Genjuan ’20 Winning Haibun

Grand Prix

Snow in Advent

by David Cobb (U.K.)

….. hurry up  hurry
….. dusty cobwebs
.. all over the sledge

Not the sight or sound of falling snow
stirred us from our beds,
more the feeling of its presence as weight,
of its avoirdupois if you will,
or lack of it, three inches deep now,
the glare of snow settling on eyelids,
dressing us up as in fancy dress for Christmas.
To begin with nothing sullies the snow,
not a footprint on paths, no print of hand
on bonnets of cars. No animal shows itself,
no puss cat tests it with a dangling paw,
no rabbit sniffs it. Just a small fluffed-up bird,
such as blackbird, tit, goldfinch, thrush
has left here and there some hungry impression.
There’s a shout for cameras,
reminder to put on woolly caps, boots, scarves …

………. snowballs
.. even the rose bushes
. starting to throw them


An (Cottage) Prize


by  David McCullough  (Japan)

A February sky rose — grey pillows of turbulent cloud that soared in heavy, roofless towers above the crematorium. Lit by the lowering sun, every colour was painted on that air; purples, greens, flashes of fire. Diminished, far below, women in windblown hats huddled with men in dark suits. There was a minister with a fading, professional smile.

At a nod from the undertaker we six gathered. Two pallbearers lifted the coffin. We all stepped close. The trolley was whipped away. The weight of the wood came heavy onto our shoulders. We straightened our knees.

From far away a sudden thunder shook the sky. Dry leaves lifted. A hiss hurried over the car park … white hailstones came flashing to rattle on the coffin lid. We moved toward cover. At the chapel doorway we stopped, spilling shards of ice across the granite floor. We held our breath, then entered to lay the box at the front of the room.

A quiet body rested there. Waited to be lowered into hot fire.
The proper end to a decent life.

And yet, and yet; I could not bear to see it go.

After the service, people stood, murmuring to each other.

I went up to the box.

With one hand clutching the hand of my daughter I lifted the other to touch my father for the last time.

.. eyes closed, 
.. fingertips on oak —
.. the sound of hail 
.. giving way to rain


An (Cottage) Prize

Key West Cat

by  Joan Prefontaine  (U.S.A.)

At Blue Heaven Restaurant, which once hosted cock fights and late-night boxing matches refereed by Papa Hemingway, I sneak a morsel of Grilled Filet of Mahi-Mahi with Island Curry Butter Sauce to one of the wandering felines (a gray tabby with yellow eyes), reaching low under my chair where the outdoor courtyard is paved with slate pool tabletops from the days when this establishment included a billiard hall—something I would never, never do at home. “You shouldn’t do that,” my husband demurs, buttering his hunk of cornbread. “She’ll follow us back to our room.” “It’s a poor, street cat,” I say, “dependent on the kindness of strangers.” “It’s a five-star restaurant cat,” he says. “Look. No sunken-in belly, no torn fur.” He is enjoying every bite of his Grouper Rubbed with Dry Caribbean Spices, Herbed Potatoes, Half Moon Cucumbers and a Lime and Honey Glaze. (At the Hemingway House down the street, fifty felines, half of them six-toed polydactyl cats, and one rare seven-toed specimen, conk out in the heat of the day in the shade of the luxurious grounds.) This resolute, restaurant-alley cat is neither shabby nor discreet. When she is done gulping the fish I have so courteously dropped for her, she is off to gape, like a hobo whose mouth is her tin cup, at another woman wearing a Dolphins Are Beautiful t-shirt and silver conch earrings, and whose Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Rice, Black Beans and Plantain, has just arrived on an elegant tray, fragrant and sizzling.

.. seagulls line up
.. to wait for
.. the incoming tide

7 responses to “Genjuan ’20 Winning Haibun

  1. I enjoyed reading the three winning haibun pieces of the Genjuan Contest this year. It was especially good to see the name of David Cobb. Back in 2002, he invited me to judge the haibun contest he had inaugurated for the British Haiku Society. The result was published as Brushwood I, in which his work appears as one of the runners-up. I am always an admirer of his style. He has a special talent to weave words and images into rich tapestries. I was very glad to see this talent of his not at all diminished in his old age. I was impressed by his haibun on Advent snow — so rich in details and nuances.
    David McCullough’s haibun deals with an impressive subject, but I think it requires special art to make the haibun equally impressive in itself. One can easily become over-sentimental. One has deep emotions in the heart, but one must express them through images. I think David McCullough has done this very well. The ultimate haiku, though, sounds more like an escape than a conclusion. I am bit puzzled by it.
    I did not know Key West very well, so I did a bit of research after reading Joan Prefontaine’s haibun piece. Hemingway lived there before moving to Cuba, and learned deep-sea fishing. He was given a six-toed cat by a local fisherman. Why six-toed, I wandered. The explanation was that Key West is such a tiny place surrounded by the sea, so that cats had inbred over generations. Maybe, the cats Joan Prefontaine writes about are descendants of Hemingway’s cat, or at least related to it. Anyway, I enjoyed reading about the warm, loose atmosphere of the island, so well-described in this haibun. I got the impression, though, that Key West has been commercialized as a tourist attraction over the years since Hemingway’s time.
    Finally, let me express my hope that the Genjuan Contest will continue even after Stephen Henry Gill retires as organizer. So far as I know, it is the sole truly world-wide arena for haibun writers writing in English. Sosui (Nobuyuki Yuasa)

  2. Well congratulations on 94!!! I remember Our Kyoto Hailstone event, where you were the honoured guest… Wasn’t that just the other … ?

    The opening haiku really had me wondering…and then there it is! Snow… and “the glare of snow settling on eyelids”. So strange. I enjoyed how the negations (“not the sight or sound…; nothing sullies…; not a footprint … no print of hand…No animal …no puss cat …no rabbit sniffs it”) lend great weigh to what is…’some hungry impression’ (of small birds) on all that snow…
    It’s fun how the shouts for cameras and wooly hats circle back to the dusty, cobwebbed sledge, ending in the snowball fight (which even the roses join)!

    • Thanks for reminding us that David Cobb visited Hailstone Haiku Circle for an event back in 2004. We went first to Buson’s grave and the Basho Hut at Kompukuji Temple, then listened to David delivering his Sasakawa Prize Lecture on English Seasonal Images at Hachidai Jinja, not so far from your present home. That day we had Nobuyuki with us as well as Ikuyo Yoshimura and Yasuhiko Shigemoto.

  3. Hello David, How poignant the final prose line… such an unexpected build up from the evocative natural setting. The ‘minister with a fading, professional smile’ at first led me to think it was a government official of some kind (despite ‘crematoium’), so when ‘At a nod from the undertaker ‘ appeared, it was a jolt. Then that physical sensation of weight, which was also emotional, and the weaving in again of the natural world…and touch… clutching the hand of your daughter, touching your father … and you the link. Such a beautiful sadness.

  4. That ‘resolute, restaurant-alley cat … like a hobo whose mouth is her tin cup..’ has the gastronomic smarts! What a mouth-watering
    haibun. Very visual. The gorgeous & luxuirous counterpointed with the grim… Blue Heaven / cockfights; poor, street cat,” “dependent on the kindness of strangers.” …“five-star restaurant cat…” Despite the grim end for Balnche, Idon’t for one moment think this cluey cat will meet the same end.

    Interseting literary allusions to Hemingway and Tenessee.

    As a cat love myself, I am intrigued by these lolling, fifty felines including ‘six-toed polydactyl cats, and one rare seven-toed specimen’. Cat paradise.

    Intriguing that the closing haiku features seagulls…

  5. The winners are all very evocative in their own ways, drawing us fully into their realities for the space of their words. The haiku create a little distance from the narrative, allowing the images and emotions to expand in our minds and accompany us for a while after we have finished reading.

  6. These comments, just in, from Kyoko Nozaki …

    Congratulations on winning a Cottage Prize. It reminded me of my father’s funeral nearly 9 years ago. It is hard not to be emotional, despite the fact he had lived to be 101. I am sure Minori will remember the day and the legacy continues.

    I enjoyed your comments, as when I read the prose, I thought of you.

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