Nagaoka-kyo ‘Vestiges’ Ginko-Kukai

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Robin Beshers ginko-ing

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At work on the Nagaoka-kyo site

On 27 September in Muko City, Kyoto, some of us took part in a linked event with the Haiku Bandit Society based in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. That day, Muko was bustling with bicycle racing fans, not to mention a band of six Hailstone poets. They were betting and we were composing.

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Toshi leads the imagination tour

In the lingering heat, we spent a few hours visiting the ruins of the ‘phantom’ capital of ancient Japan. There are almost no structural remains to look at: only a few plots of preserved ground and mounds covered with summer grass. This was going to be an imagination exercise!

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Willie, knees muddied with vestiges

After strolling around the site composing, and having eaten a soba lunch, we used a room in the Community Hall for a workshop, where we discussed which of our poems to send the Bandits. Some poets’ pens streamed smoothly, others sluggishly.

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Kneeless Tito and persimmon

Meanwhile, the Bandit poets were going on their own ginkos – in Minnesota, Tennessee, Canada, and California – and focusing on ‘vestiges’ of their own. For more details, see the link to the H.B.S. site (in Blogroll). The poems were collated by Hailstone Stephen and Bandit William and sent across for reading by the other group. Prizes were also bought and sent. Over the next fortnight, using email, Bandits and Hailstones voted and supplied comments (kukai style) to arrive at a favourite selection from the partner group’s pieces. These were then duly collected and relayed to the other side for their mutual benefit, as both groups try to grow in their understanding of the expression and spirit of haiku.

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Hisashi unwraps his prize at the YBC

The comments received on each of our poems from people far across the ocean whom we have never met are indeed treasured goods. So, here are the results:

AMERICAN SELECTION OF JAPANESE HAIKU

1. the emperor’s governance:

a dragonfly patrols it

in the breeze

…… (Hisashi Miyazaki, Osaka)

2. Nothing to mark

The cursed capital –

Loosestrife flowers

…… (John Dougill, Kyoto)

3. The Court is gone –

Still the ginkgo tree yields

Its golden nuts

…… (Toshi Ida, Kameoka)

JAPANESE SELECTION OF AMERICAN HAIKU

1. first kiss

the statue of a prime minister

holding his lapel

…… (K.A. Martin, Ottawa)

2. a thousand voices

and then…

autumn sparrows

…… (William Sorlien, St. Paul)

3. indian summer

jerusalem artichokes

mark the camp

…… (Eric V, San Francisco)

Translation Workshop

ふるさとに三日となりぬ葛の花
furusato ni mikka to narinu kudzu no hana

Three days have passed
At my dear old father’s house —
Kudzu vine blooms.

* kudzu vine: a climbing summer plant which is often found growing quickly along the Japanese riverbanks and fields with reddish-purple flowers

Hope any of you will put in some suggestions/corrections for my English version!

Buson Trip, 14 May

The previous night it had been raining heavily. None of us expected we would be greeted by such fine weather – new green mountains and a pleasantly bracing breeze. Out of the depth of the Shiga hills, the modern buildings of the Miho Museum appeared before us.


It took us nearly three hours to cover all the rooms of the Buson Exhibition. At almost every sumi-ink painting, we pressed our noses to the showcase glass.
………the orchids streaming
………in a cold spring wind –
………how robust the strokes
………of his ink brush!………………Keiko Yurugi
After lunch, John went back to see the rhytons in the room of Ancient Persian Art, while others enjoyed birdsong in the restaurant garden.
……… Yodelling
……… from tree to tree
……… the warbler’s call
……… recedes………………Moya Bligh
Later, we rambled about the nearby town of Shigaraki. It was rather lonesome, and we only managed to meet one or two of the locals. The ceramic badgers, however, displayed outside the potters’ workshops, welcomed us with strangely-staring eyes.
……… brisk conversations
……… must once have been exchanged …
……… the tobacco shop’s
……… showcase empty………………Keiko


Someone found a climbing kiln (nobori-gama), now completely deserted. It stirred us into verse:
……… old pottery town,
……… the great brick climbing kilns stare
……… as gaunt as ghosts ………………John McAteer
……………………… Abandoned kiln –
……………………… glaze-encrusted wall
……………………… cool to the touch………………Moya
……… Summer grass
……… Narrows the pathway
……… To the abandoned kiln.………………Toshi Ida
……………………… Beside the climbing kiln,
……………………… Keiko and a fire extinguisher
……………………… Taken by the ivy.………………Tito
It was almost dark now. We drove home fast, with the Shiga mountain skyline lingering behind.