Fair Weather in May

The rainy season came early this year to Haruna (Gunma-ken), but we did have some fair weather in May. I wrote the following poems on such days. (Nobuyuki Yuasa)

五月晴れ野から薫風窓に入る
Fair weather in May—
A scented wind, blowing in
From the fields around.

五月晴れ瀬も堰も越え鮎上る
Fair weather in May—
Fighting the rapids and weirs
Ayu leap upstream.

柿若葉揺れて反射が目に染みる
Fresh persimmon leaves
Dancing, now dazzle my eyes
With their reflections.

一夜明け五月の浅間雪もなし
One morning in May,
Overnight the snow has gone
From Mt. Asama!

夏雲を背に飛び回る燕ろめ
Swallows have returned—
They draw circles and spirals
Against summer clouds.

Notes: ayu – sweetfish; Mt. Asama – active 2,568m volcano on Gunma-Nagano border.

Richard Steiner 50 Years Publication

A superb new full colour book has just come out from SAT Publications featuring 50 years of mokuhanga (woodprint) works by Icebox contributor and Hailstone book cover artist, Richard Steiner, also known as 刀斎 Tosai. The price of the book is 2,750 yen (including 10% tax). For Hailstone participants within Japan, the publishers will not charge postage (サービスです!) It is full of great design, lettering, humour and philosophy. Please consider supporting the artist? You will not regret it. Email order address is: sat-steiner”at”nifty.com

Here is a slideshow of some of the works in the book, mixed in with some of the book covers he has helped produce for Hailstone over the past two decades. For our own poetry book purchases, see our Publications page. Richard features as a poet in most of those, too!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Making a Zen Garden in the Cotswolds

This year, after wintering in Andalusia, I returned to the U.K. to start creating a dry landscape Zen garden, or karesansui. Gravel would represent water; raking marks, waves; and rocks might suggest islands or mountains. Areas of white gravel emptiness, to provide serenity. 

The site chosen was next to my pottery studio and anagama kiln in the middle of a field. It offers a beautiful vista into a neighboring meadow, which would soon become the shakkei, borrowed scenery forming the garden’s backdrop. I wanted to create a meandering flow of gravel with rocks, landscaped on either side with mounds of top-soil and a boundary of clumping bamboo. A crescent-shaped path of Scottish cobblestones would lead out into the field towards Japanese cherry trees. In the garden itself the planting scheme was going to be mostly evergreen – dwarf pines, miscanthus and other grasses. A stone lantern ishitoro and a stone washbasin tsukubai would provide focal points and lend Japanese atmosphere.  

The sound of water — . / . how miraculous . / . in the dry gravel garden! 

As the Zen garden project developed, we encountered problems in design — should there be tobi-ishi, stepping stones, going into the garden? Should there be hanashōbu, Japanese ensata irises, or momiji, acer palmatum? As it turned out, all three were omitted, in an acknowledgement that less is more.

The final piece in the creation of the garden was a conical pile of gravel, symbolic of Mount Fuji, placed where the garden merges into the English countryside.

A day of quiet gladness — . / . a cone of gravel rises . / . in the Cotswolds

Basho’s Painted Scroll ‘Nozarashi Kikō’ Comes to Light in Kansai

The Fukuda Museum in Arashiyama, Kyoto has just announced that it has acquired a scroll painted by Basho himself of his 野ざらし紀行 Nozarashi Kikō journey centred on Kansai in 1684-5. They will exhibit the 14-metre scroll for the first time 10/22-1/9, and Hailstone will no doubt plan an event to go and see the work. My fellow editor, Nobuyuki Yuasa, translated the piece for Penguin Classic as ‘The Records of a Weather-exposed Skeleton’. It was the first of Basho’s great haibun journeys, but the only one he illustrated completely himself. The scroll was known to exist, but its whereabouts had not been confirmed for half a century or more. The Museum had been contacted by an Osaka dealer who had suspected that the scroll could be the missing one.

.
The close-up shots of the scroll (each can be enlarged by clicking), clockwise from top centre show, respectively, Hakone, Yoshino, Kuwana, Tōdaiji’s Nigatsudō (in Nara), and Narutaki (in Kyoto). To give a flavour of the written account itself, here are some of Basho’s haiku inscribed adjacent to each of these illustrations:

(HAKONE: Kirishigure / fuji o minu hi zo / omoshiroki) . Misty rain / hides the view of Mt. Fuji… / yet still I’m spellbound!

(YOSHINO: Kinuta uchite / ware ni kikase yo / bō ga tsuma) . Beat your fulling-block / so I may enjoy its sound, please / wife of the temple priest

(KUWANA: Akebono ya / shirauo shiroki / koto issun) . Before sunrise… / young icefish flashing white / just one inch long

(NARA: Mizutori ya / kōri no sō no / kutsu no oto) . Water-drawing Ceremony – / cold sound of monks’ clogs / pounding the wooden floor

(NARUTAKI: Ume shiroshi / kinō wa tsuru o / nusumareshi) . Plums in white blossom, / but the crane’s absence might tell of / its kidnap yesterday!

It is also worth noting that a newly found scroll by Buson of Basho’s 奥の細道 Oku no Hosomichi travel sketch will be shown for the very first time at the Kyoto National Museum from June 14 to July 18 this year. Of the existing Buson scrolls on this subject, this is apparently the oldest.

‘Unbecome’ publication announcement by Branko

Hello everyone,

This is to let you know I have just published a poem in four acts in collaboration with a US poet, Jerry Gordon. The chapbook is called ‘Unbecome’.

We have privately made a total of 20 copies (10 apiece). Each book has a unique cover, hand painted using a special technique, and is hand-sewn.  I thought you or someone from haiku class might be interested in purchasing one? If anyone is interested, please let me know through the reply (comments) box below or email me (cacti”at”live.co.uk), as there are only 5 copies left (1000 yen per copy).  A sample of this book will be available to inspect at the next few Hailstone seminars in Osaka and Kyoto. 

Click on either photo to enlarge. Here’s an excerpt from a review by Stephen Gill:

“A renga-like dialogue for two (ryougin 両吟 in Jap.), I like the way it links and moves on. We have to uncover a hidden story/character development dictated by arbitrary means imposed by structure (pre-determined rules) while letting imagination have full play […] The work is a success in as much as I think it does actually exert a pull on the reader to find out what’s going on, where we’re heading, what conclusions to draw. Building a future with two pens. Tonally, it’s very good, too. On the downside, it’s very cryptic and varies in tone from ultimate philosophical sincerity to virtual insincerity (or at least bravura, having a good time with words). This left me wondering what a ‘roller coaster’ is beyond simply a hell of a ride and an adrenaline rush. The answer perhaps is that it occasionally gives you good views (insights). Your work does this, too.”

Cheers,

Branko