good as Ichida and Anpo Persimmons, but, alas, they are black in colour and are rather difficult to make. If dried too long, they become hard, and if exposed to rain, they become mouldy. When they are well-made, however, I take special pleasure in eating them.
………………  The sunny orange
………………  Lines of drying persimmons —
………………  How they cheer the eaves!

(to be continued)