Snow Kukai

The Snow Kukai event held on March 8th turned out to be a very pleasurable afternoon. 14 poets gathered in the gorgeous pond-side setting of Shusuitei villa in Kyoto Gyoen to share and discuss snow-themed haiku submitted by no less than 24 different people.

David McCullough won first prize for his snow haiku. With 8 votes, it proved the most popular of those entered:

snow falls softly
onto the river —
last train passing by

Runners-up, both with 6 votes, were:

endless snow… …………………………………… Excavated remains —
I break the froth ……………………………….. into the postholes,
in a cup of cappuccino ………………………. snowflakes
….. (Yaeno Azuchi) …………………………………… (Keiko Yurugi)

Next, two poems that received 5 votes:

daybreak… …………………………………………. In the freezing rain
the muffled sound ……………………………… an old man living alone
of a raging snowstorm ………………………. picking peach blossoms
….. (Duro Jaiye) …………………………………………. (Yoshiharu Kondo)

And 3-pointers:

silky snow ………………………………………….. Lunchtime strollers
left on old tree — ………………………………. squint into the sun’s glare —
the clouds begin to break …………………. first snow flurries
….. (Akihiko Hayashi) ………………………………. (Jun Tsutsumi)

a morning of the cottage
everything with snow —
a straight track by a tiny hare
….. (Teruko Yamamoto)

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Poems that got 2 votes were:

oh no ……………………………………………………. snow vanishes…
snow in the deck-chair again ………………. as though an hour ago
insisting it’s winter ………………………………. never existed …..
….. (Ann Mari Urwald) ……………………………….. (Branko Manojlovic)

Twilight Venus
over the mowed garden —
the first snow
….. (Kiyoko Ogawa)

Poems with 1 vote were by: William Sorlien, Tito, Hisashi Miyazaki, Hiroko Nakakubo, Ursula Maierl, Kyoko Nozaki, and Eiko Mori. Alas, we didn’t have enough time to talk about these.

The event was well organized by Yaeno Azuchi and Tomiko Nakayama. Tito introduced the kukai, using snow haiku by Shiki, Meisetsu and Issa, and later gave the prize, a handmade Indian book for writing haiku. Branko Manojlovic debuted as discussion coordinator. He came up with the following haiku written during a tea break:

Still pond
touched by sunlight —
sharing snow haiku

Salt Rock

Slankamen (lit. ‘Salt-rock’) is a port village sandwiched, like a slice of ham (today roasted), between precipitous loess hills and an inlet of the Danube, where the water hardly moves at all. Mum and I approach the village on a descending serpentine road incised into brittle, yellowish sediments. Alas, no chance to stop the car to take in the postcard view… of red-tiled houses, boats and small yachts dotting the bay, and a church spire dominating the village as might a German governess.

Ten minutes later, we are pacing along the riverside. The Danube is teeming with swans, gulls, pigeons, ducks. The birds have found their cool respite.

We come across a man in an orange baseball cap, checked shirt, slacks and tall rubber boots. He has just locked up his small, shabby boathouse and is now on the move: in his left hand, a sizeable shopping bag. All smiles, as he gives us a rundown of the village’s main points of interest.

‘We’re looking for a weekend house to buy’, I say. ‘There seem to be plenty of empty ones’.

The man points at a couple of houses across the street, says they are on sale.

‘That one over there? 25 grand, the asking price. But, if you ask me, I’d forget it’. Indeed, the broken windows and heavy patina speak of decades of neglect.

‘Must be off now’, the man says. ‘Hunters’ meeting to attend.’

I sneak a look into his bag: it is filled with bottles of the local ‘Deer Beer’. I begin to wonder about this ‘hunters’ meeting’ on such a scorching afternoon.

‘So, what do you hunt in these parts, then?’

‘Partridge, hare, duck. You name it!’

The heat is relentless: Mum, now so dazed by sunlight she forgets where we are walking to.  At last, the floating restaurant, ‘Quay’, with a terrace overlooking the stagnant inlet and its legions of birds.

As Mum and I gorge on pan-fried perch, a large fish jumps from the Danube’s muddy shallows, each time falling back with a loud splash. I sense it may be pleading, ‘Hey, that’s my cousin you’re eating there!’

 

From time to time

the flap of outstretched wings –

a windless afternoon


Onions

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The Onion Field …………………………………………. by Dimitar Anakiev
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If you happen to be walking in the northern part of Kyoto, known as Kitayama, you may notice near the Botanical Gardens a middle-aged man watching over an onion field located right beside his house. His name is Branko Manojlovic, a Serbian poet who has been living in Kyoto for quite some time now. Although the onion is an essential part of Serbian culture – I can’t recall a dish that has no onions in it – these were planted not by Branko but by a nameless neighbour. Two years have already passed since the planting, yet the onion is still unharvested.

I, too, was taken with this field. During my stay in Branko’s house, I watched it every day from the window of my room: a field that through its very existence seemed to hint at something that, although not obvious, was at the same time significant.
Looking out of the window – the onion field still wet after rain – I wrote a haiku:

In its second year
onion languishing – who will
come and harvest it?

At breakfast, Branko looked moody and with dark bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. As I was stirring my tea with a questioning expression he swigged his coffee in a hurry and, before going off to work, handed me a folded piece of paper: “Last night’s haiku”, he said. After he left I opened the paper, it read:

Unable to get back
to sleep… the onion field
lashed by storm

I noticed that Branko had a special relationship with the onion field, but we did not discuss it. One afternoon I noticed him pacing about the field as though looking over each stem, each green leaf that was pointing toward the sky. The following morning, I got another piece of paper that read:

A group photograph:
we are the onions
hanging under eaves

I myself wrote haiku on the subject of onions, which seemed to have dominated our thoughts and emotions. On the other side of the street, where the bus no. 4 was passing, I noticed a small Shinto shrine set there perhaps because of some superstitious belief. Like some Christian chapels, such shrines would often have been established by local people, and this particular one was leaning against a neighbour’s house.
When I was leaving Kyoto, I left Branko this haiku:

In Kitayama
the onion field watched over
by some Shinto god

I do not know if this field still exists today. If by chance it does, I’ll bet Branko is keeping an eye on it.

 

 

Onions …………………………………………………………. by Branko

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Out of snow
green tails of onion stalks
slicing the wind

*
How past repair
this aging onion field…
how the umbels
still hold on for bees
and swooping swallows!

*
By the field’s edge
he glances left and right,
uproots an onion,
stuffs it in the plastic bag
together with his conscience

Renga: ‘As Close to Triglav’

P1150717 triglav houses medium

Evening, 9 Sept. 2018, Radovljica, Slovenia; a linked verse co-edited by Stephen Gill (Tito), Dimitar Anakiev (Kamesan) & Branko Manojlovic; based partly on a long journey made between summer and autumn. Footnotes are appended.

.

As close to Triglav1
as we could be …
a cloud or two apart

Tito

Autumn begins: my
two guests were looking for a church
but they found me

Kamesan

In the mountain breeze
a campanula2 has turned
deep gentian blue

Branko

To my pen as I write
atop the peak —
hoverfly

Tito

Very long ginko3
jotting down poetry
using a goldenrod4

Kamesan

Sun-ignited clouds
weighing into
the Julian Alps5

Branko

Lying on its side
on a carpet of grass,
a foal in bliss

Tito

Snails, cats and me —
in the kiwi garden today
friends from Kyoto

Kamesan

The slower path:
deep in forest
spindle6 berries

Branko

A sea wind
blowing through the belfry,
the bells almost tone

Tito

It’s getting colder —
next to a Communist shrine
the Crucifixion

Kamesan

Here Soča7 ran red
with soldiers’ blood …
kids throwing stones

Branko

The pale weeping tree
planted above
my white dog’s8 grave

Tito

Hard for me to grasp
the vanishing of a world:
yerba buena9

Kamesan

Imagine the bulging eyes
that first spied these
viridian lakes10

Branko

Wavering beneath me
through sun-dappled shallows,
faces of mosaic saints

Tito

My big moustache
too wild it got this morning —
the street is so steep

Kamesan

Through the hushed arteries
of ancient Piran11
to its very heart

Branko

A pair of flip-flops
left at the base of the olive —
a story awaits

Tito

Those xenophobic
mosquitoes: bite after bite
for fugitives

Kamesan

In Lika valley12
dark-eyed Syrians — a wary
herd of deer

Branko

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Footnotes:
1 Mt. Triglav, highest mountain in Slovenia (and former Yugoslavia), 2864m, visible at rear left in the photo
2  campanula, bellflower
3 ginko, haiku composition stroll
4 goldenrod, tall yellow-flowered genus, solidago, mostly from N. America
5 Julian Alps, easternmost range in the Alps, stretching from Italy into Slovenia
6 spindle, pink-berried shrub genus, euonymous
7 Soča, river flowing to the Adriatic from the Julian Alps, scene of First World War fighting between Italy and Austro-Hungarian Empire
8 white dog, a spaniel from upland Nepal named Gabbitas, buried in England
9 yerba buena, spearmint
10 viridian lakes, Plitvice Lakes in Croatia
11 Piran, old port town in Slovenian Istria
12 Lika, region of central Croatia, bordering northern Bosnia-Herzegovina

P1150613 poets on Talež medium

The Snow Quest

Bright snowy mountains
came into my eyes –
silent morning
……………………. Mayumi K.

Prior to Sunday February 12th, Kyoto had seen intermittent snow for two days and nights, much of the city having been shrouded in white. A poetic adventure invariably on his mind, it didn’t take long for Tito to come up with an idea for a snow-viewing meet at two famous ponds in Saga. In spite of very short notice, six haiku wanderers showed up on what turned out to be a mostly dry and breezy Sunday. The snowfall, alas, had petered out by the early morning hours. All we were left with was white mountain-tops and an occasional patch of unmelted snow to marvel at along the way.

The shrine grove
still holding snow –
the wicked sun
……………………. Titoosawa-pond-snow

Four of us started our walk at Daikaku-ji in Ukyo ward, where a small shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane (Tenjin-san), the Japanese God of Poetry, sits on an island in Osawa Pond.

Praying for snow
before a toneless bell
of Tenjin-san
……………………. Branko

Nearby, a plum orchard, barely in bloom, was a welcome sight.

a day of teasing snow –
the small white buds
on this plum tree
……………………. Duro

b-w-tomiko-mayumi-ume-orchardYears ago, Tito used to live just around the corner from Daikaku-ji and, needless to say, knows the surrounding area like the back of his hand. He was kind enough to provide us with lots of information on local history, both ancient and recent. One such point of interest was a group of burial mounds (‘Kitasaga Shichi Kofun’) dotting the rural landscape of vegetable plots and rice-fields. After clawing our way to the top of one such tumulus, we were astonished to find a great number of badger burrows, some of them freshly dug. From each emanated a strong animal scent, and it was safe to say the nocturnal creatures were better off inside the mound than we were, standing frozen on its windy top.

Below the frost line
the ancient tomb
reclaimed by badgers
……………………. Branko

p_20170212_111844_vhdr_in-the-fields-ab

Without restraint
beating its own drum:
a speedwell
out-of-season
……………………. Tomiko

More plodding through the  fields, soggy with snow-melt, and the four who began at Daikaku-ji eventually reached Hirosawa Pond … for a perfectly timed rendezvous with Hitomi and Duro (Gerald). This pond is emptied every December and was that day still partly water-less, a landscape dotted with wading birds foraging across the shallows and mudflats.

Hirosawa Pond –
left and right
high over fish shadows
an osprey hovering
…………………….. Hitomi

a famous pond
drained for the winter –
such hollow dreams
…………………….. Duro

Our final stop was a rather stylish Japanese restaurant, a 15-minute walk from Hirosawa Pond. Have you ever dined at a place frequented by members of royal families? Well, apparently this was such a place! On the walls, large photos recorded visits from the Cambodian and Burmese Royal Families, those of Mongolian dignitaries, and even one from a Ugandan chieftain.

Looking at
framed pictures of royalty …
my oyster curry arrives
……………………. Tito

After a lengthy meal and a productive and fun haiku sharing, we had a group photo taken in the garden outside. No sooner had we said goodbye, than snow began to fall again!

* click on any photo to see it enlarged *p_20170212_154858_vhdr_the-dirty-half-dozen-abchirosawa-osprey-feb-12-2017b

Meandering

For more than ten years now, each summer I have gone back to Serbia, the place of my birth. This summer, my family took a four-day trip to the southwest of the country. On the third day we found ourselves at the Special Natural Reserve, ‘Uvac’. My son and I joined a boat tour along its famous meanders, the longest of its kind in Europe. The emerald body of water snakes its way through the Uvac Canyon for some 25 kilometres. The tour took five hours, yet it was probably the quickest five hours of my life.

Our first stop was at the so-called ‘Ice Cave’. The name does it justice, as it was very chilly indeed, but the cave’s mysterious beauty more than made up for this.

………. The cave floor –
………. as if petrified Buddhas
………. stirred in our torchlight

Our second port of call was the foot of a hill, from where we had to climb a narrow forest path. Young and old, weak and strong, we all reached the viewpoint with only minor scratches. And there was a sight to behold: the meandering Canyon beneath us, in all its glory, last sanctuary of the majestic Griffon vulture.

As we were climbing down toward the boat, I overheard someone saying, as if reading my own mind: ‘May this reserve remain intact forever’.

………. Cruising along 
………. Uvac’s meanders –
………. a
 vulture’s regal flight

 

Pink Showers

It seems this year’s cherry blossoms had held on a little longer than usual. Perhaps they did so for the benefit of the ten Hailstone poets who attended the flower ginko event at Kyoto Botanical Gardens and Kamo River on April 10th. Anyway, we’d like to think so.

Loosely organized by Ursula and Branko, the late morning and early afternoon were spent at Kyoto Shokubutsuen, the oldest and the most comprehensive public botanical gardens in Japan. A bit surprising then that most poets in our group had never visited it! Since B. is the proud owner of an annual pass to the Gardens, he was a logical choice to guide the poets around, suggesting routes and beauty spots.

KC4F0042We started off at the Tulip Garden near the North Gate. There, we encountered a newly-wed couple, their every step followed by a hired photographer. This sight is not uncommon at the Gardens. What was unusual, though, was that they were evidently not Japanese (probably Korean or Chinese), for their super-relaxed behaviour went hand-in-hand with non-conventional, brown attire!

…….. A fungus wedding dress:
…….. falling sakura
…….. confetti
…………………… Branko

We strolled on, occasionally pausing by this or that plant or tree for a haiku-inspiring moment. The highlights included:
a suikinkutsu (literally ‘water zither cave’), a place where one can listen through a bamboo stalk to water trickling inside a jug buried underground;KC4F0043
the Cherry Garden where, besides cherry blossoms, a Chinese redbud (Cercis chinensis) caught our attention;

…….. brimstone butterfly
…….. zigzags among
…….. weeping cherry blossoms
…………………… Eiko

…………………………………… Right through
…………………………………… The magenta redbud shrub …
…………………………………… Cherry petals streaming
…………………………………………………. Tito

the Lotus Pond, with its withered seed pods;

…….. brown and broken
…….. lotus stems –
…….. the muddy pond
…………………… UrsulaKC4F0031

a waterwheel that somehow rotated too fast for one propelled only by a tenuous stream of water from above;

…….. a maple seedling –
…….. how it trembles
…….. perched just above
…….. the waterwheel!
……………………. Hitomi 

and the Perennial Garden, where we all gathered by a lilac daphne (Daphne genkwa). Each of us took a sniff at its strikingly purple flowers, whose scent, Tito proposed, was that of an iced-sugar lump.

…………………………………… Daphnes bloom –
…………………………………… a yellow butterfly flits around
…………………………………… the spring garden
…………………………………………………. Akito

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter leaving the Shokubutsuen, we dropped into a nearby supermarket and, armed with bento-boxes,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA headed toward the Kamo River. There, we found a cosy spot on its east bank, where we ate, drank and discussed our haiku drafts. We were joined there by Richard D.

As we were preparing to leave, a sudden gust of wind brought about a hanafubuki, a pale-pink cherry blizzard.

…………………. Cherry petals
…………………. gently raining
…………………. on a poet’s palm
…………………………………… Branko

* Click on any photo to enlarge *

Autumn Haike 2015

Compared with last year’s Autumn Haike–-a four-day muscle-straining event on and around Mt. Tsubakurodake in Nagano–-this year’s, held on October 31st, was a low-key affair, and a very pleasant one at that: a day’s climb up and down Mt. Bunagatake, one of Japan’s 二百名山 (200 Famous Mountains). Its popular trail begins about an hour’s drive to the northeast of Kyoto city.

Following some last-minute cancellations and adjustments, we find ourselves a party of nine, arriving from different directions (Kyoto, Osaka and Shiga) huddled, respectively, into three vehicles. Five of us travel in a van: Stephen (driver), his wife Kazue, Richard Donovan, Kumiko and myself. At about 9:40 we pull into the car park, nestled in the gorgeous Hosonogawa valley. We seem to be the last to get here and are promptly told the car park is full! Stephen gives it a try anyway, and after some wheeling around the lot, he spots a narrow opening between two SUV’s. The van just fits!

We put on our hiking gear, double-check the contents of rucksacks, adjust the length of trekking poles, take a sip of water for luck. As promised, Stephen lends me his wooden stick, and, for the day at least, I fancy myself a wandering Bashō.

Before starting the ascent, we walk past some pretty wooden houses. A woman is washing daikon radishes in a clear stream. We proceed over a red wooden bridge and past some maple trees beginning to turn orange.

The path is suddenly constricted by the low buildings of Myōō-in temple. Here, there is a water-basin (chōzubachi), enveloped in moss, and a moss-capped lantern (ishidōrō). Under an eave of the main sanctuary hangs a massive hornets’ nest no one dares approach. Some of our hikers are already moving up the hill, so the rest of us try to catch up, only to realize this mountain is not to be taken lightly!

Fluffy dog:
an all-important guide
up the staircase slope

……………………………. Kumiko

P1010223 stephen rich

Bright leaves on the ridge —
there is one mikan
deep in my pack
……………………………. Richard

P1010268 leaves

Making a dash
across fallen red maples …
a monkey brat!
……………………………. Tito

a bright tinted beech forest
after the dark cedar slope:
Pocari-Sweat!
……………………………. Hisashi

It takes most of us two hours of trekking through dense woodland to reach the top of Gotenyama. Here, at long last, we are able to appreciate panoramic views.

not lonely at all
but filled with a hum of voices,
autumnal peak
……………………………. Hisashi

Five of our entourage choose to remain here, while the ‘shifters’ trek on towards Mt. Bunagatake’s crest. I stay with the ‘loungers’, blaming my untrained legs. We savour lunch packs as rays of sunshine warm our wind-thumped backs.

P1010303 writer

The windy summit…
you walk over, slide the hood
over my shaven head
……………………………. Branko

On their return from Bunagatake peak, the ‘shifters’ tell us of a 360-degree vista which included the vast blue expanse of Lake Biwa. They have even witnessed the celebrity, Youki Tanaka, summitting, together with a camera crew, no. 184 of the 200 Famous Mounts he is running up.

KC4F0069

 

 

The descent–often the more perilous part of tackling a mountain–shows us the world in a rather different light.

KC4F0073

A bending cedar
creaks like a rusty door:
and I’d thought that trees
couldn’t speak!
……………………………. Branko

We notice photos of a hiker gone missing a week or two ago pinned here and there along the trail. He’s probably in his late fifties, and his face looks grim. What on earth could have happened to him?

To an uprooted tree
still clinging onto
its root-trapped stones,
Halloween breeze
……………………………. Tito

Apart from minor slips, the descent goes smoothly… and, one by one, all of us reach the valley floor in one piece. As the sun sinks behind the western mountain ridge, the temperature suddenly drops. At Chizuru’s recommendation, we drive off to a restaurant in Katata: an opportunity to revitalize and share some of the day’s haiku.

On the way back home, winding along the pitch-black mountain roads, some of us remember ghost stories. Just ask Kazue. She will surely tell you a spine-chilling one!

Belek Diary – Day 5

Today we take a roundabout way to the beach. At the outset, the mostly concrete path is walkable. The flora left and right ranges from oriental hickory to soft-needled pine to all kinds of fern and thicket. There are cacti in bloom, green banana clusters, sweet-scented citron trees, all looking sharp and well looked after.

As we move closer to the coast though, the vegetation grows wilder, messier. We pace down a footpath flanked by a freeform hedge that has forgotten the last time it was trimmed. There is an odd, rhythmical sound coming from behind dense leafage to the left: difficult to pinpoint its source. I mention to Luke that it was here the other day that I had seen a couple of large grey seabirds. ‘It looks as if here might have crept all sorts of furry paws’, I say. The next thing we know, a huge—and I mean huge—rat hurries down the track in front of our very noses, promptly vanishing under the hedge.

…….. A rodent scuttling
…….. across the path – appearing
…….. double size!

The by-now unsettling noise does not cease with the rat’s disappearance. In fact, it seems to be getting louder: schrum…schrum…SCHRUM… Is there a whole army of belligerent beasts lying in ambush? And what if they decided to go for an all-out attack! Oh boy, are we relieved once we reach the end of the footpath when rows of lawn sprinklers suddenly come into view.

…….. Here the ocean breeze
…….. and loose sand, our legs
…….. our only guide

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Footnote: Belek is a coastal village near Antalya in southern Turkey.