The Latest and Last Genjuan Anthology

The Cottage of Visions, Genjuan Haibun 2018-21 anthology, 160pp, lilac cover A5, ¥1,400 (US$18 incl. p&p), just published by Hailstone! Available in Japan via teruyama2014″at”gmail”dot”com and for overseas mailing via indigoapple28″at”gmail”dot”com. Short of funds, this time we will only send it free to those in the book itself – awardees for the 2018-21 contests + judges and officers. Content: 40 awarded haibun, 13 judge’s comments (incl. ones by Nenten Tsubo’uchi, Toru Kiuchi, Akiko Takazawa, Hisashi Miyazaki, Sean O’Connor, and Angelee Deodhar), 8 haibun pieces by the judges, 3 new translations of Basho, Kyorai and Kikaku, 10 illustrations by Buson & Taiga. From the Preface:

“The door of the Cottage of Visions is surprisingly light. As I push it shut for the last time, I wonder if there is any point in locking it. While I’m away, perhaps the wind might blow it open and an animal get in? Or, if the windows are not properly fastened, creepers might just extend through the chinks and take over what’s been left inside – a low table, an oil lamp, some woven rush cushions, and piles and piles of papers with scribblings on many of them in both red and leaden grey.
At this time of year, the Genjuan is framed in vivid green. And this is how I shall remember it: a little thatched hut somewhere on a viridian hillside with the hint of a view across a distant lake.
Through breeze-rocked
new-leaved trees,
a world now short of breath
For ten years now into this hut have flown stories and haiku, the visions of so many good souls around the world…”

There will be no Genjuan International Haibun Contest next year. This has nothing to do with the epidemic; simply that all judges and the officer wanted a rest! The organizers (Hailstone Haiku Circle) have decided at this point to call it a day. We have tried to provide a bridge between Japan and the rest of the world in the field of haibun. Thank you for your creativity and enthusiastic support these past 10 years (13, if we include the first 3 as Kikakuza). Icebox will of course continue to publish and promote haibun in English. Enquiries can also be made, via comments below or on our Publications page.

A Parcel of Plums

Dear Stephen and Kazue-san,

The season of our plum harvest has returned.

Due to the rain and our delay at harvesting, some of the ripened ones may be bruised. Sorry for that. We selected those relatively young and green to avoid the above mishaps. Please water-wash their surface before taking a bite.

Akira and Shigeko, the residents of Rakuki-sha (落李舎)


Sleepless night,
another impact on the ground …
Ah, the ripened plums!

Tomonoura

In this most unhurried, most forsaken of villages where not a single shop seems worthy of the term, where a ferry timetable hangs redundant, we are trying to locate a Basho kuhi. When at long last we bump into a local fisherman, and ask about Matsuo Basho, he looks dismayed: ‘There’s nobody by that name around here.’ Must rely on instinct. An hour later you spy a flight of stairs leading up a verdant hill. To reach the shrine on top one must tiptoe through a minefield of dozing cats in front of a grey torii.

Octopus traps…

Fleeting dreams

Under summer’s moon

                           Basho

The octopus is said to be one of the most intelligent creatures of the sea, able to figure its way out of all kinds of mazes, puzzles and traps. Long ago, however, the Japanese figured out the invertebrate’s love of hiding in small spaces and devised a deceptively simple contraption for catching them: a baited cylindrical clay pot lined with a mesh net and a trap door. These takotsubo (蛸壺, octopus pots) can be found piled and stacked up against seawalls in towns and villages along the Seto Inland Sea, where octopus is part of the daily diet.

Looking for one thing

finding another

octopus traps

Late Summer, 2015

kuhi – a haiku stone on which a poem is engraved

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2021 Results

Grand Prix

A Mead-Hall of the Mind by J Hahn Doleman (USA)

An (Cottage) Prizes

Wintering Grounds by Marietta McGregor (Australia)
The Departing by Manoj Nair (India)
Call to Prayer by Matthew Caretti (USA)

Honourable Mentions

Donnybrook Graveyard by Glenda Cimino (Ireland)
Bells on New Year’s Eve by Akihiko Hayashi (Japan)
Afternoon Memories by Margherita Petriccione (Italy)
Morning Zoo by Jennifer Hambrick (USA)
Great Horned Owl by Margaret Chula (USA)
Village Clean Up by Diarmuid Fitzgerald (Ireland)

Judges: Akiko Takazawa, Stephen Henry Gill, Sean O’Connor

Officer: Junko Oda

This year we had a record field of 139 entries from approx. 20 countries. For the first time, our entries came in by email, and not everyone stated where they live. Warm congratulations to all awardees, who will in due course receive certificates, judges’ comments and (the top four only) prizes. The 2021 prize-winning pieces are now available to read  on a dedicated page here at the Icebox. A little later on, they will also be published in The Haibun Journal.

Nothing at all

Last Sunday in January: the dead of winter. Japanese Government toying with extending the latest Covid Emergency Order. Almost the end of the university year. Still one online lecture, three classes to grade and eleven grad theses to go. At home, almost at the end of our tether: getting on each other’s nerves.

Looks sunny. We strip off all our sheets and put them in the washing-machine; futons, out to the terrace to dry. Sunday, right? So, where to go for a kibun-tenkan (change of surroundings)? I ask my wife.

“The Botanical Gardens.”

“There’ll be nothing out,” I say.

We go.

Rounding the first corner… and a freak shower is racing towards us from the north! We rush back home, unlock the front door. Sprint upstairs to the terrace, as icy rain comes blasting through; hurl those futons and sheets back inside… then drape them all over the furniture in our living room.

We set off once more.

Entering the Gardens. Nothing out at all. Just a few bobbly white buds on the mitsumata (paper-making bush).

As a last resort, we head for the glasshouse.

The orchid exhibition —
each one a fashion statement
with its own devotees

There is a small voting-box, at one end of the hall, and a stack of cards and pencils. All are urged to vote for their favourite bloom. I find myself tending towards no. 37.

Taking off my mask
to smell the orchid —
nothing at all!

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.