Genjuan 2021 open

The Genjuan 2021 International Haibun Contest office opened for your entries on Dec. 1st. It will close on Feb 1st, but this year our officer will only accept email entries (up to 2 per person), so there’s still plenty of time to send something in. Free entry. The judges are the same as for last year. We welcome your participation. Full details may be found on our Guidelines page. Note: this is not a haiku contest, but one for English prose pieces that include one or more haiku.

To give you an indication of how international our contest is, here is a run-down of countries of residence of awardees (plus the total number in each) in the Genjuan (and earlier Kikakuza) Contests, 2009-2020.

USA – 32, UK – 22, Japan – 11, Canada – 10, India – 7, Ireland – 6, Australia – 5, South Africa – 4, New Zealand – 4, Romania – 4, Bhutan – 4, Italy – 2, Bulgaria – 2, Mexico – 1, Slovenia – 1, Denmark – 1

The awards are usually 1 Grand Prix, 2 or 3 An (Cottage) Prizes, and approx. 6 Honourable Mentions. The new Contest Officer awaits your creations.

The past three months

.. The rainy season continued until the beginning of August this year.

………………………… though the rain stopped
………………………… the wind roars at night:
………………………… lingering rain front

.. During that long rainy season, I received sad news. One of my cousins had passed away. When I was a little girl, he was kind enough to take care of me, playing chess and Hanafuda. The memory stays with me, emerging today into this deep foggy morning.


………. dense fog
………. even the castle mountain
………. loses its frame
 

.. Then the severely hot summer came in. But no matter how hot it was, the spread of COVID-19 did not ease.  

………………………… meaningless
………………………… as a symbol of the winter,
………………………… facemasks

.. Everyone faithfully wore those masks, feeling almost choked in the middle of the summer.  

………. a dry fallen leaf
………. stuck in the scorching asphalt,
………. patience with pride

.. Recently, a huge typhoon passed by. It has made us feel that we may now have taken a step back down the stairs. 

………………………… one degree Celsius
………………………… I can tell the difference
………………………… late summer room

 

 

Considering Sōseki’s「京に着ける夕」”Kyō ni tsukeru yūbe” as a haibun

In the first part of Natsume Sōseki’s account of a visit to Kyoto in the spring of 1907, the author and his hosts run their rickshaws ever further north. At the same time, Sōseki and his thoughts rush onwards across the psychological terrain of memory and conjecture, a palimpsest of his summer visit many years before with his poet friend and mentor Masaoka Shiki, of his current early-spring visit without him, and of the cultural and literary associations of Kyoto he has accrued over a lifetime. Even when he is at last in bed at his host’s residence in the woods of Tadasu no Mori, near Shimogamo Shrine, his mind is still in motion:

In the middle of the night, the eighteenth-century clock on one of the staggered shelves in the alcove above my pillow chimes in its square rosewood case, resonating like ivory chopsticks striking a silver bowl. The sound penetrates my dreams, waking me with a start; the clock’s chime has ended, but in my head it rings on. And then this ringing gradually thins out, grows more distant, more refined, passing from my ear to my inner ear, and from there into my brain, and on into my heart, then from the depths of my heart into some further realm connected with it—until at last it seems to reach some distant land beyond the limits of my own heart. This chilly bell-ring perfuses my whole body; and the ringing having laid bare my heart and passed into a realm of boundless seclusion, it is inevitable that body and soul become as pure as an ice floe, as cold as a snowdrift. Even with the silk futons around me, in the end I am cold.

A crow cawing atop a tall zelkova tree at daybreak shatters my dreams for the second time. But this is no ordinary crow. It doesn’t caw in the usual mundane way—its call is twisted into a grotesque cackle. Twisted too its beak, into a downward grimace, and its body hunched over. Myōjin, the resident deity of Kamo, may well have imposed his divine will to have it caw like that, so as to make me all the colder.

Shedding the futons, shivering still, I open the window. A nebulous drizzle thickly shrouds Tadasu no Mori; Tadasu no Mori envelops the house; I am sealed in the lonely twelve-mat room within it, absorbed within these many layers of cold.

Spring cold—

Before the shrine,

The crane from my dreams

[Original haiku: 春寒(はるさむ)の社頭に鶴を夢みけり]

The fact that this piece consists of prose narrative concluding with a single haiku, and hence is technically a haibun, means we can see it as a tribute to Sōseki’s haiku mentor, who had died four years before. One of the work’s strongest themes, loneliness, is perhaps counterbalanced by a note of optimism in the 季語 kigo of the concluding haiku, the crane, which is associated with winter. The crane is a migratory bird that comes south to Japan to overwinter but then heads north again in spring. Sōseki’s Kyoto remains inescapably cold during his visit, but it is the cold of early spring. Here, at the end, the crane has roused itself, as if from the author’s dream, and stands before the shrine ready to be on its way. Winter is coming to an end, and taking its place is the promise of regeneration. Even as he complains bitterly of the cold, and of the parallel loss of his warm friendship with Shiki, Sōseki is perhaps also acknowledging the healing power of time. If the crane represents Shiki’s spirit, Sōseki is acknowledging that it once spent time with him as the corporeal Shiki, but will now move on, as too must Sōseki.

(The above commentary and translation are adapted from my book Translating Modern Japanese Literature, which was published in 2019 and is available from the publisher, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, or on sites such as Amazon. If you are interested in obtaining a copy at a discount, please contact me directly at donovanrichardn [at] hotmail.com.)

Bilingual Complex – a new book

Hailstone Haiku Circle member, Kyoko Norma Nozaki, has recently published a book, Bilingual Complex – Essays & Notes featuring English Haiku, ISBN 9784779514296, pub. Nakanishiya Press, Kyoto, 90pp, B6 size, ¥2,000. In it, she writes of her grandparents (Japanese immigrants in Hawaii), parents (father, a Nisei American; mother, a Japanese who emigrated to marry him); herself (born and educated in California, later a Prof. Emer. at Kyoto Sangyo Univ. specializing in Nikkei studies) and her family today. The book is sprinkled with haiku from S.E. Asia, Japan, America, Germany and elsewhere.

Acorns scattered / All over the herb garden– / Immune from the nuclear plant?

January 3rd– / Promising prosperity, / A flurry of snow

Lettuce fields gone– / The Silicon Valley / Covered with California smog

今日からは日本の雁よ 楽に寝よ(一茶)From today / You are a Japanese goose, / So relax and sleep in comfort (Issa, quoted in the author’s research note, ‘On Immigration’)

“The process of writing this book”, Kyoko divulges in her Afterword, “has made me aware once again that I am a product of two cultures …. and my thoughts naturally shift between the two very different languages: the ambiguity of Japanese and the preciseness of English.”

For further details or purchase go here: http://www.nakanishiya.co.jp/book/b492956.html

Screen Doors 網戸

Screen doors start sliding as temperatures rise, relieving indoors of heat, keeping papers from fleeing and birds and insects at bay, partially filtering the air let in, and casting a fine blur, a moiré, over the view outside.

Beyond the screen door
Blues, yellows in a vase
A sky of cloud

Gasping curtains
Suck to the screen door
Sudden breezes

A small whiff of
A neighbor’s cigarette
A screen door slams

from the Icebox inbox – 46

Tito asked me to make the final selection as an editor this time. The short comments after the poems are all mine. …. Sosui (Nobuyuki)

Sunset…
I walk alone on the beach, the twilight deep on my eyelashes covering my face. Suddenly, I come across seashells, big and small. I sit flat on the wet sand… waves having just receded.

dark night
stars guide
the boatmen ….. Lakshmi Iyer, Kerala

(Ed. comment – Haibun excerpt: I did a bit of trimming in the prose to avoid over-excitement.)

almost spring . . .
a cuckoo starts
haltingly ….. Kanchan Chatterjee, Jharkhand

(This poem expresses our feeling well when we can hardly wait for the coming spring.)

Emergency extended –
school children in line too
at the food bank ….. Yoshiharu Kondo, Shiga

(What a pitiful scene! I feel this poem is the best among the poems submitted this time.)

Hare silhouetted
sharing the hillside
where I rest ….. Jane Wieman, Wisconsin

(This poem is peaceful and conveys the feeling of oneness of the universe. It would be nice, though, if we knew the time of the day.)

shimmering orange needles –
distant towers dance
in the fading sun ….. Albie Sharpe, New South Wales

(This poem describes a beautiful evening scene when everything looks different from what we normally know. I like the image and wording of the last two lines.)

feeling I just heard
a turtle’s whisper in the garden:
stay-home afternoon ….. Hisashi Miyazaki, Osaka

(This poem is imaginatively stimulating, but I wonder what exactly HM heard in the turtle’s whisper.)

summer morning
a skim-milk sky spills
over the sea ….. Joanna M. Weston, British Columbia

(A beautiful description of the sky, although I am not sure what it might predict. Is it a sign of another hot day or of a storm gathering far away?)

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2020 Results

Amazing! The judges have finished their pow-wow early this year (completed on a long conference call between Tokyo, Kyoto and Tipperary), and we have already notified the awardees, so here now are the results of the 2020 Genjuan Contest:

グランプリ作品 Grand Prix
Snow in Advent …. David Cobb (UK)

庵賞 An (Cottage) Prizes
Whispers …. David McCullough (Japan/UK)
Key West Cat …. Joan Prefontaine (USA)

入選作 Honourable Mentions
Jamshedpur …. Kanchan Chatterjee (India)
Visiting John …. Paul Bregazzi (Ireland)
Fifteen Minute Limit …. Naomi Beth Wakan (Canada)
The Penultimate Mile …. Geethanjali Rajan (India)
Nagaranishi …. Sydney Solis (Japan/USA)
The Easter of the Blajin …. Cezar-Florin Ciobica (Romania)
Sunday Stopping Train to Salzburg …. Dick Pettit (Denmark)

審査委員 Judges – Akiko Takazawa, Stephen Henry Gill, Sean O’Connor

I don’t think Grand Prix-winning author David Cobb will mind me telling you that he has just turned 94 years old. Apparently he wrote the haibun when he was still a mere 93! I just spoke with him on the phone to Britain and he was his usual cheerful self. A worthy winner if ever there was one. You can read Snow in Advent and the two An Prize-winning pieces here.

We received more than 100 entries in all, but 7 had to be disqualified as haiku or haiku sequences without titles. This is a haibun contest and we demand prose! Amongst the 18 countries they came from, it was pleasing to find half a dozen good works from South East Asia this year, although none received an award. It was also a good year for Hailstone Haiku Circle, whose website this is, with two of its members gaining awards (DMcC and SS). Well done, Kansai friends! We also find two pieces from India amongst the Hon. Mentions.

The judges and the contest officer wish to thank all who sent us their pieces. Our warm congratulations go to all ten of the awardees.

The Last of My Wandering Journeys – Part IX Ashikaga Girls

.. On my way home, I took another deluxe train, this time to Tochigi. There, I found I had to change to an ordinary commuter train to get to Takasaki, where I live. The latter was practically empty, so I occupied two whole seats reserved for elderly people, and fell asleep.

.. Somewhere near Ashikaga, however, I was awakened by the noise of high school girls getting on the train. They all sat down and pulled out their smartphones. I had no way of knowing what they were doing with their phones, but they were so intent on their operations that no one talked or laughed. The whole train was as silent as a prison, and I was rather perturbed by this. When I was young, trains were full of noise.

.. Before long, the girls began to leave the train, in threes or fours, disembarking without even saying goodbye. Some girls, though, stayed on board for a long time. After more than an hour, when the train reached Takasaki, I still had a few of them around me. I wondered why they had to travel so far every day and what they would expect to learn at school. But both of these questions were beyond my own capacity to answer.

A fine autumn day—
My highland river journey
Full circle, achieved.

The tour is over,
Yet my heart, still a-dancing
With the autumn leaves.

The Last of My Wandering Journeys – Part VIII Kinu River Descent

.. Next morning, I rose early and went to the station, for I wished to descend the Kinu River in a boat. I had taken boat trips down rivers at many places and had always enjoyed myself immensely. Basho, too, had gone down the Mogami River in a boat.

.. There was a boat leaving at nine, so I thought I’d best go to the boathouse by taxi to catch it. But the woman taxi driver said to me, in heavily accented Japanese, “The boathouse is only five minutes’ walk from here. Look, you can see it around the corner! Why don’t you walk and save your money?” I was not sure if she was saying this out of kindness or if she preferred not to do short distances, but she was so firm in her attitude that I decided to follow her advice! Although I had to go down an awkward flight of steps, I did reach the boathouse in time, and walked down the final steep slope to the river. Some passengers were already in the boat, but there was plenty of space, so I stretched out my legs and leaned back comfortably against the side of the boat.

.. Soon we started to move, passing a couple of shallow rapids where the boat scraped the sands and stones of the river bed. A little later, we had showers of spray coming down on us! This was indeed an exciting way of starting a boat trip.

The foaming rapids —
A young boatman braced himself
Before going down.

.. We soon reached a pool, where the boat slowed. The older boatman told us to look ahead. Our eyes lighted upon a soaring pillar of white granite, sharply pointed at the top. This is known as Shield Rock. At this point, though, it looked more like a rocket waiting for lift-off. When the boat moved farther downstream and came alongside the Rock, its middle part did indeed look very much like a square shield. As we passed it by, the older boatman muttered jokingly that our journey had now come to an end! At the time, I did not really understand what he had meant. But later I realized that he was implying that the whole journey had no other scenery as fine as that of the awesome Rock.

.. At one point, the boat passed beneath a suspension bridge. We noticed some people on this bridge, but it was so high up that they appeared only as dots. The older boatman said, “Wave back”. And so we all did.

.. The last part of the voyage was moving through a reservoir behind a dam. Here, the boat had to be towed by another one equipped with an engine. At the end of our journey, everyone got up and left the boat. I too tried to stand up, but found my legs were numb! A young tourist saw me struggling and offered me his hand. He pulled me up with some difficulty. Another tourist helped me onto the pier. I gave both men my heart-felt thanks.

A great granite cliff —
I gaze up at it, laid back
In a river boat.

A bridge, high above —
Though the tourists looked like dots,
They were all waving.

.
To be continued …

Genjuan Haibun Contest 2020 Deadline Approaches

Submissions deadline for the current Genjuan International Haibun Contest is 31 January. Entry is free. Pieces as short as 3 lines with a 3-line haiku + title are accepted. Much longer ones, too! Beautiful Japanese prizes, certificates, and inclusion in anthology (which will be sent to all entrants for free once published this year or next). Is there another haiku contest so generous to its supporters? This year we have a new officer and two new judges. For all details, see our Contest Guidelines page:
https://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/genjuan/

Please hurry now and send something in! Results will be posted here in the spring.

Twenty-twenty luck

Happy New Year 20-20! MMXX. With a name like that, this is sure to be a really cool year — or so I told my haiku students at Kyoto University yesterday! It’s also the Year of the Rat, the first of the zodiac animals.

On January 1st, guided by the coolest of my Japanese friends, I went to the rocky islet of Miyado Benten in Loch Tōgō, Tottori, to pay my respects – as a poet might – to the goddess thought to preside over the Arts.

As we reached the sacred island, something unusual, yet truly auspicious, caught my eye. May my haiqua image bring you, too, some good luck!

New Year —
a water rat
swimming the periphery
of Benten’s isle

The Last of my Wandering Journeys – Part VII Dragon King Gorge in Autumn Dusk

.. My next stop was Ryuou-kyo (Dragon King Gorge) in Tochigi Prefecture. I got off the luxury train at a small station perched between two tunnels. Fortunately, I spotted a row of lockers on the platform, and placing all my belongings in one of them, climbed to the exit. There were two or three souvenir shops, but no sign to show me the way to the Gorge. I spied a stone torii (shrine gateway) beyond the shops, and believing it to be the entrance to the Dragon King Shrine, I began to descend a steep, tricky trail. My original intention had been to hike all the way down to the river, but I found it dangerous to walk on the trail in half-light. Although still only about four o’clock, the foliage above my head was so thick that everything was dimmed. At a certain point, from where I could see the shadow of the shrine and a cascade coming down from a rock nearby, I decided to turn back.

.. Before I did so though, for a few moments, I stood there thinking about the fate of the Dragon King. The story is that his shrine had originally been at Lake Benten, high on Mt. Keicho, but leaving that place, that he had then wandered for some years … before he came to be enshrined at the present location. It is said that a rainbow can be seen at the waterfall on fine days, but there was no sunshine when I saw it.

Standing in darkness —
The roar of the waterfall
Sinks into my guts.

“Show me a rainbow,”
I howl to the Dragon King —
There is no reply.

.. Returning to the station, I took a local train to Kinugawa Onsen. This was another comfortable one, with large red seats, which enabled me to stretch out my tired legs. When I reached my hotel, I had another surprise. Although I had booked a single room, I was given a ten-mat room with two beds placed in an anteroom attached to it. It seemed to me that a group of ten people would have easily been able to sleep there! Perhaps this says something about the changing styles of travel in Japan? Formerly, people used to travel in groups on company excursions, but nowadays they tend to travel as small family units. The number of solitary travellers like me has also been increasing.

.. After enjoying a pleasant dip in the hot spring, and a buffet dinner (known as a ‘Viking’ dinner in Japan, perhaps originating from smorgasbord), I selected my bed and fell soundly asleep. In my dream, though, the Dragon King appeared, and spoke to me:

“As a river god
I love blue, but in anger
Become reddish brown!”

.. I prayed to him, “Kindly pacify your anger by tomorrow and show me a beautiful contrast between your true blue and the flamboyancy of the autumn leaves.”

.

To be continued …