Tokyo Meeting

Posted in Haiku, Travel with tags , on April 15, 2019 by David Stormer Chigusa

In spite of my Icebox truancy, Tito kindly invited me to take part in a meeting in Ueno, almost two weeks ago, of the Meguro International Haiku Circle. And then, in spite of my arriving late, the poets kindly asked me to contribute some of my haiku.

Here are the three I read out, composed last month on a trip to Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Gold pagoda
Roofs outreached by limbs of
A yellow tree

Not a Buddha
But a man, arms folded
At a bus stop

I played ball with
The children, and parting
Was no sorrow

Then, nearing home that evening, inspired by the poetry I’d heard and the acquaintances I’d made, the following came to me while walking by the river

Dark Sumida
From where these loud slaps on
The rolling hull?

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The Last of My Wandering Journeys: Part I – The Toné River

Posted in Autumn, Haibun, Travel on April 13, 2019 by sosui

.. We had a lot of rain this summer. When autumn came, I was seized with a burning desire to go on a wandering journey. Already eighty-six, with weakening legs, I knew it was going to be the last of my journeys. From the very outset, however, I fully enjoyed this journey, for I had to plan it rather carefully. Wanting to go to remote places I had not seen before, I chose Lake Okutadami in Niigata Prefecture, Ozemiike Pond in Fukushima Prefecture, and Ryuoukyo Gorge and Kinugawa Spa in Tochigi Prefecture. I found out that it would be possible to visit all these places in three days by using local trains and country buses. Timing would be a bit tricky, though, as two typhoons were in the offing! Once the first one had passed, I decided to leave immediately, for there would surely be at least two fine days, perhaps three, before the next typhoon arrived. I had to hurry, though, because one of the buses I wanted to use would stop its service in less than ten days.
………. The typhoon gone by,
………. I watched my dreams revolving
………. Round my little room.
.. So, at Takasaki Station, I got on a local train on the Joetsu Line. Unfortunately, it was one of those rather uncomfortable commuter trains. The main attraction of this line was a long tunnel that lies on the border of Gunma and Niigata Prefectures and I had been wanting to travel through this for the first time in my life. With Takasaki soon behind me, I enjoyed the changing views of Mt. Haruna from the train window. I live at the foot of this mountain, but what I saw from the train window was an entirely different shape. Mt. Haruna has multiple peaks, so that as we move in relation to it, we never see the same mountain form.
.. Soon after the train left Shibukawa Station, I had a spectacular view of the River Toné. As its nickname Bando Taro (First Son of the East Country) indicates, it is one of the largest rivers in Japan. When it came into view, it was near flood level after the typhoon and was collecting the water of a major branch, too, thus almost doubling its size. T. S. Eliot once called the Mississippi “a brown god”. The River Toné was an angry brown god that day.
………. Trees and grasses bow
………. As an angry god cavorts
………. Headlong through the vale.
.. I continued to feel anxious, as I knew the train service could well be suspended before I had finished my journey. My experience told me, though, that the headwaters of the river might already be abating in this fine weather. And, sure enough, the River Toné became less and less brown as I travelled north.

To be continued …

The Shimanto River Line

Posted in Haipho, Spring, Travel with tags on March 31, 2019 by Nori

a limpid stream runs
beside the unprofitable railway –
swelling of buds

Haiga Walk – March 2019, Now Up!

Posted in Event report, Haiga, Haipho on March 29, 2019 by Gerald

Click on the page link marked ‘Haiga Walk – March 2019 (NEW!)‘ at top right to view Gerald’s illustrated report on the haiku sketching and painting outing held at the Four Seasons Hotel’s 800-year-old 積水園 Shakusui-en (garden pond) in Kyoto.

Burns’ Haiku?

Posted in Poem excerpt, Translation with tags , on March 21, 2019 by Tito

On April 2, two or three members of the Hailstone Haiku Circle will join the Meguro International Haiku Circle for an English haiku ginko and reading event in the Yanaka-Ueno district of Tokyo. For many years, their kukai was led by Catherine Urquhart, who has now returned to the UK and created the Edinburgh Haiku Circle. In the MIHC’s 2014 book, Haiku: 20th Anniversary, kindly sent me by Yasuomi Koganei, there is a piece by Catherine entitled, If Burns had been a haiku poet …, and with her permission, I will here reproduce five of her lovely ‘Japanese haiku’ versions of passages from poems by the 18th Century Scottish Bard, Robert Burns, who was a contemporary of Issa and, with his eye on the poor man, animals, insects and the uncompromising weather, very much a kindred spirit.
.

鋤牛を放す農家や日短し
sukiushi o hanasu nouka ya hi mijikashi

farmer unfastening
his oxen from the plough
fast the night draws in

(from The Cotter’s Saturday Night)

 

霜柱乞食仲間の酔いと恋
shimobashira kojiki nakama no yoi to koi

needles of frost
love and drunkenness
among beggars

(from The Jolly Beggars)

 

礼拝す美人の帽に虱着く
reihai su bijin no bou ni shirami tsuku

Sunday worship
a louse takes up position
on a beauty’s hat

(from To a Louse)

 

友土葬草におのおの露の玉
tomo dosou kusa ni onoono tsuyu no tama

friend in the earth
on each and every blade of grass
a dewy diamond

(from Elegy on Captain Matthew Henderson)

 

夜の滝迷子羊の帰り待つ
yoru no taki maigo hitsuji no kaeri matsu

in the night
the waterfall and the wait
for my lost lamb

(from My Hoggie)

Poll: Chief Characteristics of English Haiku (Mar. 2019 update)

Posted in News, Poll with tags on March 10, 2019 by Tito

If you scroll down the right-hand margin of the Icebox top page, you will find a poll, in which everyone is still most welcome to participate – just once! The software has the ability to prevent second-timers or those who would try to choose more than 3 options. People from all over the world have taken part. If you click on the words ‘See Results’ at the bottom of the poll area, you will see the latest number of votes for each characteristic. Clicking there in Mar. 2019, I notice that we have now had 200 people return their idea of what might be the ‘Three Chief Characteristics of English Haiku’, so perhaps it’s time again to look at some of the poll’s emerging conclusions.

The two categories of Juxtaposition and Cut/break now total 89 votes together, which means that almost one in two people think that aspect is crucial. In Japanese haiku these are known, respectively, as 取合せ toriawase and 切れ kire and may be viewed as related features. It is true, however, that there are ‘un-cut’ haiku in both the Japanese and the English haiku-writing worlds. No, break is not an absolute requisite.

In second place, I notice that Originality and Poetic voice have thus far together polled 72 votes … and Resonance and Open-endedness garnered 71 between them. For now, allow me to put aside the first, Originality, which is a requisite of all poetry, not just haiku. I shall keep that quality of ‘expansiveness’ (Resonance) in mind, though, as we continue through the top of the league.

More or less equal in third place, we have Moment and Present tense (aggregating 64), and Brevity and Omission (aggregating 57). Ordinary present-simple and present-continuous tenses clearly rule the roost in English haiku-writing, but a ‘Present moment’ quality is not something that is considered in Japan, where verbs may come in many different tenses and might even sometimes be a touch classical in tone. Brief expression is obviously a requisite of haiku, though how brief exactly is open to debate.

As most will already know, the three chief characteristics of the classical Japanese haiku are: 1. 5-7-5 form, 2. Seasonal reference, and 3. Break (often using a cutting word). In spite of plenty of experimentation over the last 100 years, 5-7-5 kana letters as a single line is still today the normal style in Japan.  Looking again at our poll results, I find that 5-7-5 and 3-lines together polled only 31 votes from 200 people. Seasonal reference gathered in just 38 votes; the same number, interestingly, as Real experience. I propose now to add Real experience (38 votes) to Present moment (64): and we get 102, which brings it to the top of the charts!

It is thus tempting to conclude that the three most important characteristics of English haiku, at least from this poll as it stands today, are:
……… 1. The present moment (102 votes)
……… 2. Break (with or without punctuation) (89)
……… 3. An expansive quality felt at poem’s end (71).
Concision is in fourth place (57).

The English haiku poet’s craft, when thus analyzed, may appear to be quintessentially about the vividness of the Present situation and the utilization of Break as a technique through which to create Resonance for the reader learning of it. Being a Brief expression is evidently also highly valued, as it should be, although free-form haiku is clearly the current norm. For me personally, I was a little sad that Sound/cadence has thus far only polled 21 votes – one in ten: not insignificant, but definitely a minor characteristic for most. This is no doubt partly because of the almost puritanical minimalism that has reigned supreme since around 2005 in most of the leading haiku mags and sites, according musicality little importance. Icebox is in this respect rather different. Seasonality is probably in fifth place (38, and there’s nothing to couple it with): again, slightly disheartening for one who was born in Britain and now lives in Kyoto – a city with a deeply seasonal flow. The English-writing world is such a big place!

Your comments on this interim overview are welcome. Just click on the word ‘comments’ below to open up the reply box. Feel free to tweet it or to share it on Facebook. Next report? Perhaps after another 200 have responded!

Ellis

Posted in News, Tribute with tags on March 1, 2019 by Tito

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