‘Endings & Beginnings’ Hailstone Online Reading Meet – some highlights

Sun. 7 March 16:00 (JST). 14 Hailstones and special guest, Michael D. Welch, came together to read haiku, senryu, cirku, tanka, haibun and haipho. Each poet was given up to 5 mins. The share-screen function proved useful in allowing us to see the words that were being read. Host, David McCullough, had collected most things in advance and made a pdf file to use. It was also good to be able to appraise visual material like photo haiku or illustrations explaining haiku (e.g. seasonal flowers). The theme was introduced by chair-for-the-day, Tito, who first read us an excerpted translation by Nobuyuki Yuasa of Kikaku’s account of Basho’s Final Days, Basho-o Shuenki, including his death and funeral and the beginnings of the Basho School 蕉門 — for endings invariably lead to beginnings, and vice versa.

なきがらを笠に隠すや枯尾花 (其角)

A hat to cover
the body of our master,
withered pampas leaves      (Kikaku)

Sean O’Connor, editor of The Haibun Journal and judge of the Genjuan Contest, joining us from Ireland, next read a short sequence of haiku.

from my father’s bed
familiar mountains
wrapped in snow

Hitomi Suzuki followed with two beautiful haipho. Here is one (click on photo to enlarge):

David McCullough then read four short poems, one of which was on the theme of the first mile of running a marathon:

Panting —
hundreds
of
feet
pattering

It was interesting that two more poets – Noriko Kan and Akihiko Hayashi – also shared running or jogging haiku later on! Genjuan judge, Akiko Takazawa, also still runs marathons, but unfortunately she could not be present at the meet.

Ursula Maierl next entertained us with her heartfelt haibun, ‘The Final Baguette’, about two customers splitting the last loaf in a bread shop at the end of day!

one small baguette
stands upright —
lone sentinel
half-wrapped in brown paper

Mayumi Kawaharada then read a sequence of haiku, ‘Freeze – Under Covid-19’:

Tourist-less road —
Frozen shutters
Left in the silence

Reiko Kuwataka’s poem provoked some discussion – haiku in form, but tanka in sentiment:

A long time
since I last saw her —
high cloud, overcast

Tito then showed us some cirku made into haipho. (Mistletoe is ヤドリギ in Japanese; click on photo to enlarge.)

Kyoko Nozaki made us hungry with her haiku and photo of newly harvested radishes. David Stormer Chigusa (in Tokyo) told us he usually tries to compose haiku using a 4-6-4 consonant template and gave us some recent examples. Akihiko Hayashi reminded us of the approach of the 10th anniversary of the Great Tsunami and Fukushima Meltdown disaster by sharing with us a psychological haiku:

Over unruffled waters
it’s threatening to snow —
‘Emergency!’, the caption unscrolls

Noriko Kan (in Matsuyama) gave us one haiku containing the very contemporary image of masked meditators. Michael Dylan Welch (Washington State, co-founder of Haiku N. America and former ed. of Woodnotes, the journal which had organized in 1996 what was perhaps the world’s first English haibun contest), gave us another memorable coronavirus image:

Covid Christmas —
so few presents
under the tree

We also read aloud poetic offerings sent in by Fred Schofield (Leeds), Catherine Urquhart (Edinburgh) and Akishige Ida (Nara), who were all unable to attend. Sydney Solis (Florida) joined to listen only. Richard Donovan, delayed by another online event, at which he received his recent translation Grand Prix, performed for us a cameo role near the end of the meet.

From England, Lawrence Jiko Barrow joined us at his 7am. His haiku on the theme of ‘beginning’ was:

Arrival of spring —
the banana tree reveals
a bright green shoot

Jiko has recently planted a banana palm in his garden in England. He told us that he hopes it will prompt him to remember Basho (whose name means ‘banana palm’) and to compose haiku a little more frequently! The appearance of the shoot gives us all hope the palm will survive.

Today, the Basho School continues in spirit in many parts of Japan and the world, including through Hailstone, which is based in Kansai, celebrating life in and around Basho’s Shuenchi (Final Territory). We all try to do our best for the Okina 翁 (Master) and what he taught.