Archive for Shiki

Persimmons – part 6

Posted in Autumn, Japanese Classic with tags , on July 14, 2018 by sosui

. Among haiku poets, both ancient and modern, I think it was Shiki who loved persimmons the most. Let me quote the following passage to prove this point. It is from his work entitled “Two Persimmons”. Shiki calls it a novel and uses the third person singular for the main character, but to me, it is a piece of haibun, in which the author describes his own experiences:

Soon his sister stood up, shaking threads from her knees. She wanted to take a tray of the remaining persimmons to her sick brother, the master of the house.
“Is that all that remains,” her brother asked her, casting a sidelong glance at the persimmons.
“Yes, this is all. You ate so many of them yesterday,” she answered. There were only two persimmons on the tray.
He was a great lover of food, and especially liked all kinds of fruit. But, above all, he loved persimmons.

. He must have decided to save the two remaining persimmons till he had finished his work as reviewer of haiku. When he had done so, he wrote the following poem:

Three thousand haiku to read —
Finishing them all, I eat
The two persimmons.

. I think Shiki is implying how hard his reviewer’s work was, and also how quickly the persimmons disappeared eating them at such a pace.

. Shiki indeed has many poems about persimmons, but the following is perhaps the most famous:

A bell rings out while
I’m eating a persimmon —
Horyuji Temple.

. Personally, I find it a bit difficult to understand. If the haiku simply describes a time sequence, then perhaps it is not such a great poem. Among scholarly commentators, there is one who says that it should be taken as a poem of greeting to Soseki, who had written a similar poem. Another points out that Shiki was so ill during his visit to Nara that he probably never actually went to the Horyuji Temple. I do not find these comments very helpful for the interpretation of the poem. For me, there must be some meaningful relationship between Shiki’s eating the persimmon and the ringing of the temple bell: otherwise, the poem falls apart. The only connection between them that I can think of is the sense of satisfaction. Shiki adored persimmons, and whenever he ate one he found pleasure; while the temple bell brought him pleasure of a different sort. I think we could say that one was a physical pleasure and the other spiritual. So I take this haiku to be an expression of both physical and spiritual satisfaction. Incidentally, the poem has a short preface saying, “I rested at a tea shop near Horyuji Temple”. In an essay elsewhere, he also comments:

For a long time persimmons have been neglected by poets. I had never thought of combining persimmons and Nara, but was overjoyed when I found this possible. It was a new combination.

I believe that this combination was in fact an old one, for Imperial Palace Persimmons have traditionally been grown in Nara.

. To the end of his life Shiki remained an admirer of persimmons, and the following poem should be used as his epitaph. It is indeed prefaced “After my death”.

Let it thus be known:
A great persimmon eater
And haiku lover.

(To be continued…)

Advertisements

Hiroshima-Matsuyama Tour

Posted in Spring, Travel with tags , , on April 24, 2016 by Nori

Five Hailstone poets (UM, BM, SMc, AS and T) received an invitation from Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture to take a pilot tour (with Japan Tourist Bureau) to Hiroshima and Matsuyama on 19-21 March, escorted by another Hailstone (NK), who is its coordinator and a resident of the latter city. One of the fixers (KT), also added a haiku. The following report was compiled by T with a little help from me.
Flower-inducing rain 催花雨 saika-u, was letting up as we arrived at our first destination, Miyajima. The great red sacred gate was backed by hills of swirling mist. Composition began in earnest, but …
…………… The Miyajima deer—
…………… it ate my haiku!
…………… …………… (Ursula)
After ourselves swallowing a few grilled oysters, a launch took us back across the Inland Sea and up a river in Hiroshima to a pier near our hotel.
…………… …………… A-bomb dome
…………… …………… Bending iron rod
…………… …………… Bending spring willow
…………… ………………………… (Nori)
Hiroshima is situated on a river delta and is famous for its Peace Museum and its lemons. The next day, after eating lemon-flavoured French toast with our morning coffee, once again we headed off to the Inland Sea, this time under a clear blue sky.
…………… Early spring morning—
…………… Hiroshima’s broad fan
…………… Chills the bay
…………… …………… (Albie)
…………… …………… …………… From the Lemon Coast
…………… …………… …………… To the Orange Shore—
…………… …………… …………… A launch’s wake
…………… …………… …………… …………… (Tito)
Matsuyama is famous for its mikan oranges, for its castle and its contribution to the evolution of haiku poetry. It was the birthplace of Shiki Masaoka, and the pilot tour is designed to bring foreigners with an interest in literature to visit the distant town. On disembarking, we made our way up to the donjon through cherry buds beginning to burst.
…………… …………… Feet dangling
…………… …………… on a chair lift: small boy
…………… …………… once again
…………… …………… …………… (Branko)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That afternoon, for one blissful hour, most poets soaked in a bath at nearby Dogo Hot-spring, a real treat. In the evening, we were joined by some local haiku poets in a specially created ‘haiku bar’. We had a merry time of airing verse already composed and receiving high-spirited feedback!
…………… …………… …………… Dogo Hot-spring –
……………. …………… ………….. from the taiko* rhythm
…………… …………… …………… vivid colors spark
…………… …………… …………… …………… (Kiki)
On our third and final day, we were greeted by another blue sky. Our first engagement, a tea ceremony introduction, was followed by a visit to The Shiki Museum. Shiki was seen to be a poetic prodigy, whose life ended far too early.
We were then asked to attend a meeting with officials from the city tourist board and the national tourist agency and give them detailed feedback on our experience up to that point. This was accomplished in a constructive but not uncritical way, which we all hope might help improve the envisaged product for JTB.
Finally, we attended the prize-giving of the Matsuyama International Photo Haiku Contest in the hall at The Shiki Museum. Copious inquetes were dutifully filled in, but some of us still managed to enjoy the judge’s comments made by Itsuki Natsui.
…………… …………… Low energy, late afternoon
…………… …………… Shiki’s sad life—
…………… …………… A waft of jinchoge**
…………… …………… …………… (Sally)
* large Japanese drum
** daphne

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