Essay

Essay from “Frogpond”  (Haiku Society of America membership magazine)

 

Dissection of the Haiku Tradition (1):

 

Flowers and Plants

 

            In this series of essay, I will discuss one of the traditional elements of haiku: the kigo.  I would like to share the view of a non-traditionalist.  My focus will be on how I use a kigo when I write a haiku in English.  Though many of the samples I use will be the work of Japanese haiku poets, my main purpose is not to compare Japanese-language haiku with English-language haiku.  Also, my intention is not to tell you how you should write a haiku.  I believe in diversity and I trust the voice of a haiku poet.  I hope that my approach to kigo will help you deepen your haiku experiences.  This first article is about flowers and plants.  I plan to write future installments about animals and birds, moon and wind, and holidays and observances.  Comments are welcome, but I am not planning to seek haiku submissions for my articles.

 

            In American haiku, the linkage between nature and human has been emphasized.  In most published haiku in the United States, the poet is invisible; one remains only an observer of nature.  Many American haiku poets seem to believe that haiku should be a subdued sumi-e or a quiet still life.  But haiku can be as colorful as van Gough’s paintings or as abstract as the work of Picasso.

 

            The core of my haiku is my emotion as a woman, as a Japanese person, and an immigrant.  “Who I am” is the essential ingredient in my haiku.  To convey my feelings, I rely on a kigo.  Sometimes finding the right kigo is my first step to writing a haiku.

 

            watakushi no hone to sakura ga mankai ni

                        my bones

                        and cherry blossoms

                        in full bloom

                                                            Yasuyo Ohnishi (1)

 

            The cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan.  From ancient times numerous poets have written about them.  Saigyo dreamed of dying under the cherry blossoms.  Those short-lived, delicate flowers were the symbols of Kamikaze fighters during World War II.  In April, people all over Japan gather under the trees in full blossom and have a party.

 

            bara no sono hikikaesaneba deguchi nashi

                        the rose garden—

                        unless you retrace your steps

                        there’s no exit

                                                            Kiyoko Tsuda (2)

 

            While cherry blossoms symbolize where I came from, roses represent Western culture and where I am now.  I think roses demand a lot of care.  To have a gorgeous, perfect flower, one has to tend them with water, fertilizers and pesticides.  Roses are somewhat the manifestation of my borrowed culture.  “Rose” itself is a summer kigo, but I prefer to use it in a winter setting.  I can put contradictory feelings or images together in this way.

 

                        winter roses—

                        I am tired of reading

                        between the lines

                                                            Fay Aoyagi (3)

 

            “Hydrangea” is my favorite summer flower kigo.  According to my Japanese saijiki, hydrangeas change their colors after they bloom because of a substance called flavone.  The most common term for “hydrangea” in Japanese is ajisai, but it is also called shichi henge (seven changes).

 

            ajisai ya nobore to ieru gotoki kai

                        hydrangeas—

                        the stairs seem to tell me

                        to climb up

                                                            Tatsuko Hoshino (4)

 

            In Kamakura, where Tatsuko grew up, there is a temple called Hydrangea Temple, famous for its hydrangeas.  There are steep steps up to the temple from the street.

 

            I wish I knew more about botany.  Some English flower names sound very interesting and evocative; such as Blue Witch, Indian Paintbrush, Johnny Jump-up and Solomon’s Seal.

 

            shiragiku to ware gekkou no soko ni sayu

                        white chrysanthemum

                        and me, at the bottom of the moonlight

                        coldly glow

                                                            Nobuko Katsura (4)

 

            My association with chrysanthemum is somewhat complicated.  It is the flower of the Japanese royal family.  A chrysanthemum is embossed on the front cover of Japanese passports.  In a way, the chrysanthemum is a husk of the things which I left in my native country.  Yet, I feel I am a chrysanthemum wherever I go, whatever I do.

 

            One of my favorite quotes about haiku is by Takajo Mitsuhashi.  She said, “writing a haiku is an act of stripping scale from my skin.  The scale which is stripped from the skin is evidence of my life.”

 

            tsuta karete isshin ganji garame nari

                        ivy having died

                        the entire trunk

                        inextricably bound

                                                            Takajo Mitsuhashi (2)

 

            In Japan, Takajo is one of “4Ts” (famous female haiku poets) along with Teijo Nakamura, Takako Hashimoto and Tatsuko Hoshino.  They were pioneers in the early twentieth century when the haiku world was dominated by men.  If a poet is a mere observer of nature, the gender of the poet may not be very important.  However, if you place yourself at the center of your haiku, who you are and how you see the world will become critical.

 

            karekusa no hito omou toki kiniro ni

                        withered grass

                        when I think of him …

                        burnished gold

                                                            Masajo Suzuki (5)

 

 

            Masajo Suzuki who lived a very interesting and rather dramatic life showed a different aspect of the withered grass.  She saw hope in the withered grass.  In the deep winter, we will hear the approaching footsteps of the spring.

 

            Because I am not a nature lover, I see flowers and plants in a different way from a hiker or a gardener.  It may be a helpful exercise for you to pick four or five flowers which are meaningful to you and compose a haiku based on why each particular flower appeals to you.

 

 

(1)   Gendai no Haiku (Modern Haiku Anthology edited by Shobin Hirai, Kadokawa Shoten, 1982.  Tranlation by Fay Aoyagi

(2)   Far Beyond the Field edited and translated by Makoto Ueda, Columbia University Press, 2003

(3)   Unpublished

(4)   Dai Saijiki (Comprehensive Saijiki) edited by Shuoshi Mizuhara, Shuson Kato, Kenkichi Yamamoto, Kodansha, 1982.  Translation by Fay Aoyagi

(5)   Love Haiku:  Masajo Suzuki’s Lifetime of Love, edited and translated by Emiko Miyashita and Lee Gurga, Brooks Books, 2000.

 

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Dissection of the Haiku Tradition (2):

 

Bird and Animals

 

            In the previous article, I wrote about flowers and what those kigo symbolize for me.  This time, I will touch upon birds and four-legged animals.

            As a life-long city dweller, my encounters with birds have been rather limited.  But wings and what wings may represent are one of the subjects I often return to.

 

            noki tsubame kosho urishi hi wa umi e yuku

                        swallow under eaves

                        the day I sell my books

                        I go to the beach

                                                            Shuji Terayama (1)

 

            A Japanese friend told me that she drove to the beach in Santa Cruz on Thanksgiving Day right after her divorce.  It was her first Thanksgiving alone and she cried watching the waves.  She said she regretted almost everything that day; coming to the U.S., getting married here, even having children.  But after a while, she noticed sea gulls flying slowly and gracefully above her head.  She felt lighter and regained her confidence.  Since then, like a swallow that comes back to the same spot every year, going to that beach in Santa Cruz has become her tradition on Thanksgiving.  On alternate years, she now goes there with her two sons.

 

            hototogisu asu wa ano yama koete ikō

                        a cuckoo

                        tomorrow I walk over

                        that mountain

                                                            Santoka Taneda (2)

 

            Since ancient times, cuckoos have been one of the favorite subjects for Japanese poets.  Every spring, my friend in Tokyo sends me e-mail, excitedly telling me he has heard the first cuckoo of the year.  I am most drawn to cuckoos when they practicing their famous singing.  Perhaps I prefer the process of completing something to the finished art.  It is very rewarding to find the most suitable kigo to represent my mood.

 

kawasemi satte yubi ni yubiwa no nokoru nomi

                        a kingfisher left—

                        on my finger

                        only the ring remains

                                                            Kusatao Nakamura (3)

 

            When I read the above haiku by Kusatao Nakamura, the song I heard when I was a child comes back to me.  I do not know if a kingfisher sounds like a laughing human being, but the lyrics go like this:

 

                        don’t tell this to

                        a laughing kingfisher

                        crackle, crackle, crackle

                        it will make a loud noise

 

            It is rather strange that I remember this song.  Kusatao’s work is calm and quiet.  I have a tendency toward dramatic haiku.  Did I consciously warn myself not to reveal too much of my inner self?

 

mina ōki fukuro o oeri kari wataru

                        every one of them carries

                        a big bag on their backs—

                        migrating geese

                                                            Sanki Saito  (4)

 

            Sanki Saito wrote this haiku shortly after World War II.  These people might have been at a train station in Tokyo just coming back from a rural area with precious food.  A big bag can be a metaphor for the burden, hopelessness, or anger they felt after the war.  Sometimes I feel that haiku poets should be aware of the time we are living in.  I am not suggesting we write with more anti-war, save-whatever themes in mind.  I do not like when people write about something they saw on TV.  Haiku, I believe, should be about the poets, their lives, how they see the world around them.  Keen observation of nature is one important element in haiku.  At the same time, we can reflect the contemporary world around us.

 

                        New Year’s Eve bath—

                        I failed to become

                        a swan

                                                                        Fay Aoyagi (5)

 

            Technically speaking, this haiku has two winter kigo:  New Year’s Eve and swan.  I use them intentionally because this is an allusion to a haiku written by Sumio Mori.

 

            joya no tsuma hakuchō no goto yuami ori

                        my wife on New Year’s Eve

                        taking a bath

                        as though she is a swan

                                                                        Sumio Mori (6)

 

            You may not realize what I failed to become.  On the surface, what I wanted to write about was my failure of finding Mr. Right that year again.  Still, I am taking a bath on New Year’s Eve like the beloved wife of Sumio Mori.  I may not be a swan, but I am a bird that has strong wings to fly.

            Approximately four hundred kigo are listed in Kiyose (7), a Japanese saijiki.  But you will find very few four-legged animals there except under winter.  In the spring section, I only found animals that were in heat, pregnant, just born, or in infancy.

 

                        cats in love

                        the tug of my comb

                        through tangled hair

                                                                        Ebba Story (8)

 

            Cat, neko in Japanese, is not itself a kigo, but there are several cat-related kigo.  “Cats in love” is a spring kigo.  Kajike (shivering with cold) neko, kamado (kitchen stove) neko and hai (ash) neko are winter kigo.  I must assure cat lovers; kamado neko and hai neko are not cats burned in the stove nor have they become ash.  In the past, wood or charcoal was used for cooking.  Long after the fire was extinguished, cats sought out the warmth still in the ashes in the kitchen stove.

            In Kiyose (7), you can find “frog” in the spring animal section and “snake” and “bat” in the summer animal section.

 

            hebi no me ni mirarete uzuku ashi no kizu

                        eyes of a snake

                        being stared at by them

                        the scar on my leg aches

                                                                        Chiyoko Kato (9)

 

            This haiku by Chiyoko Kato as well as Ebba Story’s, make me think about a woman’s point of view.  I sense the contour of the body of us, females.  Haiku can be square and haiku can be round.

            Though I do not like snakes in real life, I like “snake” as a kigo.  They shed their skins, they go underground to hibernate.  Have you ever desired to change your personality or to coil up in the darkness oblivious to your surroundings?

            Animals used in the three haiku below are not kigo, but they are the essence of haiku.

            Unlike snakes, dogs have the reputation for being our best companions.  You may want to try writing haiku from a dog’s point of view.  Those limpid eyes will see the world differently from us.

 

                        Indian summer—

                        the Golden Retriever

                        shaking off the river

                                                                        Garry Gay (10)

 

            Garry Gay is a professional photographer.  When I read his haiku, I can visualize what he presents clearly.  It is different from a boring picture postcard haiku.

 

            chichi o tarite bogyū no ayumi fuyu hi kana

                        dripping milk

                        mother cow walks—

                        winter day

                                                                        Dakotsu Iida (10)

 

            Dakotsu Iida (1885-1962) went back to his home village at the age of 25 in the middle of his schooling in Tokyo.  He wrote about the mountains and fields surrounding him and about his life as the oldest son of a wealthy farmer.  More than once I wished I had “turf” like Dakotsu.  I am trying to write about the places I live or had lived with the passion and tenderness that he showed in his haiku.

 

                        morning twilight …

                        horse asleep in the pasture

                        covered with frost

                                                                        Lee Gurga (12)

 

            Lee Gurga writes about the place he lives.  As in Dakotsu’s haiku, I often feel masculinity, in an affectionate way, from his haiku.  When I visited his house in Lincoln, IL, I told him I could order a cab to go back to the airport.  He and his wife laughed so hard.  “This is not Chikago or New York!  Cabs are very hard to find around here,” they said.  I thought San Francisco is a place where one has a hard time finding a cab compared with Tokyo and New York, two other places I once called home.

            The next article will be about insects.  Stay tuned.

 

 

(1)   Zōshoku suru haiku saijiki (Haiku saijiki which breeds) edited by Tetsuo Shimizu (http://zouhai.com)

(2)   Gendai no Haiku (Modern Haiku Anthology) edited by Shōbin Hirai, Kadokawa Shoten, 1982

(3)   Nakamura Kusatao Kushū (Haiku by Kusatao Nakamura), edited by Kenkichi Yamamoto, Kadokawa Shoten, 1952

(4)   Gendai Haiku (Modern Haiku) by Kenkichi Yamamoto, Kadokawa Shoten, 1998

(5)   Chrysanthemum Love by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Press, 2003

(6)   Mori Sumio/Iida Ryūta Shū (collection of haiku by Sumio Mori and Ryūta Iida) selected by Sumio Mori and Ryūta Iida, Asahi Shimbunsha, 1984

(7)   Kiyose (Collection of Season) edited and published by Kadokawa Shoten, 2001

(8)   Geppo Jan-Feb, 2004

(9)   Dai Saijiki (Comprehensive Saijiki) edited by Shuoshi Mizuhara, Shuson Kato, Kenkichi Yamamoto, Kodansha, 1982

(10)Along the Way by Garry Gay, Snapshot Press, 2000

(11)Nihon no Shiika (Japanese Poetry) Vol.19 edited by Shinkichi Ito et al, Chūō Kōronsha, 1976

(12)Fresh Scent: Selected Haiku of Lee Gurga, edited by Randy M. Brooks, Brooks Books, 1998

All Japanese translation by Fay Aoyagi

 

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Title: Dissection of the Haiku Tradition  (3)

                                                                                     Insects

When I think about insect-related kigo, the first one that comes to mind is “butterfly.” This kigo always reminds
me of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Chuang-tzu.  He became a butterfly in his dream and the story is used to
explain the meaning of life – its transience and vulnerability.

              hitsugi mada kara no omosa yo chô no hiru

                      casket… yet
                      weight of emptiness –-
                      afternoon with butterflies                        
                                                                              Shugyo Takaha (1)

“Butterfly” is a spring kigo.   Spring is the beginning of a cycle of four seasons.  Flowers are vying with their
colors; birds chirp happily; cats fall in love.  However, I often think about reincarnation in the beginning of
spring.  I am an atheist.   I am not practicing Zen.  I do not believe in fate.    But, a butterfly in haiku can be a
medium for me to explore the depth of life.

      kaishi yori nukekishi chô ni pin no ato

              on the butterfly
              out through the ocean mirage
              … trace of a pin                                       
                                                                       Shogi Kawana (2)

A couple years ago, I had a chance to see the monarch butterflies in Pacific Grove in California.  I don’t know
how those tiny butterflies can travel thousands of miles. But, they came all the way to mate and die.  Among the
crowd, one or two could come from the other world.

      ari yo bara o noboritsumetemo hi ga tôi
              ants… even you manage to
              climb up to the top of  a rose
              the sun is still far away                       
                                                                       Hosaku Shinohara (3)

I always want to ask soldier ants if they are satisfied with their lives.  In their society, there are no
psychologists, no judges, no chiropractors.  On their behalf,  I would look up at the sun and measure the
distance from here to there.  I may not tell the ants how far it is.  I may just leave them an encouraging note.

      semi shigure ko wa tansôsha ni oitsukezu
              cicada’s chorus—
              my child cannot keep up with
              my ambulance                                        
                                                                      Hideno Ishibashi (4)

“Cicada shell” in ancient Japanese is utsusemi.   The first character means “empty.”  In the same
pronunciation of other characters, the meaning becomes “a human living in this world.”  The word “utsusemi”
(a summer kigo) has been used often in traditional waka.  You may remember a tragic heroine named Utsusemi
in The Tale of Genji.

Hideno Ishibashi (1909-1947) passed away at the age of thirty-nine.  She was a wife of Kenkichi Yamamoto
(1907-1988), the most famous haiku scholar in Japan.  Hideno started writing haiku in her early teens.   She
learned tanka under Akiko Yosano; haiku under Kyoshi Takahama.  I translated semi shigure to “cicada’s
chorus,” but “shigure” literally means intermitting rain from the end of autumn to early winter.  It implies a thing
that last for a while.   Figuratively, it is a way to say “crying.”  The above haiku is the last haiku Hideno wrote.  

      suzumushi o kaite shiniyuku kotomo aru
              keeping bell crickets
              sometimes their lives
              slip away from me                                
                                                                      Hideo Furuya (5)

Suzu (bell) mushi (insect) is an autumn kigo.  I am not sure “bell cricket” is the right translation, but the sound
of this insect is like a tiny bell.  In the clear autumn night, listening to the sound of suzumushi and admiring the
full moon, what did my ancestors have in their minds?

When I was a child, every year my grandparents brought back a cage of kôrogi (crickets) from a stall at the
autumn festival.    I was happy and proud to be in charge of those tiny insects.  Following my grandmother’s
instruction, I fed them cucumbers, but the crickets always died in a few days.

      fuyu bachi no shini dokoro naku aruki keri   
              winter bee
              without a place to die        
              is … walking                        
                                                              Kijo Murakami  (5)

“Bee” itself is a spring kigo, but in the above haiku Kijo described an insect which somehow lived long enough
to see winter.  Kijo Murakami (1865-1938) was hearing impaired.  His work has been categorized as “kyôgai”
haiku. The circumstance of poet’s life is the theme for these haiku.   I have not read his work extensively, but in
his signature haiku like the one above, he compares himself to small animals as Issa Kobayashi (1764-1827)
did.

The sample haiku I chose for this article are rather heavy.  However, insect-related kigo can be used to
describe everyday life with tenderness and humor.   The following two are such “light” examples.  Both
“caterpillar” and “jewel beetle” are summer kigo.

      mamagoto no mama o nakasete kemushi kana
              making a girl playing Mom
              cry…
              a caterpillar                                         
                                                              Shingo Kanamura (6)

Shingo, my Japanese haiku mentor, has excellent eyes for a small, heart warming scene of life.   I have
tendency towards drama, but haiku can be like Noh with minimal movements.

      tamamushi ya myôrei no sen hikinaoshi    
              jewel beetle—
              I redraw the line
              for a woman’s youth                                        
                                                              Michio Nakahara (7)

Michio Nakahara has a unique approach toward his haiku subject.  Often, his juxtaposition surprises me.  
Tamamushi has two golden-purple lines down its back and is considered beautiful by insect-lovers.  

I am planning to discuss food and beverages.

(1)  Kigo Betsu Takaha Shugyo Kushu, (Collection of haiku by Shugho Takaha categorized per kigo) Furansu-do,
2001
(2) Unpublished at the time the article was written.  Used with permission from the author
(3) Gendai no Haiku  (modern haiku anthology)  edited by Shôbin Hirai, Kadokawa  Shoten, 1982    
(4)  Gendai 100 Meiku Shu (Best 100 Modern Haiku Collection) Vol. 5, edited by Kotaro Inagaki, Katsumi Ozawa,
et al, Tokyo Shiki Shuppan, 2004
(5) Kiyose (Collection of Kigo) edited by Kenkichi Yamamoto, Bungei shunju-sha, 1996
(6) Kaki (Persimmon), haiku collection of Shingo Kanamura, Kadokawa Shoten, 2000
(7) Gendai Haiku Shusei  (Modern Haiku Collection), edited by Yasumasa Soda, Rippu Shobo, 1996

Essay 3

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Title: Dissection of the Haiku Tradition  (4)

                                                                                   Food and Beverages

When I had arrived in New York twenty-something years ago, my first place to live was a college dormitory.  I was
surprised to see raw broccoli at a salad bar at its cafeteria.  Of course, I ate uncooked vegetables before moving to the
United States.  But, they were mostly tomatoes, cucumbers  (both are summer kigo) and lettuce (a spring kigo).   
Recently, at a reception, my Japanese client whispered into my ear, “We eat raw fish.  Americans eat raw broccoli.”

hanabie no ikari  sôsu ni renbo seyo     

                               cherry blossom chill
                              let’s fall in love

                 with Ikari sauce

                                                                        Toshinori Tsubouchi  (1)

Ikari (anchor) is the brand name for bottled Worcestershire sauce. The company was incorporated in the late nineteenth
century.  Like Del Monte ketchup here, Ikari has been the household name in Japan.

During the first few years in the Untied States, I missed minor things such as my favorite comic magazine and a familiar
brand of yogurt.  In the winter of 1989,  after several years away from my native land, I returned to Tokyo.  At the busy
cross section in downtown,  I was swept up by the sea of black-haired people.   I suddenly realized how uniform my
home town was.  

              oitachi no nitari yottari aisu tii
                         our personal backgrounds
                          not so different—
                          iced tea
                                                                       Madoka Mayuzumi (2)

While growing up in Japan, I watched dubbed American TV programs and Disney movies.  I read translations of Winnie
the Pooh, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings
.  I thought I was exposed enough to the Western culture.  
But my first American boyfriend showed me how much I had yet to learn.  At  2 am on Saturday morning on the way back
from a party, he said, “Let’s go and have an omelet.”  This was a habit of his.   I was not accustomed to eating
“breakfast” before going to sleep. He confessed he had never met a person who wanted a bowl of ramen noodles for
“breakfast.”  Eventually, he married his high school sweetheart.

              biiru kumu waga honmyô o tsugu beki ka  
                              pouring beer
                              should I reveal
                              my real name
                                                                    Kidong Kang (3)

This haiku starts with a normal, every day scene.  A couple of businessmen decide to have beer after work.  They pour
beer for each other and clink their glasses.  Then, the poet begins to ask himself whether he should tell his real name.  
Kidong Kang is Korean-Japanese. If you want to know more about Kang, please read the excellent essay by  Ikuyo
Yoshimura (4).

I had a friend in high school who was Korean-Japanese.   At the ten-year high school reunion, I learned his real Korean
name for the first time.  He explained he had wanted to avoid unnecessary bullying and discrimination.   He himself did
not feel genuinely Korean in his teens.  He was born and raised in Japan.  His parents were both born in Japan.  He had
never been to Korea until he was grown and started working for his father.    Studying the language of his grandparents
did not have a high priority when he was young.

Sometimes, it is helpful if a reader knows the history and background of a poet.  At the same time, I strongly believe
haiku should not be limited to only one interpretation.    There is no “correct” way to interpret  my haiku.

                      slicing
                      longitude and latitude
                      into the peach
                                                                      Suezan Aikins (5)

I write haiku to present a tiny slice of my world.  I  knead, stir-fry, steam or boil the ingredients.  I may use a hidden spice
which I keep secret.    In real life, I am not a good cook.  But I wish I could be a master chef in the haiku kitchen.

              yudôfu no kakera no kage no atatakashi
                      shadow of a piece
                      of steaming tofu
                      the warmth
                                                                Minoru Ameyama (1)

Recently, I watched a Japanese drama about an extended family.  A dinner scene was in every episode. A program with
a lot of eating scenes seemed to have high rating in Japan.  

This past Thanksgiving, I visited New York, my old turf.  An Italian-American friend prepared a feast.  Though he does not
live far from his parents, he hasn’t been to their house for Thanksgiving in the past twenty years.  With a shy smile, he
said, “My family is not truly comfortable when I bring my boyfriend.”

When I was about ten years old, I told my mother she did not have to cook breakfast for me anymore.  I declared I would
eat toast instead of steamed rice and miso soup.  My older sister continued to eat breakfast the way my mother had
always served it.

The next theme in the series will be holidays and observances.

(1) Gendai no Haiku  (modern haiku anthology)  edited by Shôbin Hirai, Kadokawa  Shoten, 1982    
(2) Beemen no Natsu  (My summer at B-side), haiku collection of Madoka Mayuzumi, Kadokawa Shoten, Tokyo, 1994
(3) Shin-se-ta-ryong (Personal story), haiku collection of Kang Kidong,  Sekifu-sha, Fukuoka, 1997
(4) “Kidong Kang:  The Haiku Autobiography of a Korean Japanese”, Modern Haiku, Volume 35.1, Spring 2004, www.
modernhaiku.org
(5) Haiku World, edited by William Higginson, Kodansha International, Tokyo, New York, London, 1996

All Japanese translations by Fay Aoyagi.

 

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Title:  Dissection of the Haiku Tradition (5)

 

Holidays and Observances

 

In my childhood home with three generations under the same roof, my grandfather controlled the TV channels.  These were the years when Japanese loved the Yomiuri Giants (a baseball team), Taiho (the Grand Sumo Champion from 1961 to 1971) and tamagoyaki (a sweetened soy-flavored omelet).  My grandfather liked all these things, too.  He preferred a kimono to western clothes.  He did not go out without a hat.  He never served his own tea.  He represents, in a way, the endangered traditions of Japan.

 

            the Super Bowl—

            every now and then

            all the houses cheer

                                                            Paul O. Williams (1)

 

My boyfriend, from my New York days,  loved football.  He watched the New York Giants’ game every Sunday.  I decided not to be a football widow.  I wanted to be a part of the American mainstream.  Even after we split, I followed the career of Coach Bill Parcell (New York à New England à Dallas).  I know football, don’t I?


 

               at dawn on Easter

            day laborers gathering

               as they always do

                                                            Patricia J. Machmiller (2)

 

Once upon a time, I dated a man from Venezuela.  He never took off the cross that dangled from his neck.  He was pro choice.  Who knows how many girlfriends he has had before, during and after me?  I was surprised when he showed up at my door in a suit and tie on Easter Sunday.  He suggested we go to church.  “You are a hat person,” he said.  “You can wear your most favorite hat to the mass.”  He knew how to push my buttons.

I grew up in the society where people get married at a church and have a funeral at a Buddhist temple.  I cannot say I believe in God.  But I like the idea of everything – a tree, a flower, a lake, a stone and a house – having its own spirit.

 

Independence Day—

I let him touch

a little bit of me

                                                            Fay Aoyagi (3)

 

When this haiku was first published in Frogpond, I was very much surprised to hear some people say it was erotic.  I use metaphor in haiku rather often.  My haiku includes a lot of ‘I,’ ‘my,’ and ‘me.’  Haiku is a window for the reader to explore my world.  Independence Day is my adopted holiday.  I rely on the concept of ‘reading between the lines.’

 

Thanksgiving alone:

ordering egg and toast

in an undertone

                                                            Nicholas Virgilio (4)

 

One of my friends confessed she was afraid to be alone on holidays.  That is why she continued living with her estranged husband.  

A painter will step back to look at his work.  An ice skater may videotape her practice session to check her posture.  The flicking of birthday candles on your tenth birthday was not the same as on your fiftieth.

 

I am a short person.  I buy my pants in the children’s section.  Some bathroom mirrors in hotels are too high for me to apply lipstick.  My neck gets tired after a cocktail reception.  Yet I bend when I walk under the tree branches.  I squat to greet dogs on the street.

 

silent night

the singing hands

of the deaf child

                                                            Jerry Kilbride (5)

 

In junior high school, our English teacher told us that listening to American music would help our pronunciation.  “Hyakuman nin no eig”’ (“One Million People’s English”), an educational radio program, always ended with an American popular song.

In the early eighties when I worked at a law firm in Tokyo, I went to a bar in Akasaka with my coworkers.  A Japanese singer with a perfect accent performed a Billy Joel song.  My boss, a British lawyer, went to talk to the singer.  Surprisingly, the guy did not speak English at all.  He said he just mimicked the record.  It was a mystery to me how he could put such sentiment into the lyrics he did not understand. 

 

jyuunigatsu youka gotsugotsu ishi bakari

December Eighth

rough and hardened

all these rocks

                                                            Naoto Hirose (6)

 

Pearl Harbor Day in Japan is December 8 due to the International Date Line.  My Japanese saijiki lists a lot of holidays, festivals, religious events and death anniversaries of famous people.

I often use Hiroshima Day or Nagasaki Anniversary in my haiku.  Why do I come back to that theme again and again?  I think about the relationship between myself and August 1945.  I measure the distance between me and those August days.  Sometimes my name becomes the fourth line of haiku.  Because I am not Smith or Mary, my name could cast a light on a reader.  I am not saying that I am entitled to write a haiku about Hiroshima Day just because I was born in Japan.  I was born after World War II.  I have never been to Hiroshima or Nagasaki.  My point is:  holidays and observances reveal different colors to different eyes.  How I respect Martin Luther King. Jr. Day and how an African American celebrates it may not be the same.  I may be too far from Columbus Day.  I may be never satisfied with my St. Patrick’s Day haiku.  I may write about “shigure-ki” (Basho’s death anniversary) only in Japanese.

 

            Chinatown New Year—

            down a dark alley

to where my fortune is baking        

                                                Janeth Ewald (7)

 

I do not know exactly where my haiku path is leading me.  Along the way, I zigzag, run, get lost, pause for a while.

 

I will discuss rivers and oceans next time.

 

(1)  Unpublished at the time of writing this article. Used with permission from the poet.

(2)  Blush of Winter Moon, Jacaranda Press, San Jose, California 2001

(3)  Chrysanthemum Love, Blue Willow Press, San Francisco, 2003

(4)  The Haiku Anthology, edited by Cor van den Heuvel, W.W. Norton Company, New York and London, 1999

(5)  The Day of Strawberries, edited by Paul O. Williams, Two Autumns Press, Salinas, California, 2004

(6)  Gendai Saijiki (Modern Saijiki), edited by Tota Kaneko, Momoko Kuroda, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Seisei Shuppan, Tokyo, 1977.   Translation by Fay Aoyagi

(7)  Mariposa 9, edited by Claire Gallagher and Carolyn Hall, published by Haiku Poets of Northern California, 2003

 

*****

Title:  Dissection of the Haiku Tradition (6)

 

Rivers and Oceans

 

            When I started this series of essays last year (in Volume XXVIII, Number 1, Winter 2005), I wrote I would “discuss one of the traditional

am just telling personal stories.  I have no intention of providing analytical or academic thoughts through my writing.  What I am dissecting here may not be a haiku tradition in the typical sense.  Digging into my culture, my background and my emotions helps me explore kigo.  I write haiku to tell my story.  A story can be about how I ate ice cream.  A story can be about a historical event awakened by cherry blossoms or the winter wind. 

 

            hirogereba biichi parasoru tote ryôbun    

 

                        opening                                

                        a beach parasol claims      

                        its territory                          

                                                            Kigajô Fukumoto (1)

 

            What is the first image in your mind when someone asks you to write a haiku about the sea?  Sea is our birth place. Life started in the water, didn’t it?  Is it too abstract to write about?  How about European explorers like Columbus venturing into the sea?  You may say you have never met Columbus in your life and it is against your principle to write an imaginary haiku.  I may compose a haiku about kamikaze  (the Divine Wind).  Let me tell you how I leap from ‘sea’ to ‘Divine Wind.’   

In the thirteenth century, Mongolians (the Yuan Dynasty in China) tried to invade Japan.  Their fleet failed to reach Japanese soil because of a typhoon in the region; not once but twice.  The Japanese thought their gods protected the country and destroyed the Mongolian battleships.  I think a name for the suicide attack by zero fighters during WWII came from this belief.

 

            I crossed River Styx

            as a kamikaze pilot

                  August dawn

                                                            Fay Aoyagi   (2)

 

When I was a child, I wished I could be ‘a new kid in town.’  Each time a transferred student arrived at our classroom, his/her name was written in big letters on the blackboard.  I truly wanted to be the one in the center of the class’s undivided attention.  I am not sure that is why I left Japan and became a new kid (adult, rather?) in a foreign city.  I fantasized changing about my surroundings like a river flowing through different landscapes.

 

            hinokuchi no sabiiro fukaki wataridori   

 

                        deep rust

                        of the sluice—

                        migrating birds

                                                            Mariusu Nadaya (3)

 

One of my clients in Silicon Valley has a large saltwater pond in front of its global headquarters.  I see many geese there throughout the year.  Sometimes I feel that exchanging places with a bird may not be a bad idea.  Of course, a life as a bird can be tough, too. 

Those geese seem to think human beings are a little more than walking trees.  They act as though they are the owners of the property.  Yet occasionally, I see the hue of sadness in their eyes.

 

            dono umi mo umi to tsunagaru ôashita    

 

                        every sea connects

                        with other seas—

                        New Year’s Day

                                                            Minako Tsuji  (4)

 

You do not have to watch a movie about the Titanic or read Moby Dick to know the danger of the sea.  One day, it is calm and friendly; next day it can kill hundreds or thousands of people by tsunami.   Kigo, ‘ôashita’ (New Year’s Day), in the above haiku literally means ‘a big dawn.’  When we see sunrise, someone at the other side of the sea may be admiring moonrise.

I cannot shake off a wild thought: a gigantic octopus is at the deep ocean bottom.  Its spread tentacles form for the foundation of the earth; so that everything on the land above, buildings, bridges and trees, can stay erect.

 

 

            shinkai-de yadokari hirou santoukaki

 

                        in the deep sea

                        i pick up a hermit crab…

                        the date Santôka died       

                                                            Dhugal Lindsay  (5)

 

            Dhugal, a marine biologist, is an Australian who lives in Japan and composes haiku in Japanese.  Yadokari’ (a hermit crab) is one of my favorite spring kigo.  The literal translation of the Japanese characters for yadokari is ‘a worm living in a rented dwelling.’  Sometimes I feel close to yadokari which has to rely on shell of other creatures.  After all these years living in the United States, I sometimes feel like yadokari if I stay in Japan longer than a month. 

 

            Hiroshima atsushi naifu no yôni kawa nagare 

 

                        Hiroshima heat—

                        the river flows

                        like a knife

                                                            Shin Yamaguchi  (1)

 

            When I lived in Tokyo, I seldom traveled to other parts of Japan, except for ski trips.  Each time I accumulated enough money or vacation days to travel, I visited other Asian countries.  Going to the Philippines or Thailand was cheaper than a domestic travel.  My older sister moved to Indonesia shortly before I turned twenty.  I could squeeze money out of my parents, who have never traveled by air, if I included a visit with my sister in the itinerary.

In those days I was not interested in Japanese traditional culture, not even haiku.  Now, I regret I did not see more kabuki (a play and dance by an allmale cast), bunraku (a puppet show) and rakugo (a comical story telling).  I was shocked to realize how little I knew about Japan when I moved to the United States.  I did not have answers for most of the questions asked by my American colleagues and friends.

 

            Stubovi mosta

            posle bombardovanja

            spojeni nebom.

 

                        After bombing

                        the pillars of the bridge

                        arched by the sky.

                                                Nabjša Simin (6)

 

I found this haiku in Aozora (meaning ‘a blue sky’ in Japanese; a web site featuring haiku from South-Eastern European countries).  The above haiku is from an anthology published in 2000 about the bridges destroyed in the war.  Serbian originals are accompanied by translations in English, French and German.

Haiku, I believe, is a sketch of life.  What I mean by ‘sketch’ is not limited to describing nature.  Nature is a part of our lives, but we witness civil wars, riots and political scandals on this earth.  I am not saying that haiku poets should make a statement through haiku.  After I started writing haiku, I began to find more pleasures in small things; such as bird songs in the early morning or the first camellia blossom opening in my neighborhood.   At the same time, I have an urge to describe a thing which only exists inside of me. Kigo can be the entrance to the waves, the flows or the swirls in my soul.

 

            Next theme will be ‘Moon.’    

 

(1)  Gendai Saijiki (Modern Saijiki), edited by Tota Kaneko, Momoko Kuroda, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Seisei Shuppan, Tokyo, 1977 

(2)  Unpublished

(3)  Ginko Kukai Hikkei (Indispensable Handbook for Ginko and Kukai), edited and published by Kadokawa Shoten, Tokyo, 2000

(4)  Umi To Yama No Raibiriensu (Labyrinth of Seas and Mountains), edited by Shinji Saito, Kawade Shobo, Tokyo, 2004

(5)  bottle rockets #14 2006 edited by Stanford M. Forrester and Ann D. Foley, Wetherfield, CT  

(6)  Treca obala reke (The third bank of the river) edited by Nabjša Simin, 2000, (www. tempslibres.org/aozora/books/bank/bank00html).  Translation from Serbian to English by Vladislava Felbador

 

Except for haiku by Dhugal Lindsay, all Japanese translation by Fay Aoyagi.

*****

Title:  Dissection of the Haiku Tradition ()

 

Moon

 

If somebody asks me to choose between the sun and the moon as the place to live, I will choose the moon.  In my mind, there are highways with ten lanes on the sun, and the moon has alleys and narrow streets I can explore on foot.

For me, the sun is the destination.  The moon is a gateway and a peep hole to the world unknown.   

 

As you may know, Japanese saijiki categorize the word ‘moon’ by itself as an autumn kigo.  You will find many ways to say ‘moon’ in Japanese saijiki.   For example, the full moon can be called ‘gyokukon’ (round soul) or ‘sasaraeotoko  (small but lovely man – a nickname for the moon). 

In Japan, there is a long tradition of admiring a full moon on the fifteenth day of lunar August.  Special dishes of taros and sweet dumplings are prepared.   Pampas grass is arranged in a vase. 

 

kono tsuki o imachi nemachi to yubi o ori

should this moon be waited for

by sitting or lying down…?

I calculate with my fingers

 

                                                            Sujyu Takano  (1)

 

Sujyu Takano (1893-1976) is referring to the belief in ancient time.  People imagined that, just before moonrise, three gods would come down to the earth to show a way to the Land of Paradise.  Seventeenth-day moon which rises around 7:00 pm is called ‘tachimachizuki’ (the moon you wait for by standing).  I can see my ancestor waiting for the moonrise near his gate after an evening stroll.  On eighteenth day, the moon rises about 30 minutes later than a previous day.  Without electricity, streets must have been dark by then.  People waited in their living rooms or on their verandas for the moon to rise.  A kigo for the eighteenth day moon is ‘imachizuki’ (the moon you wait for by sitting).   Next day the moon does not rise before 8 pm.  In their bedrolls, people waited for the nineteenth day moon called ‘nemachizuki’ (the moon you wait for by lying down).

During Edo Period (1603~1867), a day was divided into twelve segments and each segment had the name of an animal.  Those animals were the same twelve zodiac signs you see in a Chinese calendar.  I have to admit that I do not know a kigo like ‘inakazuki’ in English.   A character for ‘i’’ (pronounced as ‘i’ in ‘inside’) means ‘boar’ and ‘naka’ means ‘between.’  In the modern world, Hour of Boar is between 9pm and 11pm.  I translated ‘inakazuki,’ (the moon rises between 9pm and 11pm.) to ‘twentieth-night moon’ in the haiku below

 

basu roubu no tora hoeteiru inakazuki

          a tiger on his bath robe

howling—

twentieth-night moon

 

                                                            Fay Aoyagi  (2)

 

  ‘Inakazuki is a rather technical term which only exists in the haiku world or in a historical novel.   This kigo is fascinating, but today I may need to explain what ‘inakazuki‘ is to a Japanese friend who does not write haiku.   Saijiki is a treasure vault of kigo and sample haiku.  I heavily rely on saijiki when I write haiku both in Japanese and English.

 

          negaerishi ko wa gekkô ni chikazukinu

                      turning in sleep

        my child is getting closer

        to the moonlight

 

                                                            Yasuko Tsushima  (3)

 

            This is one of my favorite haiku written by Yasuko Tsushima.  I may completely misinterpret the meaning, but let me tell you why I am intrigued with this haiku. 

A sleeping face is peaceful and beautiful in the moonlight coming through a window.   Watching him/her, a poet experiences the happiness which only a mother can enjoy.  Yet at the same time, an invisible hand draws the child closer to the world we human beings do not belong to.  Something wicked and strong pulls away the cord between mother and child. 

My interpretation may be influenced with a legend of Kaguyahime, a story of the Moon Princess.  A beautiful baby was found and raised by an elderly couple.  Eventually, though, she returned to the moon on the fifteenth night (full moon) of lunar August when she declined to choose a husband.

 

            kangekkô onore no hone mo sukitôru   

                        winter moonlight

                        my bones, too,

                        are transparent

                                                            Yukiko Itoyama  (4)

 

            Sunlight helps me understand the shape of an object.  A moonbeam shows me the inside of it.  

I like moon-related kigo because I can lead a reader into a labyrinth.  I may lose him/her in a maze.  But I hope I am showing a way to the deep inner world. 

 

American Indians and colonial Americans have a lot of evocative names for a moon.  Lizard Cut Moon (January), Fish Moon (March), Buck Moon (July) and Leaf Fall Moon (October) are among many.   Those names are more to describe a month than the moon itself, but they can be interesting kigo.

 

            gesshoku matsu kawa e jyusshi o hirakiite

                        I wait for a lunar eclipse

                        with all my ten fingers spread out

                        to the river

                                          

                                                            Toru Sudo (4)

 

Technically speaking, ‘gesshoku’ (lunar eclipse) is not a kigo.  I found this haiku in the section of ‘zô’ (‘miscellaneous’ or ‘non-season’) in one of my saijiki. 

            In the above haiku, moonlight still shines between the poet’s fingers and may shimmer on the river surface.  But soon the earth will move between the sun and the moon.  Most of the time, we are under the influence of the sun or the moon.  Can we be the absolute master of our life for the duration of the lunar eclipse?

 

            itoshimeba ki mo katarikuru haru no tsuki

                        if I show my tenderness of love

                        a tree, too, will start talking—

                        spring moon

                                          

                                                            Heinosuke Gosho (5)

 

            Though I respect a long tradition of moon-admiring in the autumn, I am attracted to the moon in the spring.  Spring is a budding season.  The night air is filled with fragrance of flowers.  Animals mate.  The moon floats in the mist.

 

            One of my Japanese friends told me that she did not understand how Americans write haiku in English.  According to her, Japanese culture, including haiku, is very subtle.  She said Japanese is more ambiguous than English; it is a more suitable language to express feelings.  Writing in Japanese, a poet can avoid too much explicitness.

            I am not sure I totally agree with her.  I think English haiku can be very suggestive, as well.

 

            summer moon—

            shadows with tiny horns

            at the monkey bars

 

                                                Fay Aoyagi (6)

 

            My friend may say, “Well…. I can see that it is possible to compose a weird haiku in English.  But is this a haiku or a 3-line poem?”

            If I write a three-line poem, the above haiku may go like:

 

When I was looking for my lost childhood in the summer moonlight,

I saw shadows with tiny horns at the monkey bars.

I might be one of those with horns, here in my adopted land.

 

Haiku is a poetry form which requires reading between the lines.  I strongly believe that we can achieve subtlety in English. 

 

                        Next theme will be ‘wind.’

 

 

(1)  Haiku Saijiki edited by Fusei Tomiyasu, Kenkichi Yamamoto et al, Heibonsha, Tokyo, 1971

(2)  Ten’I (Ten’I haiku group members’ magazine), February 2003 Issue

(3)  Tsushima Yasuko Shu (Collection of work by Yasuko Tsushima), Yu Shorin, Tokyo, 2003

(4)  Gendai Saijiki (Modern Saijiki), edited by Tota Kaneko, Momoko Kuroda, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Seisei Shuppan, Tokyo, 1997

(5)  Dai Saijiki (Comprehensive Saijiki) edited by Shuoshi Mizuhara et al, Kodansha, Tokyo, 1982

(6)  In Borrowed Shoes by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Press, 2006

All Japanese translation by Fay Aoyagi.

 

****

Title:  Dissection of the Haiku Tradition (8)   

 

Wind

 

            When I was a small child, my grandmother told me the spring wind brought a wicked spirit.  “Once this spirit enters your body, it will try to remove a plug in your brain.  Then, you will become mentally unbalanced,” she said. 

            “How can I protect my brain?” I asked.  My grandmother advised me to wear a hat.

                                     

muzugayuki tsubasa no tsukene nehan-nishi

roots of my wings

are itchy—

west wind from Nirvana

 

                                                            Yuko Masaki (1)

 

Nehan-nishi (west wind from Nirvana) is a spring kigo.

 

Our ancestors had tails when they climbed down from trees, didn’t they?  I do not miss a tail, but sometimes I wish I had wings.  Then I ask myself a question.  If I can be something with wings, what do I want to be?  A cicada?  I do not want to spend seven years underground.  A butterfly?  I am not very thrilled about being caught in the spider’s web.   A pigeon?  I would like to avoid becoming a scavenger in the city streets.  A swan?  I prefer a bird with a beautiful singing voice.   A phoenix?  I may need the special courage to fly into a fire to be re-born, however a phoenix may not be a bad choice.  I could enjoy several cycles of life.

 

tsuwagochi ni sentakubasami hisshinaru

 

in the strong east wind

those clothes-pegs

are frantic

 

                                                            Minako Kato (2)

 

Kochi (eastern wind), or a variation of it, is a spring kigo.

 

As a naturalized citizen of the United States, I am satisfied with my life here.  San Francisco, where I live, has shops selling Japanese food.  A public library has a good collection of books in Japanese.  There is a video shop if I want to watch Japanese TV programs.  What do I miss as an expatriate?  The smell of sun on freshly laundered clothes.  A dryer is very convenient.  I will not trade places with a housewife in Tokyo who takes the laundry in and out several times a day based on the changing weather.  Still, artificial scent cannot surpass the sunshine. 

In the above haiku Minako Kato personified the clothes-pegs.  Without the word ‘hisshinaru’ ‘(being frantic), I cannot have a vivid image of clothes-pegs in the strong wind.  They are fighting for the clothes they are supposed to protect. 

 

Early summer, around June, is the rainy season in Japan.  Kurohae (black south wind) is the wind during this long spell of rainy weather.  It is not a stormy rain as in the August typhoon season.  Perpetual, steady rain goes on for days.  It may cause mold in the furniture.  Food goes bad quicker than usual.  Japanese department stores keep umbrellas in a wide selection of designs and colors.  

When the rain front moves north, the Meteorological Agency announces the official end of the rainy season. The sky becomes bright.  Cicadas start singing.

 

shirohae ya keshō ni moreshi mimi no kage

white south wind—

she forgets to apply makeup

behind her ears

 

                                                            Sōjō Hino (2)

 

Shirohae (white south wind) is the wind in high summer. 

 

In the neighborhood I grew up in Tokyo, there was a woman who used to be a geisha.  My grandmother did not want me to be too friendly with this woman.  My dream then was to become a singer or an actress.  When I went to a public bath house, I spent more time in front of the big mirror than in the tub or at the washing area.  My grandmother usually chatted with her friends, while I was practicing my act.  But each time this woman came in, my grandmother and her friends started to leave.

 “You don’t want to be a kept woman like her,” my grandmother lowered her voice, casting cold glance towards the woman. 

 

uba hitori ironaki kaze no naka ni sumu

          an old lady by herself

lives in the wind

without colors

 

                                                            Tenkō Kawasaki  (2)

 

            Some of Japanese kigo are based on either Chinese poem or Japanese waka.  The kigo in above haiku, ironaki kaze (colorless wind) is based on the following waka. 

 

fukikureba minimo shimikeru akikaze o ironaki monoto omoikeru kana

            when it blows

            it penetrates my body

            I think this autumnal wind

            is a thing

            without colors

                                                            Tomonori Kino (3)

 

            The concept of this kigo, ‘colorless wind,’ is not about being a rebel.  But my mind wonders to the ancient aristocrats or emperors who were sent away to the lonesome islands as political exiles. There is a Japanese proverb about uniformity:  a nail sticking out will be hit by a hammer. 

 

            shinigami ni shirimochi tsukase kamaitachi 

                        a demon of death

                        is fell on his buttocks—

                        a weasel phantom in the wind

                                                            Shō Hayashi  (1)

 

            Kamaitachi (literally, kama means ‘a sickle’ and itachi ‘a weasel’) is a winter kigo based on Japanese ancient belief.  In the cold region, a whirlwind on a winter day can cause a cut on human skin.  Ancient Japanese believed a weasel-like phantom caused the problem by using its sickle. 

            Tsuyoshi Domoto, a contemporary Japanese singer in his twenties, wrote a song in titled ‘Koi No Kamaitachi’ (Weasel Phantom for Love).  His lyrics include the following phrase.

 

            The weasel phantom in the wind tells me

            It is pointless to cut a heart

            That knows no doubt

 

            The phantom in Domoto’s song is not interested in pure hearts. From time to time, we may need to bleed a little to speed recovery.  Listening to this song, I ask myself why I am fascinated with the wind or wind-related kigo.  I have been living in San Francisco for nearly twelve years.  I have not changed my residence since 1997.  I do not have any plan to move.  I am settled here.  I am comfortable here.  Yet, I do not want to lose the spirit of a wanderer.

            I wrote having wings is not a bad idea.  Why do I wish to have wings?  Without wings, it may be difficult traveling in the wind.  I do not want to be blown away as a fallen leaf. With wings, I may have a better chance to win the fight against the wind than the clothes-pegs in Minako Kato’s haiku. If I become the wind itself, some poets may call me colorless.  As the wind, I may become playful with my sickle.

            I believe in circles and cycles. I am happy to know that the earth is a sphere.  The wind born in the Pacific Ocean may circle around the globe and touch my cheek some day.

           

            gust—

            Zephyr steals the kite

            from a boy’s hand

                                                            Fay Aoyagi (4)

           

            When you surf the Internet, you will find sites telling the names of winds from all over the world; including the wind gods in Greek Mythology.  California has Santa Ana and Diablo winds.  Your region may have a unique wind name to use in your haiku.   I am not seeking submissions from the readers.  This suggestion is for your personal exercise. 

 

            Next theme will be ‘inner landscape.’

 

 

(1)  Gendai Saijiki (Modern Saijiki), edited by Tota Kaneko, Momoko Kuroda, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Seisei Shuppan, Tokyo, 1997

(2)  Dai Saijiki (Comprehensive Saijiki) edited by Shuoshi Mizuhara, et al, Kodansha, Tokyo, 1982

(3)  Haiku Saijiki edited by Fusei Tomiyasu, Kenkichi Yamamoto, et al, Heibonsha, Tokyo, 1971

(4)   Unpublished

All Japanese translation by Fay Aoyagi.

 

******

 

Title:  Dissection of the Haiku Tradition (8)   

 

Wind

 

            When I was a small child, my grandmother told me the spring wind brought a wicked spirit.  “Once this spirit enters your body, it will try to remove a plug in your brain.  Then, you will become mentally unbalanced,” she said. 

            “How can I protect my brain?” I asked.  My grandmother advised me to wear a hat.

                                     

muzugayuki tsubasa no tsukene nehan-nishi

roots of my wings

are itchy—

west wind from Nirvana

 

                                                            Yuko Masaki (1)

 

Nehan-nishi (west wind from Nirvana) is a spring kigo.

 

Our ancestors had tails when they climbed down from trees, didn’t they?  I do not miss a tail, but sometimes I wish I had wings.  Then I ask myself a question.  If I can be something with wings, what do I want to be?  A cicada?  I do not want to spend seven years underground.  A butterfly?  I am not very thrilled about being caught in the spider’s web.   A pigeon?  I would like to avoid becoming a scavenger in the city streets.  A swan?  I prefer a bird with a beautiful singing voice.   A phoenix?  I may need the special courage to fly into a fire to be re-born, however a phoenix may not be a bad choice.  I could enjoy several cycles of life.

 

tsuwagochi ni sentakubasami hisshinaru

 

in the strong east wind

those clothes-pegs

are frantic

 

                                                            Minako Kato (2)

 

Kochi (eastern wind), or a variation of it, is a spring kigo.

 

As a naturalized citizen of the United States, I am satisfied with my life here.  San Francisco, where I live, has shops selling Japanese food.  A public library has a good collection of books in Japanese.  There is a video shop if I want to watch Japanese TV programs.  What do I miss as an expatriate?  The smell of sun on freshly laundered clothes.  A dryer is very convenient.  I will not trade places with a housewife in Tokyo who takes the laundry in and out several times a day based on the changing weather.  Still, artificial scent cannot surpass the sunshine. 

In the above haiku Minako Kato personified the clothes-pegs.  Without the word ‘hisshinaru’ ‘(being frantic), I cannot have a vivid image of clothes-pegs in the strong wind.  They are fighting for the clothes they are supposed to protect. 

 

Early summer, around June, is the rainy season in Japan.  Kurohae (black south wind) is the wind during this long spell of rainy weather.  It is not a stormy rain as in the August typhoon season.  Perpetual, steady rain goes on for days.  It may cause mold in the furniture.  Food goes bad quicker than usual.  Japanese department stores keep umbrellas in a wide selection of designs and colors.  

When the rain front moves north, the Meteorological Agency announces the official end of the rainy season. The sky becomes bright.  Cicadas start singing.

 

shirohae ya keshō ni moreshi mimi no kage

white south wind—

she forgets to apply makeup

behind her ears

 

                                                            Sōjō Hino (2)

 

Shirohae (white south wind) is the wind in high summer. 

 

In the neighborhood I grew up in Tokyo, there was a woman who used to be a geisha.  My grandmother did not want me to be too friendly with this woman.  My dream then was to become a singer or an actress.  When I went to a public bath house, I spent more time in front of the big mirror than in the tub or at the washing area.  My grandmother usually chatted with her friends, while I was practicing my act.  But each time this woman came in, my grandmother and her friends started to leave.

 “You don’t want to be a kept woman like her,” my grandmother lowered her voice, casting cold glance towards the woman. 

 

uba hitori ironaki kaze no naka ni sumu

          an old lady by herself

lives in the wind

without colors

 

                                                            Tenkō Kawasaki  (2)

 

            Some of Japanese kigo are based on either Chinese poem or Japanese waka.  The kigo in above haiku, ironaki kaze (colorless wind) is based on the following waka. 

 

fukikureba minimo shimikeru akikaze o ironaki monoto omoikeru kana

            when it blows

            it penetrates my body

            I think this autumnal wind

            is a thing

            without colors

                                                            Tomonori Kino (3)

 

            The concept of this kigo, ‘colorless wind,’ is not about being a rebel.  But my mind wonders to the ancient aristocrats or emperors who were sent away to the lonesome islands as political exiles. There is a Japanese proverb about uniformity:  a nail sticking out will be hit by a hammer. 

 

            shinigami ni shirimochi tsukase kamaitachi 

                        a demon of death

                        is fell on his buttocks—

                        a weasel phantom in the wind

                                                            Shō Hayashi  (1)

 

            Kamaitachi (literally, kama means ‘a sickle’ and itachi ‘a weasel’) is a winter kigo based on Japanese ancient belief.  In the cold region, a whirlwind on a winter day can cause a cut on human skin.  Ancient Japanese believed a weasel-like phantom caused the problem by using its sickle. 

            Tsuyoshi Domoto, a contemporary Japanese singer in his twenties, wrote a song in titled ‘Koi No Kamaitachi’ (Weasel Phantom for Love).  His lyrics include the following phrase.

 

            The weasel phantom in the wind tells me

            It is pointless to cut a heart

            That knows no doubt

 

            The phantom in Domoto’s song is not interested in pure hearts. From time to time, we may need to bleed a little to speed recovery.  Listening to this song, I ask myself why I am fascinated with the wind or wind-related kigo.  I have been living in San Francisco for nearly twelve years.  I have not changed my residence since 1997.  I do not have any plan to move.  I am settled here.  I am comfortable here.  Yet, I do not want to lose the spirit of a wanderer.

            I wrote having wings is not a bad idea.  Why do I wish to have wings?  Without wings, it may be difficult traveling in the wind.  I do not want to be blown away as a fallen leaf. With wings, I may have a better chance to win the fight against the wind than the clothes-pegs in Minako Kato’s haiku. If I become the wind itself, some poets may call me colorless.  As the wind, I may become playful with my sickle.

            I believe in circles and cycles. I am happy to know that the earth is a sphere.  The wind born in the Pacific Ocean may circle around the globe and touch my cheek some day.

           

            gust—

            Zephyr steals the kite

            from a boy’s hand

                                                            Fay Aoyagi (4)

           

            When you surf the Internet, you will find sites telling the names of winds from all over the world; including the wind gods in Greek Mythology.  California has Santa Ana and Diablo winds.  Your region may have a unique wind name to use in your haiku.   I am not seeking submissions from the readers.  This suggestion is for your personal exercise. 

 

            Next theme will be ‘inner landscape.’

 

 

(1)  Gendai Saijiki (Modern Saijiki), edited by Tota Kaneko, Momoko Kuroda, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Seisei Shuppan, Tokyo, 1997

(2)  Dai Saijiki (Comprehensive Saijiki) edited by Shuoshi Mizuhara, et al, Kodansha, Tokyo, 1982

(3)  Haiku Saijiki edited by Fusei Tomiyasu, Kenkichi Yamamoto, et al, Heibonsha, Tokyo, 1971

(4)   Unpublished

All Japanese translation by Fay Aoyagi.

******

Title:  Dissection of the Haiku Tradition (10)   

 

Inner Landscape (2)

 

I live in a studio apartment.  I eat, write and read at the same desk.  But, I believe that my body has many doors, stairs and windows.  Through writing haiku, I explore the house called myself.  Sometimes I find me as a rabbit behind the closed door.  Other times, I see my reflection as a hawk in the mirror.

.   

boku ga shujinkou no douwa o kataru fuyu soubi

 

I tell a fairy tale

whose main character is me—

a winter rose

 

                                                        Kei Hayashi (1)

 

            A friend of mine who is a painter told me haiku and painting share an important element: show not tell.  A poet or a painter provides a vehicle.  A map can be embedded in the work.  A reader or a viewer chooses the destination.  Where they arrive can be different from the artist expects or intends. Someone may become homesick when he/she sees a painting of a swimming pool.  It reminds him/her of the parents’ house in Southern California.  I may feel isolated seeing the same.painting  No one had a private pool where I grew up. 

 

maimai ya yasumeba kiyuru jibunshi mo

 

water strider—

if I stop, my history, too

will disappear

 

                                                            Hiroe Kawamoto (2)

 

When I write haiku, I refer to Japanese saijiki.  A saijiki is like a cook book.  It contains tips on how to use the ingredients in front of you.  Unfortunately, a haiku poet cannot repeat the same recipe again and again.  It is difficult to prepare a unique dish using iceberg lettuce.  But a tomato can be used for salad, soup or pasta sauce.  A saijiki is like a skilled yoga instructor.  With guidance I bend deeper.  I find new strength. At the same time, there is a risk of loosing balance if I push myself too much.  I am afraid turning myself upside down.  I cannot split my legs like a ballet dancer.  

 

lines left by the tide

someone somewhere

wishes me ill

       

                                                            paul m. (3)

 

Every six months or so, I experience a writer’s block.   If I were a nature person, I would go to the mountains, paddle in the river, or look at flowers I nurture.  I do not camp.  I do not own a kayak.  My apartment does not have a garden.  When I have a cold, I choose rice porridge instead of chicken soup.   Cinderella’s shoe only fits her.  I may be able to impress potential in-laws with a designer dress and perfect makeup.  But their chihuahua will sense my dislike of miniature dogs.

             

 

hana no ame kawa ga jikan o misete iru

 

cherry blossom rain—

a river is showing

the time

 

                                                            Bin Akio (4)

 

            On the autumn solstice, I went to Treasure Island to see the dragon boat race.  One of the heats was for breast cancer survivors.  There was a ceremony to commemorate the deceased and to honor the fighters.  Volunteers gave the audience pink carnations.  We threw them on the water.  The one I threw ended up near the shore.  It slowly circled and joined the other flowers.   

 

tori kaeru kiteki no natte iru hou e

 

migrating birds return

in the direction

the train whistles

 

                                                            Reiko Akezumi (5)

 

            This summer I met my cousin and uncle in Tokyo.  My cousin’s daughter wants to study photography in England.  They want to know the pros and cons for a young woman living overseas by herself.  My cousin never lived alone.  He went to a university in Tokyo.  He stayed with his parents until he married.  His experience is not unique for a person who grew up in Tokyo.  My uncle will support his granddaughter financially.  She does not have to work while attending school.  Her brother spent a year in New Zealand.  Why not give her such an opportunity, as well?  The Equal Employment Act in Japan has been in effect since 1986. 

“Do you remember I went to Grandparents’ house every summer by myself?”  I asked them. 

“Sure.  Your mother sent your sister to summer school.  But, you did not want to spend the summer in Tokyo,” my uncle said.

My maternal grandparents lived in a town near the ocean.  From Tokyo, it was about two hours away by train.  I will never forget the taste of a tangerine I bought on board.  It was the first time I bought something by myself.

 

uchikake o kite fuyu no ga wa tobemasen

 

in the wedding kimono

a winter moth

cannot fly

 

                                                            Takajo Mitsuhashi  (1)

 

            One of my friends adopted a child when she was forty-five years old.  She said she learned and is still learning many things from being a mother. 

She believed the relationship with her mother is more amicable after she herself became a mother.  It is hard to believe she will celebrate her sixtieth birthday soon.  But I chose not to be a mother.  

           

Why do I want to write haiku?  Why do I want to show my happiness, my pain and my inner soul?   Why do I choose the haiku format?  Without knowing answers, I will continue my haiku journey.  My train may not be the modern bullet train.  It will not zip through the landscape.  My boat may not have an engine.  I have to paddle constantly.  But I know I am moving forward.

              

 

This is the last installment.  I appreciate the support from Frogpond readers.  I bow deeply to John Stevenson who gave me the opportunity to write this series.

 

in how many languages

can I say ‘thank you’?

             wild mustard

 

                                            Fay Aoyagi (6)

 

(1)  Gendai no Haiku (Modern Haiku Anthology) edited by Shōbin Hirai, Kadokawa Shoten, 1982

(2)  Gendai Saijiki (Modern Saijiki), edited by Tota Kaneko, Momoko Kuroda, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Seisei Shuppan, Tokyo, 1997

(3)  flotsam/jetsam by paul m. 2007, privately published

(4)  Haiku Shiki (Haiku Four Seasons) June 2007 Issue, editedby Seiji Hayashi, Tokyo Shiki Shuppan, June 2007

(5)  Seisa (Star Raft), by Reiko Akezumi, Furansudo, Tokyo, 2006

(6)  In Borrowed Shoes, by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Press, San Francisco, 2006

All Japanese translation by Fay Aoyagi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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