Green Pigeon Man

the old pond
a freedom fighter drops his pants
and plunges in

Simon Piggott wrote this haiku one hot summer’s day in Oshika-mura, Nagano, at 1,000m in Japan’s Southern Alps. He lived there for decades in an old wooden house he had named Saimon-tei 祭文亭, occasionally opening it up as a theatre and concert venue. He worked primarily as a translator, acted for a time as Kamasawa Village deputy headman, and led the organization supporting the local Shinto shrine, while also tending the nearby cairn to Prince Munenaga 宗良親王 (son of Emp. Godaigo and 14th century resistance leader for the Southern Court against the North), who had fled there. Simon had once presented on Munenaga and Oshika-mura to our Hibikiai Forum seminar in Kyoto.

Born in Northamptonshire, England on 7 April 1950, he passed away after a bout with skin cancer on 8th June, aged 72. He had studied Japanese Language & Literature in the 1970s at SOAS, London University, ahead of me, and much later, David Stormer, too. After graduation Simon returned to Japan and never left. We had played in the same football team in Tokyo in the early 1980s: the Hachiko Boys! Simon was a gifted, independent soul and taught those of us who visited him much about the art of country living. A breath of fresh air! He leaves behind a wife, three daughters, and seven grandchildren. We will sorely miss this unsung freedom-fighting Englishman here in Japan. Thank you, Saimon.
+ RIP +

いづかたも山の端ちかき柴の戸は月見る空やすくなかるらむ
on every side mountains
tower up around
my brushwood cottage
so narrow is the sky
in which i view the moon

(by Munenaga, trans. SP)

look past the garden
snow mountains are welcoming
stars, the confetti

(by SP)

Finally, and movingly, a short excerpt from a piece he wrote on his blogsite,  back in April:

… It was a beautiful spot, looking out to the high mountains across the valley. It was also adjacent to the place where he had cut down trees for firewood all those years ago.

He walked very slowly, still not confident whether his body wouldn’t be damaged by the exertion. But, so far, it seemed to be holding up.

As he neared his destination he saw an uncommon bird flying horizontally through the trees. Jays and rooks were common here, but it wasn’t one of those. By the flash of colour that he had caught sight of he identified it as an aobato, a green pigeon, a bird whose distinctive call he occasionally heard, but which he had only actually seen a few times. To see it today of all days seemed auspicious.

Immediately he decided that, in accordance with the Buddhist custom of taking a new name after death, he would call himself aobato-koji — Green Pigeon Man.

It was a joke. But he was also serious. Green Pigeon Man.

Presently he arrived at the clearing where the small statue for the dead farm animals stood. He searched for a suitable place to put the stone that would commemorate him, the Green Pigeon Man. About ten metres away he found four closely grouped pines. He would put his stone here between the trees.

Thus he would become the Green Pigeon Man of the Four Pines.

Then, satisfied with what he had accomplished, he set off back down the mountain.

He didn’t see the green pigeon again, but, in the forest just above his house, did faintly hear its call.

my gravestone is up:
unknown, unvisited, this
virgin rock perhaps
one day will kisses cover
like oscar’s in père lachaise*

Notes – *alluding to Oscar Wilde’s tomb, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.
The old pond haiku was later published in our 2005 anthology Enhaiklopedia.
The full piece, Green Pigeon Man of the Four Pines, is available at Simon’s blogsite, here.
Richard Donovan and Tito hope to go to Oshika sometime to pay our respects at Green Pigeon Man’s gravestone.

David Chigusa Stormer

Sunset is done
the morning glory keeps
winding the night

It is my very sad duty to inform our Circle members that David Chigusa Stormer passed away, in Bangkok on 15 May this year, just eleven days short of his 6oth birthday. He had been fighting prostate cancer and had gone there for special treatment not available in Japan. He was an original member of Hailstone Haiku Circle and his haiku have appeared in most of our books over the past two or more decades. He was also a regular contributor to Icebox, in recent years offering us many subtle haibun and haiku sequences, written both in Tokyo, where he lived and worked, and on his travels. He leaves behind his partner, Charles Chigusa, whom he married in 2009 in Auckland, N.Z. (the country of his birth). A graduate of London University’s School of Oriental & African Studies, where he read Japanese History, David was well equipped to live and work in Japan. He became a professional translator and rewriter. His modesty and gentleness suited this country nicely, and he did voluntary work with the NPO You Me We in Yokohama. He never lost the wry twinkle in his eye, nor his slightly irreverent sense of humour. He will be greatly missed.

+ RIP +

Morning eclipse ………………………………………… Brave man in bronze
a bell dulled……………………………………………… white-lipped, mute to
by winds and miles …………………………………….. the birds’ disrespect

David Cobb (1926~2020)

It is with a heavy heart that I have to report that a friend of many decades, co-founder of the British Haiku Society, close colleague in its early years, haibun pioneer, and 2020 Genjuan Haibun Contest Grand Prix winner, David Cobb, passed away quite naturally in his sleep surrounded by family in Essex, England on 6 November. He was 94. His son, Thomas, kindly wrote to me to bring this news, confiding that his father had been “thrilled with winning the Genjuan award this year and told all his friends and family about his achievement” and that “although ever the perfectionist, he had continued to “improve” Snow in Advent with each telling. I think he felt that winning the prize showed he still had the touch.” We judges were overjoyed when we found out it was his piece! He had both a wonderful sense of humour and a great sensibility to the seasons, as borne out by the concluding haiku in his Grand Prix work:

snowballs / even the rose bushes / starting to throw them

David had visited Hailstone in autumn 2004 to deliver his Sasakawa Prize Lecture here in Kyoto on the subject of his fledgling Almanac of Season Words Pertinent to England. We had hired a room at Hachidai Jinja for the purpose and guided him on a visit to the Basho-do and Buson’s grave in nearby Konpukuji Temple. On another day, I had joined him for an international haiku event in Basho’s birthtown, Iga-Ueno, where we were on the same renku table. I have never forgotten the verse he offered us for a winter stanza. It depicted “snow settling on a sensitive part” of Michelangelo’s David statue in Florence! That contribution certainly raised a few eyebrows in Iga.

 

His contribution to English haiku was immense and he will be sorely missed by family and friends, and in haiku journals and websites worldwide. My dear Old Turnip (Ko-bu), rest in peace.

Hailstone will attempt, if coronavirus allows, to do a renga in his honour in the near future and, if worthy, to send it to Thomas and sister Alison as a memento next year.

children panicking — / out of the tiger cage / a wasp!

pear leaves fall: / a landscape starts to form / between the branches

A much fuller tribute to David Cobb has just appeared on the Contemporary Haibun Online site. It includes short essays by Colin Blundell, Jim Kacian, Kim Richardson, Sean O’Connor and Stephen Henry Gill.

 

 

 

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

Hisashi Miyazaki (Kame-san)

(click photos to enlarge)

This will come as a shock to many of you, but I have to tell you that our dear friend and colleague, Hisashi Miyazaki, passed away suddenly of a respiratory infection (not corona) in Takatsuki, Osaka last Friday, 3 September, aged 80. He was only ill for two days. Hailstone Haiku Circle members will know him as a former assistant editor of the Icebox, a judge of the Genjuan Haibun Contest, and he was still serving on the Hailstone Committee helping to make decisions for our group. He is irreplaceable and will be hugely missed. Our hearts go out to his wife, Keiko, and the rest of the family. He was co-organizer of a forthcoming event in Takatsuki to be held on October 17th and we will have to redesign it as a Hisashi 亀さん (Kame-san) Memorial event. The character with which ‘Hisashi’ is written means ‘turtle’. Mr. Turtle.

Hisashi was born in Dec. 1939 in Osaka. He read biology at Kobe University and joined their Mountaineering Club, a passion he still had well into his seventies. He also loved fishing and haiku. He led several Hailstone Autumn Haikes. He became a Doctor of Pharmacy and worked as a research scientist testing new drugs in the Dainippon Seiyaku labs. After retirement, he did freelance medical translation work. His translation skills were to the fore in several haiku projects, too, most notably perhaps, the recent Japanese version of the Cottage of Visions haibun anthology, entitled イヌピアット語のレッスン, Inupiat Lessons, 2019. He also published an entertaining haiku collection in Japanese entitled 未来書房 The Future Bookstore, 2003, and a fine haibun collection オロロロの丘 Zigzag, 2010.


He co-edited our Hailstone anthology, Seasons of the Gods, 2007 and did the Japanese translations we published in Enhaiklopedia, 2005. He was responsible for bringing his Japanese haiku teacher, Nenten Tsubo’uchi onto the judges’ panel for the Genjuan Contest for four years. Above all, perhaps, he was that happy man who always made others feel relaxed and improved everything effortlessly… ‘light’ in all his dealings.

– R I P –

Three of his haiku, in Hisashi’s own English translations, from The Future Bookstore:

a snake creeping ………………….. temptation ………………………………….. deliquescence
up the stone mound — …………… on the mountain top: ……………………… of a manganese salt —
translation in progress ……………. to step onto ………………………………… August’s end
………………………………………. the spring rainbow

John McAteer

I am sad to have to tell you that our good friend and fellow poet, John McAteer, passed away of Alzheimer’s on March 28 in Portland, Oregon — precisely at cherry blossom time. He was 84. His wife, Peggy writes that “a little card I made was the last thing I was able to share with John … The photo was taken at the hanami party 3 years ago in Ohara. Though he was already suffering from the effects of developing Alzheimer’s, it was very important to him that we got to Japan in time for your hanami event … His relationship with the haiku group added great depth to his life in Japan and I thank you very much. I may work the text into a real haiku and use it for his grave marker.” ……… (click on the photo to enlarge)

.
Kyoto sakura
The petals will surely fall
But never our love
……………. Peggy
.
Endless the pathways
redolent of times gone by —
Ogura’s shadow
……………. John (from 100 Poets)

.

…………………………………… Against the sea’s roar —
…………………………………….The frail old man stands
…………………………………….Sounding his shakuhachi
………………………………………………….. John (from Lost Heian)
.
Sitting entranced …………………………………. How many climbers
in the upper room — ……………………………. have grasped this root for aid?
evening mountain shadows …………………. shining still like teak
……………………………………. John (both from Meltdown)
.
John was born in Massachusetts and first came to Japan in 1972. Over the years, he worked as professor/lecturer for several universities here in Kansai, including Nara Nat. Univ. of Educ.. He was a gifted performer of Noh, a playwright (most memorably his Robert Frost Noh piece, The Death of a Hired Man), a father, husband and true friend to many. His smile was a real delight. He often used to recite Yeats in his rich baritone voice as he strolled along with us on our haiku hikes. His last performance was in the Portland State Univ. production of the kabuki, 47 Loyal Samurai, in 2016. Peggy tells me that he passed away on the very same day that his own teacher of Noh, Udaka Mitsuhige, did! John will be sorely missed by all. Our prayers are with his family now. Please remember him, as we do Saigyo, under the cherry moon.
.
You can see more of John in reports of some events, such as these:

Ellis

Dear friend and Hailstone member, Ellis Avery, passed away on Feb. 15 of this year. She had been fighting cancer for quite a while, and several of her friends here in Kansai knew of this. A few of us were fortunate to have had dinner with her on what we now know to have been her last trip to her beloved Kyoto, in December 2018. Some of us were given her latest Haiku Datebook containing her daily English haiku for the last full year of her regretfully shortened life. The first poem in it goes:

………. Bright sun, blue Charles,
………. her hand in mine. So thankful
………. for this day, so keen for more.

The Charles is the name of the river running through Boston, MA, where she lived with her wife, Sharon Marcus, and where my own grandmother lived in later life and died (but at more than double Ellis’ age of 46). This haiku especially brings tears to my eyes.

Some of you may remember Ellis as a contributor to Hibikiai Forum, as a judge of the Genjuan International Haibun Contest or perhaps, more likely, as a prize-winning novelist. Amongst her works outside of haiku were The Smoke Week (2003), The Teahouse Fire (2006), and The Last Nude (2012). She was not only a brilliant writer and fine poet, but also a most compassionate person: in fact she had been training to become a nurse. Our thoughts go out to Sharon. Her artistic legacy will survive!

Ellis’ latest haiku collection can be purchased here: http://www.harvard.com/book/haiku_datebook_2019/

This is the penultimate haiku in the book:

………. The leaves are dead,
………. but not the trees. They rest
………. with arms aloft. They wait.

RIP

Thinking of Angelee

For those planning to take part in next year’s Genjuan International Haibun Contest, we are very sorry to have to announce that our colleague Angelee Deodhar, one of India’s foremost haiku poets, passed away quite suddenly on June 28 in Chandigarh. She had been in recent correspondence with us, not only about the Contest and publications, but also about a planned visit to Japan next spring. Those of us who have worked with her at the Cottage of Visions are greatly saddened. She made a splendid contribution to English haibun, by editing the epic ‘Journeys’ anthology series and helping to judge the Genjuan, yet she herself always remained modest, tactful and warm. She signed off her letters, to me at least, with the phrase, ‘Love and light’ …

This graciousness will surely continue to be felt and cherished. Our thoughts are with her family and close friends at this time.

It is appropriate to share what she had apparently once referred to as her 辞世 jisei, or death verse:

water-worn boulder
so smooth now
against callused feet

RIP

Icebox 10th Anniversary & Tohta’s Passing

Last night, Hailstone Haiku Circle held a Committee Meet in Osaka to talk about such things as sales of our latest book Persimmon, future publications, the Genjuan Haibun Contest (a record 133 entries), and a venue for one of our seminars. It was also pointed out that our Icebox site was launched on 23 February 2008, exactly ten years ago! The recent death of the much-respected poet, Tohta Kaneko on 20 Feb., aged 98, was also mentioned and some appreciative comments passed. So, both a happy and a sad time last night.

Icebox – looking back this February along the path we’ve trodden, I wonder if you’d agree that our main achievement these past ten years might have been to provide a glimpse of what it means to be a haiku poet in today’s Japan, whether you are Japanese or a resident foreigner – and not only ‘at the desk’. It has to be respectful, genuinely creative and fun. Japan is, of course, an ace place to grow rich in haiku and its spirit. ‘Risk’ and ‘wonder’ are also perhaps two keywords, describing both our haiku and our activities as a whole. We have also hopefully given you a taste of Japan’s deep seasons. I see from my WordPress dashboard that we’ve so far had 468 posts from our contributors, almost 3,000 comments (anyone can leave these), created 32 special pages (see top right, on subjects such as haiku, haibun, renga, haiga), added 50 links to other recommendable haiku or related sites (see blogroll), a search facility, archives, a publications page (where you can find out how to order one of our books – including the Kikakuza and Genjuan Haibun anthologies), a poll on what you think are the 3 most important characteristics of English haiku (click on ‘results’ to see how it is going!), an events page (for those of you who can speak at least a little English and are in W.  Japan), and a submissions facility (via the reply box/comments on the Submissions – NEW! page). Yes, you can submit to be included in the regular ‘from the Icebox inbox’ postings! There are also experimental spaces where attendees at our two main seminar groups (in Kyoto and Osaka) can get comments on work-in-progress. After ten years at this game, perhaps you’ll allow the Icebox team a quick “Banzai!” Let me also express gratitude to my fellow editors, Gerald Staggers (aka Duro Jaiye) and Hisashi Miyazaki; to David McCullough for helping to start the site;  and also, to our contributors (notably Nobuyuki Yuasa, or ‘Sosui’) who try to keep this weblog up there with the best haiku sites there are. A timely bow.

With snow all around
The crimson berets of cranes
Stand out in the sun ……………………………….. (Sosui)

Tohta – as many of you will know, he was one of Japan’s  greatest modern haiku poets, a leader of the Gendai Haiku Association, an opponent of war and political revisionism, a charming and humorous man, who had several foreign followers who for long studied under him. I never had that opportunity, alas, as not in Tokyo, but I do have two treasured memories of him, in both of which I can still clearly see the twinkle in his eye and his real passion for the art of haiku. The first was after a paper I’d delivered to an international conference in 1997 attended by most of the prominent poets from the haiku organizations in Japan and America. I was the British interloper who spoke about ‘Haiku as Poetry and Sound’. When I’d finished, from his seat in the front row, he raced up to the lectern and said in a loud, jovial way, “Gambare!” (‘At a boy! Keep it up!) and proceeded to explain that ongakusei (cadence or musicality) was to him one of the three most important aspects of haiku. One of the others, by the way, was fiction, which not many foreign haiku poets believe in – certainly not for haiku! The second vivid memory of Tohta was when I went to interview him for a BBC Radio programme I was making on the recent history of haiku (both in Japan and abroad), Close to Silence Very soon after we got started, he got out a haiku he’d just composed that day and asked me, somewhat feverishly, what I thought about it, as if it was much more important than the interview itself – he, a venerable and well-respected leader of haiku in the Land of Haiku; I, an ex-Events Officer for the British Haiku Society! He was all ears, though.

サングラスのパブロピカソに蜜蜂
sangurasu no Paburo Pikaso ni mitsubachi
……… Wearing sunglasses
……… Pablo Picasso, confronted by
……… A honey bee! …………………………………………….. (Tohta)

In my imagination, Picasso must be wearing one of his trademark hooped T-shirts to somehow match the bee! I laughed loudly that day and I still laugh at this now. We will miss him greatly.

Yoshihiko Suzuki

Today, I heard the sad news that one of Hailstone’s founding members, Yoshihiko Suzuki, had passed away of cancer last month in Nishinomiya, aged 90. He graduated in 1951 from Tokyo Univ. as a mechanical engineer, later working for Sakae Kogyo KK. Because of his excellent English, he was often posted abroad. The trilingual haiku here is reproduced from his book, Signpost (pub. 1999). In it, we find Yoshihiko out in Thailand, from where he sent us many wonderful poems. The haiga of a Thai elephant is by his daughter, Ritsuko, whom, together with his wife Michiko, he leaves behind. There are grandsons, too (viz. another fine haiku, for which there is an extant kuhi (poem stone) in Hikami-cho in eastern Hyogo (btm. lt.). Our thoughts are with them all. [Click on any pic to see more detail.]Why? Why not? / Little grandson asking endlessly – / Spring evening

Summer shower – / Encountering a beauty, / Saying, “After you!”

Waiting in a long line / To cradle for a minute / The tiny koala …………. (Sydney, pub. The Meridian, 1998)

Floodwaters besieging / An old temple – / It grows dark …………. (Thailand, pub. Enhaiklopedia, 2005)

RIP

Toshi’s Commemoration

………….. The autumn air resounds
………….. With girls’ cheerful voices –
………….. An old professor joins in                              Toshi

Commemorating our much-loved haijin, Toshi Ida, on November 22, 2015, a quartet of poets accepted a gracious invitation by Toshi’s life-partner, Michiko-san, to visit her home at Chitose-cho, Kameoka.  We shared an autumnal afternoon tea, with November-only ‘inoshishi mochi’ and home-grown persimmons. Michiko made Toshi’s ‘Hibikiai Forum English Haiku Poems’ class archives available to explore.  Yoshiharu presented a gift of a hand-made book featuring his calligraphy of many of Toshi’s haiku, while Keiko offered a hand-made wall hanging, in which to display individual card pages from the book. A white-and-purple bouquet was also presented on behalf of the Hailstone Circle.

In the early evening, rounding off our visit, we visited the local Daiizumo Jingu shrine, which was holding a festival under the rising moon.  The leaves were flaunting themselves, the weather was perfect: Toshi’s commemoration proved to be a delight.

 

A copse of maple trees –
the first anniversary
of Toshi’s passing ……………………………….. Yoshiharu

………….. carefully opening
………….. his cupped hands –
………….. a snow-midge
………….. floats aloft                               Ursula

shrine festival –
the man who got lost in the village
now tasting wine                                   Keiko

…………………………. The dozy red
…………………………. Of distant lit-up maples –
…………………………. Drums pound to the moon.                    Tito