from the Icebox inbox – 49

with comments by Sosui (Nobuyuki Yuasa)

From a lot of new haiku submitted these past few months, I have selected the following eight and will comment on each of them. But first, I should like to tell you briefly what kind of haiku I prefer. Ezra Pound’s famous words “direct treatment of the ‘thing’” are often used to explain haiku, but I have always thought that this shows only one side of haiku. I much prefer William Blake’s famous lines “To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower”. They describe haiku much better. I believe that haiku must show infinity in an image of a moment. Of the many submitted, there are only a few that come close to my conviction.

two varied tits
came from the coppice
fused into cherry blossom

Yoshiharu Kondo, Shiga

I like this poem because it successfully conveys the joy we all have when cherry blossoms come to bloom. It would be better to put a dash at the end of the second line to separate the third line. In Japanese haiku we use kireji (cutting word), but I think you can get the same effect by using a dash. It shows the last line belongs to a different level of experience.

my new Jawa bike –
the dragonfly comes back
for a second look

Kanchan Chatterjee, India

I have always liked dragonflies since boyhood. There is something humorous about the dragonfly in this poem. Dragonflies have big compound eyes and they can see certain things very well – for example, another dragonfly far away. I wonder what this dragonfly saw in the poet’s bicycle.

hot sunny day …
ants changing their
course of action

Lakshmi Iyer, India

I chose this poem because a line of ants is a favourite topic in Japanese haiku. I feel, though, that this poem needs to be more precise in its presentation of ants’ action. “Changing course” fails to show us what the ants are doing. I suppose ants changed their course because of the heat. If so, you could say, “ants changed their course / going through the leaves.” You must think once more about Ezra Pound’s words I quoted above.

one pink Japanese
magnolia petal on
the black, wet road –

Sydney Solis, Florida

I have chosen this poem for two reasons: first, because it has four lines and second, because magnolia is used as a midwinter seasonal word. I have no objection to four-line haiku. I sometimes feel three-line haiku too short and truncated, especially if each line contains only one word or just a few words. But the one-word line in this haiku, however, can be justified. My second point is about magnolia. In Japan it blooms in spring. Does it really bloom in midwinter in Florida? If the last line had been “midwinter weather”, it would have been easier for me to have understood the poem.

empty house
the sun’s rays light up
the lone gecko

Uma Anandalwar

This is an impressive poem. During World War II, I used to live in a farmhouse with a few geckos. In Japanese, a gecko is called yamori, which means “a keeper of the house”. Geckos used to frighten me, suddenly dropping down from ceilings and walls. A gecko is truly a symbol of an empty house. I am glad to see this poem.

arriving at a tea shop
after a long trek …
a puppy greets me

K. Ramesh, Tamil Nadu

This is a heart-warming poem. It is nice to have a welcome of this kind when you are tired. It would be even nicer if the author had given us a more detailed description of the puppy. I live in a home for aged people where no animals are allowed, but there is one cat that lives with us. Here is my poem about it:

On a balmy day
I whistle to the white cat —
My greeting ignored.

Sleepless night in spring
My love’s gentle breath is a
Melody of peace

Ulla Bruun

This is an impressive poem, soothing and heart-warming. The only thing I am worried about is the way the second line ends. It is better, I think, to close it as a complete line and use a dash to emphasize the last line; for example, “My love’s gentle breath is heard — / A melody of peace”.

wind picking up –
suddenly from glassy lake
Hokusai waves

Ingrid Baluchi, North Macedonia

In this poem, “Hokusai waves” are used very effectively, and the speed with which they rise from the glassy lake is impressive. The only thing I am slightly worried about is the lack of season word. Of course I am aware of the legitimacy of non-season haiku, but in describing a scene like this, the use of a seasonal word is desirable.

from the Icebox inbox – 48

a coruscation
of moonlight across the dark sea—
election results

Sydney Solis, Florida

My sandwich vanishes—
A kite flies away
Into the autumn sky

Hiyori Nakao, Kyoto Univ.

Crossing Sanjo Bridge
white hilltops in the distance
he blows on his hands

Peter MacIntosh, Kyoto

pause in the traffic…
the pop of monsoon raindrops
on the road

K. Ramesh, Tamil Nadu

thick webs
in between the branches
gardener’s long leave

Lakshmi Iyer, Kerala

mud pies…
what could smell better
than a handful of earth?

Ingrid Baluchi, North Macedonia

After the rain
falling on my shoulder now…
gingko leaves

Takumi Harada, Ryukoku Univ.

on New Year’s Day
the twinkling stars descend
down the shore
I lit the lamps of hope
erasing grief’s shadow

Pravat Kumar Padhy, Odisha

New Icebox Theme & Genjuan 2021 Guidelines

Some of you might have noticed that for a few months now, the Icebox seems to have lost Archives, Categories and the Poll from our right sidebar. Our server WordPress has told us that it is because the theme we have been using these past 12 years is beginning to break up and we should change to a new one. Please don’t be surprised to find Icebox looking different at the end of this month! It will be revamped, though all content will be preserved.

The Guidelines for next year’s Genjuan International Haibun Contest can now be read here or via the page link above. (To return to the top page after reading, just click the Icebox title photo of hailstones on wood.) Please note that entries will not be accepted before Dec. 1, only 2 max., and that they must be submitted in the body of an email. This is to suit the Covid circumstances we live in and our new Officer, Junko Oda, but will no doubt also make it easier for most of you to submit! The three judges remain the same as last year.

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)

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?)

from the Icebox inbox – 45

morning vigil ……………………………………………….. snowfall so gentle
a sprinkle of dew …………………………………………. covers a lifetime so far
splashing light …………………………………………….. light shows the way

Bamdev Sharma, Kathmandu ……………………… Ann Mari Urwald, Denmark

firefighters’ endless …………………………………….. a poppy
reeling, damping down, de-crowning — ……. on the table
jargon and swearwords ………………………………. his empty chair

Hamish Nicholson, Canberra ………………………. Joanna M. Weston, B.C.

Is it a fire? ………………………………………………….. getting cold –-
No, only ………………………………………………………. even mossy ground
A dazzling ginkgo ……………………………………….. wears a leaf futon

Shinyu Kamiya, Ryukoku Univ., Kyoto ………. Shingo Ichikura, Kyoto Univ.

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:

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

from the Icebox inbox – 44

jingling cry for peace
a poet’s soul flickers
the spring lights

Masumi Orihara

Standing here
dazzled by new green leaves –
the road to the shrine

Masahiro Nakagawa

Graceful heron looks
Past his own still reflection
Finds the fish beneath

Seth T. Tolbert

redcurrant jelly
shoots from the spoon
summer days

Joanna M. Weston

The ground, infinite
with infants
following ants

Keiko Yurugi

from the Icebox inbox – 43

Haibun: Offerings

Nicole Hague-Andrews

.. The trolls at Fowlmere live under the bridges, and sometimes under the boardwalks that meander through the marshy reed beds. They live in the damp, shady places, loathing the sunlight and will eat you if you don’t answer their questions correctly or give them the gifts that they ask for. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to appease them in order to cross their bridges to safety. They ask us what our favourite colours are (which we have rehearsed well beforehand); sometimes they ask for leaves or berries, sticks, songs, poems or numbers. They are as fickle as the wind and the rain.

circling the gunnera*
two feet wide

.. At the old watercress beds, the pump galoops water… and our dresses are wet to the knees. The trolls won’t eat the spicy, bitter watercress, but we like it with our apples and crackers. The chalk-bed stream water is so clear that Ophelia floats by on luminous weeds, as we throw blackberries on her and the silky, seed-expanded heads of reeds.

dried-up reed beds:
from the hide
Florence blows shut
the windows

.. We are becoming familiar with the different families of trolls: some are nicer than others, can even be experienced as kind. We try to understand their natures. Still, we are left alone to climb trees and make dens.

from the bridge
half a yellow leaf
… floats by

* gunnera – giant rhubarb

Poem: Voici

Serge Saunière

Voici ces quelques photos des deux jours passés prés de vous.
Ciel bleu et soleil pour nous accompagner.
Souvenirs escarpés et quelques pierres de plus sur mes étagères.
Un bonsaî genévrier qui respire à nouveau.
Basho au cours de l’eau.
Le désir de vous revoir.

Here are some pictures of the two days spent with you.
Blue sky and sun to accompany us.
Steep memories and some more stones now on my shelves.
A juniper bonsai that breathes once more.
Basho over the water.
The desire to see you again.

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2019: submissions, new judge, new book

The Genjuan Contest office is now open to receive your submissions for 2019. Closing deadline will be 31 Jan. (although a day or two beyond is usually OK).

Last year, three of four judges were based in Japan, with Angelee Deodhar, giving us her gifted support from India. With Angelee’s sudden passing and the retirement of emeritus judge, Nenten Tsubo’uchi, we decided to ask Toru Kiuchi to join us as judge this year. We were delighted when he accepted the appointment. He is a former Professor of English at Nihon University, Vice Director of the International Division at the Museum of Haiku Literature, Tokyo, as well as author of the recently published book, American Haiku: New Readings (Lexington Books).  We welcome him to the role and give a deep bow to Nenten for all he has contributed to the Contest.

The rules remain the same as last year. How about entering a piece or two? There are real prizes, certificates and judges’ comments for the winners, and it’s free! Address of our officer, Eiko Mori, and other details are given in the Genjuan 2019 Guidelines .

Finally, it is worth mentioning again that the Genjuan Contest Decorated Works 2015-17 anthology, complete with judges’ comments and examples of contemporary Japanese haibun, was published by us earlier this year. The pale green book with a painting by Buson on its cover is entitled, From the Cottage of Visions. Details of how to order are give on our Publications page, too.

from the Icebox inbox – 42

Early spring morn —
again, that pair of silent crows
atop the old pine

A black caterpillar
eating a big taro leaf —
the long dry spell …………………………. (Yoshiharu Kondo)

Wandering at night
I see my father’s face in
an old cobblestone.

A lonely thatched hut
two poets shared—one leaving,
one staying behind. …………………………………. (Maria Lin)

The smell of honeysuckle …
the night lights up
with first lightning bolts ……………………. (Julia Guzman)