Archive for the Haibun Category

Plum Blossoms I

Posted in Haibun, Spring with tags , on March 30, 2017 by Tito
The following is the first part of a recent haibun by Nobuyuki Yuasa (Sosui).  

The fragrance of plums —
Suddenly the sun comes up
On the mountain path.                 Basho

Plum blossoms are beautiful, especially in the morning when their colours are highlighted; yet plums appeal not only to the eye but also to the nose. In fact, the scent of their blossoms is their greatest charm. When their aroma is carried on a gentle spring breeze, I am captivated by its nobility and find nothing else capable of rivalling it. In the garden I can see from my windows, white plums are just now coming out — one or two already fully out, but the rest still pinkish-white balls, some swollen and others small. It is plum blossoms at this stage that I love best, for they give us hope and trust in the future. A week from now, they will be in full bloom. Then I can enjoy their fragrance. On warm days, I shall open my windows wide to enjoy it, far superior to any artificial perfume.

I know there are plums
In the recess of darkness —
Deeply scented winds.                  Sosui

My Trip to the North: 4. Lake Usori & the Land of Bliss

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on January 24, 2017 by sosui

Emerging from the region of the Hells, I now came to the beautiful shore of Lake Usori, a large crater lake surrounded by steep mountains, with names such as Mt. Screen and Mt. Overturned Cauldron. The shoreline was one of white sand. They call it Gokurakuhama, the shore of the Land of Bliss. I was told that the name of the lake had derived from the Ainu word meaning ‘peaceful bay’, and that ‘Usori’ had turned into ‘Osore’. I thought this was a very ironic corruption, for ‘Osore’ means ‘fear’. The lake should not be thought of as a perfect paradise, however, for its water is acidic and only a single species of fish can live there. Just looking at it, though, the lake was surely beautiful enough for a gateway to the Land of Bliss.

……… The wind from the hills
……… Carried away from my nose
……… That smell of sulphur.

…………………….. Beyond the white shore,
…………………….. A belt of emerald green
…………………….. Lit by summer sun.

Genjuan International Haibun Contest Deadline

Posted in Challenge!, Haibun with tags , on January 10, 2017 by Tito

This year, our sixth as Genjuan (and ninth if we include its predecessor, the Kikakuza Contest), we welcome one new judge, Ellis Avery. The addition of an American female poet/writer to the existing panel of two Japanese and one British resident of Japan is sure to give our judging new impetus. Judge Emeritus is Nenten Tsubo’uchi, one of Japan’s most prominent and well-respected haijin. If you haven’t already done so, we urge you to send something off soon to our officer, Eiko Mori, as the deadline is January 31st. Usually she waits for a few extra days in case there are stragglers. The Contest is free, but there are real prizes and signed certificates. In due course, we aim to compile a book of the best works from 2015-2017. There are still some copies of our 2012-14 anthology available (see the ‘Publications’ page link at top right). Non-native writers, please note: perfect English is not a prerequisite for a piece to be considered for a prize or subsequently published. Full Contest details are given under the ‘Genjuan Guidelines‘ page link.   We look forward to reading your work next month. Good luck!

New Year Rambling

Posted in Haibun, New Year with tags on January 1, 2017 by Hisashi Miyazaki

Kigo (season words) generally contain a sense of time passing, and this is particularly so when a change of year is concerned. The season word, kozo-kotoshi 去年今年 (last year/this year), when used in a haiku, will conjure deep emotion for the changing of one year into the next on New Year’s Day. In a single night, yesterday will become part of the old year and today, the new. The New Year (kotoshi, or shin-nen) physically stands on the base of the Old Year (kozo, kyonen, or furutoshi).

The existence of time in this world is said to be the most perplexing enigma for the physicists to theorize over. How is it, for example, that two years can share a time border? And should such a boundary be accurate to the nearest second? Or can it be further refined to the nearest milli-, micro-, nano-, or even pico-second? Perhaps not, … although 1/∞ (infinity) second surely exists!

New Year hike –
my hot lunch at the summit,
cup noodles as usual

Old Year/New Year:
as the bullet train
passes Nagoya

My Trip to the North: 3. The Hells of Osorezan

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on November 6, 2016 by sosui

.. After enjoying a bowl of rice topped with tuna for my lunch, I went to Osorezan via the city of Mutsu. This was a roundabout course, but the shortcut along the Ohata River was too narrow for sightseeing buses. The road from Mutsu up to Osorezan was an ancient highway with stone pillars marking distances from the shrine. It was also dotted with stone images of Jizo, the traveller’s guardian. I found the Fountain of Hiyamizu was still alive. Its icy water was coming straight down from the mountains. Here and there I saw pink flowers of valley deutzia, but was told that they were never used as decorations for the house. I wondered why.
.. Crossing the so-called River Styx, we entered the precincts of Osorezan, a Zen temple belonging to the Soto Sect. Soon, the smell of sulphur hit my nose. Watched by six huge statues of Jizo, representing the six phases of existence, I passed through the first gate. On the second gate was displayed a large square plaque of beautiful blue colour, inscribed “Osorezan” in silver characters. The building at the end of the path housed the main Jizo image and a statue of Ennin, the founder of the temple.
.. Up to this point, we had been walking on flat ground, but as we turned to the left, we entered the rocky region of the ”Hells”. Many infernal pools now came into view, with such horrible names as ‘the Pool of Blood’ and ‘the Pool of Grave Sinners’. Each was somewhat different in shape and colour, but they were all pools of sulphurous water that had issued out of the volcanic strata. Huge piles of rocks were seen in places, but what arrested my attention was the piles of smaller stones that had obviously been fashioned by human hands. I was told that they had been made supernaturally by children who had passed away before their parents as an expression of their regret at doing so. I was not persuaded, presuming, rather, that these piles of stones may have been made by the parents to express their own sorrow at the untimely death of their children. My conviction was strengthened by the red stick-windmills often placed on top of the piles. Was it not the parents who had placed them there out of a desire to buy them for the deceased children? The place where I saw the greatest number of windmills was around the statue of the guardian of aborted and miscarried children.

……. An endless rattle…
……. Little windmills spinning round,
……. Calling to the dead.

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2017 Opens

Posted in Challenge!, Haibun with tags , on September 27, 2016 by Tito

This is still Japan’s only international haibun contest. Entry is free and there are prizes and certificates. This year we have one new judge, Ellis Avery, who is American, female, a haiku poet, but also a novelist and a fiction writing teacher at Columbia University. She is a contributor to Icebox, too.

Ideally, there will be one Grand Prix, a number of An Prizes (‘Cottage’ Prizes, highly commended), and some Honourable Mentions, too. The authors of entries chosen for the first two of these categories will receive prizes, and all decorated works will warrant a certificate from the organizers. In the late spring, the results will be displayed here on the Hailstone Icebox and elsewhere. You can read last year’s winning pieces on a separate page (‘Genjuan ’16 Winning Haibun’).

Entries to : Ms. Eiko Mori, 2-11-23-206 Jokoji, Amagasaki-shi, Hyogo-ken 660-0811, Japan (to arrive between 1 Oct. 2016 and 31 Jan. 2017)

We have lowered the minimum length stipulation to make it easier for writers using English as their second language. Each entry should total 7 to 35 lines (at 1 line = 80 spaces), with title and at least one haiku (no formal restrictions). Print on one side of A4, if possible, with your name and address, tel. no., and email address typed along the bottom. The judges will not get to know your identity until judging is over and the Genjuan Contest Office already knows the results. We are sorry, but email entries are not accepted.

Judges: Nenten Tsubouchi, Stephen Henry Gill, Hisashi Miyazaki, Ellis Avery.

Full details via the page link (top right) ‘Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2017 Guidelines’.  Please do take part!

My Trip to the North: 2. The Promontory of Oma

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on September 12, 2016 by sosui

As the ferryboat approached Oma, I was able to see an island with a lighthouse and the Promontory of Oma, so flat that it seemed the sea was ready to swallow it up. Oma is famous for tuna fishing, but I did not sight any boats. After landing, our bus took us to the Promontory, the northernmost point of the mainland of Japan, where I saw a huge concrete image of tuna, and a stone monument to Ishikawa Takuboku with the following poem inscribed.

………. An Eastern Island:
………. On the white sands of its beach,
………. I weep by myself
………. Till I am wet with the tears,
………. Playing with scuttling crabs.

The Eastern Island mentioned in this famous poem was believed to be Benten Island. It had looked quite distant from the tip of the Promontory when I had seen it from the ferryboat, but now it seemed close enough to reach by swimming. The lighthouse was painted in stripes of white and dark green, and there was a red buoy dancing in the waves before it.

………. Tuna-abounding seas,
………. To the far horizon, blue,
………. Their summer colour.

……………….. The Eastern Island:
……………….. The lively June waves breaking
……………….. Wash its sandy shore.

………………………… On a sunny day
………………………… In the long monsoon season,
………………………… Gulls crossing the strait.