Archive for 俳文

My Trip to the North: 1. Tsugaru Strait

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on August 7, 2016 by sosui

Compelled by my desire to see the Tsugaru Straits, I took a ferryboat from Hakodate to Oma. I first went to look at the Mashu Maru, a retired ferryboat which used to connect Hakodate with Aomori. It was a large boat, but it looked rather lonely moored at a pier. I thought of the tragedy of the Toya Maru caused by a typhoon: the boat sank killing more than one thousand people including the captain. The ferryboat I took was much smaller than the national railway ferryboats, but it was elegantly constructed. The room reserved by the travel agent for our group was an unfurnished carpeted room. I decided to spend most of my time in a chair on the deck. The weather was good. I was able to enjoy the blue sky, the blue sea, and the blue mountains.
Having left behind the red lighthouse standing at the end of a breakwater, our boat sailed along beneath the steep slopes of Mt. Hakodate. The Big-Nose Promontory was a sharp cliff, black in most places but dotted with white spots. I thought it might be made of ageing limestone. The boat went round this promontory, allowing us to see another rocky place called the Stand-and-Wait Promontory, where the famous poet, Ishikawa Takuboku, has his grave. As the ferryboat sailed into the Tsugaru Strait, unexpectedly, dolphins appeared on the port side as if to welcome us. They came and went so suddenly I did not have time to count them, nor to take their picture, but I regarded this welcome as a special bonus.

………. Sharper than arrows,
………. They cut the dark brine, splashing —
………. A pod of dolphins.

(Sosui is Nobuyuki Yuasa)

Sea Breeze

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags on July 24, 2016 by Tito

.. Yesterday, July 23rd, I went to a favourite place, the sacred isle of Oshima 雄島 in North Fukui, to launch my birthday balloon. It was no. 47 in a series going all the way back to Spain in 1970: an annual personal ritual. My stepmother had sent me a bright yellow card on which the silver words “You can have a happy childhood at any age” were printed.

.. Crossing back again onto the mainland, I retreated into Anto’s one-and-only cafe for some ice and shade. At the only other occupied table, two young lads were doing part of their holiday homework under the watchful eye of Grandma. One was trying to squeeze a little more red out of a well-used tube of pigment.

…….. Vermilion bridges
…….. Over cobalt seas:
…….. Two boys’ summer paintings

+ click on the photo to see the balloon! +

Sri Lanka – stolen flowers, dancing & worms

Posted in Haibun, Travel with tags , on May 25, 2016 by David Stormer Chigusa

We went to Sri Lanka last week for four days for a friend’s wedding. Everyone received a gift from the bride and groom, then the DJ got going – and so did the most dance-addled wedding crowd I’d ever had the gleeful privilege to be a part of.

Slights like
this smaller gift –
then dancing

We were taken around some of the sights on the island for a couple of days after the wedding, one of which was Danbulla Temple. We were all given a flower at the entrance to take up to the temple. Mine didn’t even make it halfway.

A flower for Buddha
Devoured in bliss
By a monkey

dambulla-monkey

Leaving, there was a brief, ostensibly routine, yet all-the-same extraordinary, pat-down at the airport that left me glazy and strangely elated.

Touched like that
at security
woke warm worms

No other words for it. (But, for a little context, may I add that friends were there, one of whom – from Brazil – is into gardening, for which he breeds worms: minhoca [mee-nyo-ka] in Portuguese.)

Genjuan Haibun Contest 2016 Results

Posted in Haibun, News with tags , , on April 14, 2016 by Tito

Grand Prix:
A Small Act – Diana Webb (UK)

An (Cottage) Prizes:
What’s in a Name? – Ignatius Fay (Canada)
The Great South Gate – Matthew Caretti (USA)
Arm in Arm with Iza – Maria Tirenescu (Romania)

Honourable Mentions:
Love Story  – Anita Curran Guenin (USA)
Majesty – Geethanjali Rajan (India)
A Spectacle – Branko Manojlovic (Japan)
One Grain of Sand – Mel Goldberg (Mexico)
Geronimo – Terri L. French (USA)

Judges:
Nenten Tsubouchi, Stephen Henry Gill (Tito), Hisashi Miyazaki

.  This year we had 127 entries from 16 different countries, our best ever response. The judges wish to thank all those who took the trouble to send something in to the Contest Office and they offer their hearty congratulations to the authors of the above decorated works.
. From a short-list of 14 works, it proved extremely difficult this year to decide on the winners. In the end, Diana Webb’s A Small Act appeared to be closest to exemplary. It is a very fine, open-ended work with good haikai taste.
.  We were bold with our AP selection, for one contained such beautiful haiku imagery, we overlooked the English errors, telling ourselves that they lent charm (a sort of ‘special encouragement prize’, if you like); and another had the ‘haiku’ dovetailed into the prose as isolated phrases, resulting in a captivating rhythmical momentum, although in isolation perhaps many of them would not be construed as bona fide haiku! We felt that we should choose pieces that had some charm and flair. All of the HMs were considered for prizes, but fell because of some unfortunate transgression in the eyes of at least two judges. It was a long session this year!
.  Now that we have been told the identities and countries of residence of the awardees, it is clear that the results well represent the geographical spread of entries, and we are pleasantly surprised by this. The last five short-listed (but un-awarded) works also included, it turns out, entries from Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, though none from South Africa: the Southern Hemisphere did not fare so well this year.
.  A Japanese language haibun contest is to be held this autumn by Nenten’s ‘Sendan’ group and the three judges have been invited to turn their minds to those pieces, too! The winning piece in that contest last year was translated and posted to this site in November https://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/when-tuna-die/.  It is interesting to see how it compares to the entries in our own international competition. Certainly it has humour. We hope to translate and publish here this year’s Sendan winning piece, too. The top four Genjuan 2016 works will be posted later this month as a special page on the Icebox for all to enjoy.
.  Guidelines and deadline for the 2017 Genjuan Contest have now been posted on a separate page (find the page link at top right). Next year we will welcome one further judge, American haiku poet, novelist, contributor to Icebox and member of the Hailstone Haiku Circle, Ellis Avery, now based in New York. She teaches fiction writing at Columbia University, and her writer’s acumen and consciousness of haiku as a vehicle for story-telling will no doubt help us to sort the sheep from the goats next year as well as augmenting the comments we will be offering each of the awardees.

Bean-throwing at Setsubun

Posted in Haibun, Winter with tags on March 3, 2016 by sosui

.. There was a Setsubun bean-throwing ceremony today at the home where I am living. I believe that this world has no room for devils, so I was rather reluctant to attend this ceremony, in which we would be expected to chase away devils by throwing beans at them. Someone told me, though, I had no choice this year as all born in the Year of the Monkey were expected to take part. So, with some hesitation, I joined. Before the ceremony, we were served bean tea, which was pleasant enough, although its taste was something I had almost forgotten. Soon, roasted beans were distributed in lacquered wooden boxes, but for a while we sat around with them on the table, talking about different things. I could not refrain myself from putting some beans in my mouth, for I was eager to taste them. Immediately, a fond memory came back. During the Wartime evacuation, for the first time in my life, I was sent to a boarding house as the middle school where I studied was too far away from home, and my mother had often given me roasted beans to use for my snacks. I shared them with my friends at times, but more often I ate them hiding under my coverlet just to fill my empty stomach. I discovered that the taste of roasted beans had not changed at all, although so many things had changed since the end of the War.
……….. I find roasted beans
……….. Very refreshing indeed —
……….. Their modest sweetness.
.. We soon started out on our devil-hunting with the boxes of roasted beans. We were told that we should scatter beans at the entrances to our residence halls, always throwing them from indoors to outdoors, even when we were calling good luck to come in. I thought this strange instruction might be due to the fact that the sweeping up of beans indoors would not be so easy. Those thrown outdoors would surely be cleaned up by the little birds. When we reached the entrance of one of the residence halls, I was surprised to see a devil standing in front of it. The figure was garbed in coarse black cloth and held a bamboo branch against its shoulder with little devil masks hanging from it, some red and others blue. The figure itself wore on its head the angry mask of a devil. Naturally, we all threw beans at this figure, shouting ‘Devils out!’, and gradually, it retreated, then turned to run away. Once again, I was surprised, for the mask had been reversed to show the benign face of a woman.
……….. Merely turned around,
……….. The devil’s mask can gently smile
……….. As Lady Fortune.

At the Kakimori Library

Posted in Event report, Haibun, Haiku with tags , , on February 26, 2016 by Tito

click on any pictures to enlarge

On 11 Feb., 2016, Stephen Henry Gill (aka Tito) gave a talk in Japanese at the Kakimori Library (in Itami, Hyogo) entitled  はいくとはいぶん (Haiku & Haibun, deliberately left in hiragana). There was an audience of 80 people, including many Hailstone poets. 「はいくとはいぶん」② IMG_8554-In order to set the context, he first briefly related the story of haiku’s transmission to the West – from Hendrik Doeff around 1800, through Noguchi, Couchard, Flint and Pound in the early 1900s, right up to the haiku society-based, website-based scene of today. The audience had a sheet of haiku examples in two languages to savour. Along the way, Gill talked about certain haibun (haiku-style prose) introducers and pioneers, including Yuasa, Ueda, Cain and Spiess. The work of poets like Ross, Kacian, Higginson, Cobb and Jones was also alluded to, and two English haibun excerpts (in both languages) were also read.

lt. Tsubo’uchi, rt. Gill

There was a talk session afterwards lead by Gill’s fellow Genjuan Haibun Contest judge, Nenten Tsubo’uchi, which attempted to ascertain how truly ‘haiku-style’ the examples of Western haibun provided on the handout really were.  The audience seemed to have been genuinely moved by the way the narrative line and haiku poems were used as mutual counterpoint in the late Ken Jones’ piece, The Spirit Level.

The Kakimori Library holds one of Japan’s gyougamanroku-foremost collections of haiku documents and paintings, including many works by Basho, Onitsura, Buson, Issa, etc.  The current exhibition included the famous sketchbook-diary from Shiki’s last days, Gyouga Manroku.

After viewing the beautiful works in the galleries, some Hailstones called in at the nearest sakagura (sake warehouse) for a drink and meal.

lt. H. Miyazaki, rt. E. Mori

When Tuna Die

Posted in Haibun, Japanese Modern, Translation with tags , on November 25, 2015 by Hisashi Miyazaki

Nenten Tsubo’uchi’s haiku group, Sendan, held a Japanese language haibun contest to run parallel with the Genjuan one earlier this year (Judges were NT, SHG, HM and two others). The winning piece, by Haruaki Kato, has now been translated into English by the author himself with help from SHG. We hope you will find reading this recent Japanese haibun both interesting and enjoyable.

 

…. “People say that tuna have to keep on swimming because they’d die if they stopped. I wonder what exactly happens, though, when a tuna dies of old age?” If my wife had not said this to me one day in a low, tired voice, I suppose I wouldn’t have thought about this issue so seriously.
…. We had just heard the news about the ‘mass death’ of tuna in a gigantic tank, the main feature of a famous aquarium. They were saying that the cause of death was still under investigation, and that a wide variety of hypotheses— including virus, stress, and even radioactivity— were flying about. For me, to be honest, the cause of the death didn’t really matter: I was shocked by the event itself. It was the simple realization that tuna die, just as we do, that had made me upset. I suppose the word ‘tuna’ had always conjured up to me either the image of a great shoal of them swimming freely across the ocean, or the vision of something being taken out of the freezer ready to be served as delicious sashimi. I had really never thought seriously about how fish passed away. And it was not only fish, but with any kind of wild animal, I’d always supposed they must die in a dramatic incident—being preyed on, perhaps, by a ferocious natural enemy or caught by a brave hunter or fisherman—just like I’d seen in art-house films.
…. Yet it is not like that at all. They might actually die, say, of liver disease, or of unfortunate food poisoning, or perhaps by bumping into a rock in an accident. It is simply the ego of humans, who desperately desire a peaceful ending of their own lives, to imagine other animals die in dramatic fashion. And it’s also true that most of us aren’t particularly concerned about the deaths of ordinary, inconspicuous creatures, for whom a dramatic end might seem rather out of place.
…. Death is all around us, and countless are the lives being lost at this very moment. The only way for us to survive in this world is to ignore such deaths, just as we do not consider the air as we breathe it in. Only occasionally might we bring to mind a highly dramatic or a deeply peaceful death and be moved thereby. This is rather like whales, still surfacing for air time and again, although their ancestors chose to give up the land for the ocean long ago. We need to think of death sometimes so as not to drown in life’s breathless waters.
…. Anyway, that is what I thought to myself as I stood there in a supermarket at the corner of the seafood counter, holding packed shelled oysters which were floating inside their sealed bag filled with water. The oysters appeared to me as if they might be enjoying zero gravity while refusing to ‘belong’ to either life or death. They seemed so calm in the airless tension.
…. When I looked up from my reverie, my wife was already in front of the meat counter far ahead. I put the packed spacewalking oysters back onto the counter, and weaved my way over to her through the crowds.

The oysters, too—
their spirits prepared
for whatever may come

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