‘Endings & Beginnings’ Hailstone Online Reading Meet – some highlights

Sun. 7 March 16:00 (JST). 14 Hailstones and special guest, Michael D. Welch, came together to read haiku, senryu, cirku, tanka, haibun and haipho. Each poet was given up to 5 mins. The share-screen function proved useful in allowing us to see the words that were being read. Host, David McCullough, had collected most things in advance and made a pdf file to use. It was also good to be able to appraise visual material like photo haiku or illustrations explaining haiku (e.g. seasonal flowers). The theme was introduced by chair-for-the-day, Tito, who first read us an excerpted translation by Nobuyuki Yuasa of Kikaku’s account of Basho’s Final Days, Basho-o Shuenki, including his death and funeral and the beginnings of the Basho School 蕉門 — for endings invariably lead to beginnings, and vice versa.

なきがらを笠に隠すや枯尾花 (其角)

A hat to cover
the body of our master,
withered pampas leaves      (Kikaku)

Sean O’Connor, editor of The Haibun Journal and judge of the Genjuan Contest, joining us from Ireland, next read a short sequence of haiku.

from my father’s bed
familiar mountains
wrapped in snow

Hitomi Suzuki followed with two beautiful haipho. Here is one (click on photo to enlarge):

David McCullough then read four short poems, one of which was on the theme of the first mile of running a marathon:

Panting —
hundreds
of
feet
pattering

It was interesting that two more poets – Noriko Kan and Akihiko Hayashi – also shared running or jogging haiku later on! Genjuan judge, Akiko Takazawa, also still runs marathons, but unfortunately she could not be present at the meet.

Ursula Maierl next entertained us with her heartfelt haibun, ‘The Final Baguette’, about two customers splitting the last loaf in a bread shop at the end of day!

one small baguette
stands upright —
lone sentinel
half-wrapped in brown paper

Mayumi Kawaharada then read a sequence of haiku, ‘Freeze – Under Covid-19’:

Tourist-less road —
Frozen shutters
Left in the silence

Reiko Kuwataka’s poem provoked some discussion – haiku in form, but tanka in sentiment:

A long time
since I last saw her —
high cloud, overcast

Tito then showed us some cirku made into haipho. (Mistletoe is ヤドリギ in Japanese; click on photo to enlarge.)

Kyoko Nozaki made us hungry with her haiku and photo of newly harvested radishes. David Stormer Chigusa (in Tokyo) told us he usually tries to compose haiku using a 4-6-4 consonant template and gave us some recent examples. Akihiko Hayashi reminded us of the approach of the 10th anniversary of the Great Tsunami and Fukushima Meltdown disaster by sharing with us a psychological haiku:

Over unruffled waters
it’s threatening to snow —
‘Emergency!’, the caption unscrolls

Noriko Kan (in Matsuyama) gave us one haiku containing the very contemporary image of masked meditators. Michael Dylan Welch (Washington State, co-founder of Haiku N. America and former ed. of Woodnotes, the journal which had organized in 1996 what was perhaps the world’s first English haibun contest), gave us another memorable coronavirus image:

Covid Christmas —
so few presents
under the tree

We also read aloud poetic offerings sent in by Fred Schofield (Leeds), Catherine Urquhart (Edinburgh) and Akishige Ida (Nara), who were all unable to attend. Sydney Solis (Florida) joined to listen only. Richard Donovan, delayed by another online event, at which he received his recent translation Grand Prix, performed for us a cameo role near the end of the meet.

From England, Lawrence Jiko Barrow joined us at his 7am. His haiku on the theme of ‘beginning’ was:

Arrival of spring —
the banana tree reveals
a bright green shoot

Jiko has recently planted a banana palm in his garden in England. He told us that he hopes it will prompt him to remember Basho (whose name means ‘banana palm’) and to compose haiku a little more frequently! The appearance of the shoot gives us all hope the palm will survive.

Today, the Basho School continues in spirit in many parts of Japan and the world, including through Hailstone, which is based in Kansai, celebrating life in and around Basho’s Shuenchi (Final Territory). We all try to do our best for the Okina 翁 (Master) and what he taught.

Imashirozuka Hisashi Memorial

Ancient tumulus – / clay figures on parade / as memories return   (Akito Mori)

17 October, 2020, Settsu-Tonda, Osaka. 14 poets gathered for a haiku stroll and memorial event for Hisashi Miyazaki. It rained all day long. The ginko itself had originally been planned by Hisashi and Akito Mori, but with Hisashi’s sudden passing (from pneumonia), I (Akira) offered to help Akito, and we decided to go ahead, feeling that H. would have wanted that. We planned to stroll around the famous tumulus and later to commemorate our dear friend in his own neighborhood on the very day when his ashes were being interred by his family in a temple nearby (四十九日).

Haniwa carry his soul / into the celestial age – / a rainy autumn day   (Ayako Kurokawa)

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We began our stroll by visiting the Imashirozuka Ancient History Museum to orientate ourselves. The tumulus itself was constructed in the early Sixth Century and is believed to be the grave of Japan’s 26th emperor, Keitai*. It is a fine example of the large, keyhole-shaped moated tombs from the Kofun Period and is famous for its ceramic haniwa sculptures of soldiers, dancing women, wrestlers, animals, birds, houses and so forth.  The Museum has a fine collection of artifacts from the site.

black hole eyes / stare straight in front – / timeless haniwa   (Reiko Kuwahata)

Sacred maiden / praying with arms stretched out: / after fifteen centuries / headless   (Kyoko Nozaki)

the clay pot’s trumpet lip – / the ancients, too, adored / the morning glory!   (Richard Donovan)

Later that morning, we walked around the moat and some climbed through the autumnal woods onto the top of the colossal gravemound itself. Unusually, here it is permitted to do so. Lunch was taken nearby in a couple of local restaurants.

Haniwa ducks / stoic in the rain: / just arrived on the moat / their whistling cousins*   (Tito)

the bosky mound – / running down / its animal trails / autumn rainwater   (Mizuho Shibuya)

standing atop / an ancient emperor’s tomb / soft autumn rain   (Duro Jaiye)

We held our afternoon memorial meeting for Hisashi at the Community Centre, where we had reserved a room. The autumn rain continued to fall outside as we began with a minute’s silence, refreshing our memory of him. We then went round the table, with all participants managing to share a precious memory of H or to read aloud one of his haiku or haibun works. He was a multi-faceted person – poet, translator, editor, pharmacologist, climber, fisherman. We found in many of his haiku the scientist’s mind, aware both of minute details and of the larger processes at work in the history of the Earth and stars. One attendee affectionately mentioned H’s traits – both as a person and as a haiku poet – with the words ‘slowly, vaguely, smilingly’. With artful ambiguity (bokashi), he always managed to leave room for the reader’s imagination, so that we could better feel his poems and appreciate the meaning behind them. Other participants mentioned the ‘boyish twinkle in his eye’, his humour, and his enthusiasm for exploring new fields.

haniwa festival – / some are praying / that your next world / will also be amusing   (Teruko Yamamoto)

Towards the end of the meet, we were invited to share verses created during the morning’s ginko. Everyone struggled to spin the thread of time that has passed since the days of haniwa and kofun 1,500 years ago … and to weave that into the present moment through our haiku poems.

requiescat in pacem / beloved poet, Hisashi-san / Mr. Turtle   (Ursula Maierl)

Notes: *E. Keitai 継体天皇 (r. 507-531), whistling ducks = wigeon 緋鳥鴨

Secrets Shared

Back in May 2005, Hailstone had once organized an internet kukai (haiku tournament) in real time using phone/fax/email from Osaka, hooking up with Martin Lucas’ Roses group in Manchester: perhaps a world first?

7 June 2020 saw Hailstone’s first live online meeting – a rodokukai (reading meet) on Zoom, hosted by David McCullough in Kyoto. Thirteen were present at the two-hour meet, with another four contributing work (one from Florida, another from Mexico). It was good of Genjuan judge, Sean O’Connor, to get up and join us from Ireland at 7:30am! Using the share-screen facility, we were all able to see the work as it was introduced: this included haiku sequences, senryu, haibun, and haipho. The theme, chosen by Tito, was ‘Secrets and Discoveries’, a rich vein to mine from our lockdown days, when many were finding new meaning in things natural and close at hand.

苗代や短冊形と色紙形  (子規) photo by Tito

The rice seedling beds: / some the shape of tanzaku,  / others like shikishi (Shiki)

April shutdown: / solitudinous silence (Ursula Maierl)

opossum, too / exits / its sheltering abode / to cross the green lawn (Sydney Solis)

up a hill in early morning / stretch to grasp at the sky – / song of bush warbler (Akihiko Hayashi)

Onion stalks / outgrown by weeds… / the field in motion (Branko Manojlović)

haipho by Hitomi Suzuki

morning sun / shines in through / the pine and the maple (Noriko Kan)

anxious times – / the cries of newborn lambs / throughout the night (Sean O’Connor)

Frogs croak, begging for rain / Humans, secluded, pine for others – / Invisible corona virus (Reiko Kuwataka)

All the dreams I have / Secret under the strawberry moon – / Midsummer night hills (Masako Fujie)

Today— / tongues of deer / curl around / fallen magnolia petals (Tito)

Every morning you greet me, / Periwinkle (日日草) — / embodiment of Japanese name (Kyoko Nozaki)

Today’s fourth online class – / beneath buttoned-up shirt, / my cut-down shorts (Richard Donovan)

haipho by Akira Kibi

Music of baby sparrows / Resounds among the buildings — / The silent city center (Mayumi Kawaharada)

Red lanterns turn on / in barren, silent streets — / longing for shamisen (Peter MacIntosh)

my cup of tea / this is how you learn / to keep silent — / one sip at a time (Sergio Negrete)

Beneath the sparrow’s egg / a scrap of moss — / distant birdsong (David McCullough)

Gion Festival Reading and Ramble

Late afternoon, 21 July 2018. A dozen Hailstones fell together for a reading in the Museum of Kyoto’s Maeda Café, which used to be a vault of the Bank of Japan, Kyoto branch. At a long table, we took it in turns to read our own, or others’, haibun or haiku sequences.

The programme was:
Branko Manojlovic, 2018 Genjuan GP haibun The Forbidden Pet
Ursula Maierl, haiku Mantis Yoga (from Lost Heian) & sequence Aftershock
Eiko Mori reading David McCullough’s 2018 Genjuan HM haibun Reflections
Mayumi Kawaharada reading Doris Lynch’s 2017 Genjuan GP haibun Season of Snow & Milk
Ayako Kurokawa, haibun Boomerang in the Blue Sky
Hitomi Suzuki, haibun Lanterns on the Water
Kazue Gill reading Tito’s haibun A Scottish Journey
Tito, haiku sequence Roller Coaster (using work by 15 poets; see previous posting)
Four others were present, but did not read.

Evening. After the Café meet was over, most participants went for a short ginko (composition stroll) to enjoy the spectacle of the huge festival yama and hoko floats parked in the nearby streets and lit with tiers of lanterns. Some private houses had opened their windows and doors so that all could see the treasures inside. There were several small shrines to visit down narrow alleys. The Gion Ato-matsuri proved much less busy than the main Saki-matsuri and therefore more conducive to haiku-senryu composition! Many people wore yukata.

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A small sample of the verse that emerged:

Innocent girls chant
a song about their folk talismans –
Gion Festival eve              ………..   (Hitomi)

Divine emissaries*
watching over the Festival crowds –
that pair of turtle doves    ……….. (Mayumi)

Flute players tonight
nearly two stories high
on the deck* of an ancient float       (Duro)

Exploding
earth sensation
of the taro* in my mouth –
a dinner with friends                    ..  (Tito)

.

* emissaries, 使い tsukai messengers of the warriors’ god, Hachiman
* deck, 大船鉾 ofuna-boko boat-shaped float
* taro, 里芋 sato-imo potato variety

Spring at the Edge

Hailstone Haiku Circle once did a series of events on the theme ‘Four Corners of Kyoto’. That was in 2004. It just so happens that this spring we have been out on the edge of Kyoto again a couple of times: April 16 in Ohara (NE corner), participating in a poetry-reading party (sharing some of our favourite spring poetry) hosted by David McCullough … and then, on May 20 in Oyamazaki (SW corner), with a ginko-no-renga event hosted by Hisashi Miyazaki and Akito Mori. Both were blessed with wonderful weather. I thought someone should leave a short account here so that absentees can get an idea of what happened. Both were full of creativity and fun.

Ohara – the cherries were still in full bloom along the river flowing past David’s rural home. We ate and drank outside. Notable attendees included John & Peggy McAteer (over in Japan from Oregon) and Yuko Yuasa (for the first time in many years). David kicked off the reading session inside with the opening passage “When that Aprille with his shoures soote…” from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, followed by his two young twins, Kenji and Minori, each reading a classical tanka. Here’s one of them in David’s translation:

面影に花の姿をさき立てて 幾重越え来ぬ峰の白雲(俊成)
Led on and on
by the image of blossoms,
I have crossed peak beyond peak
to find nothing
but white clouds ……………… (Fujiwara no Shunzei)

This was followed by Tito reading some famous cherry-blossom haiku and then, teaming up with Ursula and Tomo, singing the vernal Veris Leta Facies from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Duro Jaiye then read an impressive poem translated from the Korean and John McAteer recited to great effect – yes, you’ve guessed it! – Yeats. And so on, via many other voices, through a myriad shades of spring! At least 14 Hailstones read. We hear that the last guest to leave, well after dark, was Gerald (Duro) in his pink-of-pinks shirt. Many thanks to David and Atsumi for including us in the ranks of other friends and family members. A memorable day.

 

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Oyamazaki – the new green leaves (shinryoku) were almost blinding against the deep blue sky. A ginko (composition stroll) was enjoyed in the morning, followed by the compilation of some of the 3- and 2-line verses we had just written into a renga (linked verse) in a room in the Oyamazaki Furusato Centre in the afternoon. Twelve poets came. Notable attendees included Noriko Kan from Matsuyama, Kayo Fukuda from Gunma and her Scottish friend, Graham, just off the plane! Perhaps in Graham’s honour, we briefly visited the Suntory Whisky Distillery. Also, the beautiful garden of the Asahi Oyamazaki Sansō, written about by Natsume Sōseki and replete with kakitsubata (rabbit-ear) iris flowering beside a stream.

有難き姿拝がまんかきつばた (芭蕉)
To that honourable figure
I shall make a bow –
the purple iris flower ……………… (Bashō)

Bashō was referring to Yamazaki Sōkan, an early haiku poet who lived in Oyamazaki and whose haiku monument we also visited. Along with Moritake, he was one of the two pioneers of the haikai-no-renga tradition, on which haiku itself is founded. Later, we were permitted to step into the earthen-floored entrance hall of Myōki-an, a haunt of another of Basho’s heroes, the tea-master Rikyū, part of which is said to have been constructed on the site of Sōkan’s hut. We had not made a prior reservation and so, instead of entering the tea-house, strolled around the nearby Rikyū Hachiman Shrine.

手をついて歌申しあぐる蛙かな (宗鑑)
Hands flat on the ground in front,
reverentially he recites his poem –
the frog! ……………… (Sōkan)

At Takaradera (also known as Hōshakuji Temple) earlier, some of us had paid our respects to Enma-Daiō (the King of Hell) and his truly intimidating Court, a marvellous set of wooden sculptures sitting in its own ‘courthouse’ high on Mt. Tennō. Far below, we had glimpsed the confluence of the three rivers, Katsura, Uji and Kizu, which flow on as the Yodo, on whose banks Buson was born. Lunch was taken in a Chinese restaurant nearby. Hisashi Miyazaki and Richard Donovan then took on the respective roles of sabaki (chief compiler) and shūhitsu (associate ed./scribe) as we began our creative work at the Furusato Centre. It is hoped to share the resultant renga later. For now, then, here is the hokku/wakiku:

A clear sky …
sprouting green leaves
breathe with us ……………… (Akito)

The sound of ice
being dropped into a glass ……………… (Tito)

 

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