Now is late in autumn here in Akita.
Our website is full of autumn. The readers have contributed pictures and haiku about autumn from all over the world.
伊藤貞順 (Ito Teijun), a Japanese poet in Akita, presented two pictures to us. She rode on a local train from 鷹巣 (takanosu) to 角館 (kakunodate) and enjoyed the beautiful sceneries of nature, taking some pictures of them.
Joshua Sellers, an American poet contributed his haiku about autumn to our site.
pieces of sky ―
chigire zora aki shitataruru mizu tamari
heavy fog ―-
from pines, sounds
of dew dripping
kiiri koishi shouju no shizuku tsuyu no oto
night shadows ―
a lone cricket chirps,
yoru fukeru koorogi hitori seijaku e
moonlit sky ―
quivering crepe myrtles
and their shadows
gekkou ni furueru kage ya sarusuberi
not one word
sasayaki no ichigon mo nashi donguri ka
autumn daybreak —
sunlight blazing through
akino ake momijiba kuramu hi no hikari
Last of all we post some other haiku on the blog, ‘AKITAHAIKU’ , whose address is http://akitahaiku.blogspot.com/.
Harvest time ―
ears of rice bathing
in the sun
shuukaku no hinata ni yokusu inaho kana
by Hidenori Hiruta, a Japanese poet
Harvest time ―
ready to celebrate
shuukakuji iwai wo sonau fuyu chikashi
by Juhani Tikkanen, a Finnish poet
fou muin ―
a freithy yill
full moon ―
a frothy beer
meigetsu ya awadatsu biiru kamoshidasu
by John McDonald, a Scottish poet
Harvest Moon ―
i look for you in
meigetsu ya shi no naka ku no naka kagayakeri
by Devika Jyothi, an Indian poet
― Hidenori Hiruta
桝田愛佳（Masuda Aika）began painting haiga in her elementary school days.
In summer, 2008, her mother, 桝田純子(Masuda Junko), and David Ferron, an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in Akita City, Akita, Japan, took up haiga by Masuda Aika as their haiga project.
We post their haiga project on the website, dividing it into three stages.
We hope that you will appreciate haiga by an elementary schoolgirl in Akita.
Ms. Masuda’s and David’s Haiga Project
わたしと俳画 Haiga and me
Akita Municipal Sotoasahikawa Elementary School
六年一組 Sixth grade, First class
桝田愛佳 Masuda Aika
始めたきっかけ Why did I start?
I heard that when my mom said to an acquaintance of hers, “My Aika likes paintings,” she replied, “My mother teaches haiga. Would like to try it?”
When I heard this I thought it sounded interesting, so I took some lessons.
北潟先生のこと Ms. Kitagata
Even though Ms. Kitagata is over eighty years old she is a very gentle teacher who knows a lot.
Her real name is Kitagata Sachie, but when she makes haiga it is Kitagata Shiho.
Eyes get wet
When hair’s washed
Pine trees stood
In the mountain clouds
Like arranged flowers
For fifteen nights
The clouds played
Headed into winter
The mountain country’s dark blue
Come towards the ground
And swiftly fall
Gold and silver
Little joy-filled paper
(To be continued)
― Posted by Hidenori Hiruta
On July 15, we received two comments for ‘Akita International Haiku Network’ from Scotland. Mr. John McDonald sent his comments to us for encouragement, saying ‘Good Luck!’. He was the first haiku poet to send us comments and presented us with his haiku books.
I’d like to take up one of his haiku books, whose title is ‘THE THROU-GAUN CHIEL’.
I post some of his haiku, showing my free translations of them in Japanese to you.
In his e-mail, Mr. John McDonald noted: In Scotland we have two languages one is Gaelic(which is a Celtic language) and the other – the one I write in – is a Germanic language brought to the British isles from Saxony ( old German ) It was the original english language and the original Scottish language ( in the lowlands of Scotland only – Gaelic was in the highlands ) The language was then refined in England, to become present day english, but in scotland it remained for many years ( mainly 17th, 17th centuries and then was replaced by present day english.) but a few of us like to keep the old language alive hence my poetry ( and some of it indeed still spoken in some areas).
Here I’d like to show you some scots haiku in his native language as well as in English, and my free translations of them in Japanese. I hope that you’ll enjoy scots haiku.
takkin in the licht
jowellin the troot
taking in the light
jewelling the trout
danryuu no torauto kazaru kuraki chi ni
drameit o a draigon -
the riven bouk
clootit wi a haiku
dreamt of a kite -
the torn body
patched with a haiku
Takono yume chigire tsukurou ikku kana
in the clessroom winnock
in the classroom window
Kyousitsu no mado ni me wo fuku sinne kana
thigger wifie -
beggar woman -
Monogoi me watashi ni fureru kageboushi
Watagumo ni hakuchou no mure ukabi keri
― Hidenori Hiruta
On September 30, the activities of our network were reported in the Akita Sakigake newspapers （秋田魁新報:Akita Sakigake Shinpou）.
That afternoon one of the readers sent to us haiku about ‘autumn rice fields’ , or ‘秋の稲田(aki no inada)’ . The Kanji characters ‘ 秋田‘ are used as the name of Akita City and Akita Prefecture.
The reader is a haiku poet named 伊藤貞順 (Itoh Teijun) living in 能代市 (Noshiro-shi) , Akita. She also sent us a beautiful picture of the golden rice fields in the countryside.
First of all I’d like to post her haiku.
akizora ni kiiro kagayaku inaho kana
Under autumn sky
their yellow color is shining
ears of rice
shuukaku ni inaho katamuku kiiro kana
ears of rice bending down
konjiki no inaho ni kansha aki no sora
A lot of thanks
for golden ears of rice
akino kaze kiiro no unabara ine minoru
rice ripen in fields
like a yellow sea
Secondly, I’d like to show you a picture I took at the foot of Mt. Taihei (太平山 Taiheizan) in Akita, and my haiku.
ten takashi inada mimamoru Taiheizan
watching rice fields
autumn high skies
Last of all, I’d like to show you haiku written by Matsuo Basho on ‘the Narrow Road to Oku’, in 1689.
wase no ka ya wakeiru migi wa Arisoumi
Sweet-smelling rice fields!
To our right as we push through,
The Ariso Sea.
Translated by Donald keene
― Hidenori Hiruta
On September 14, Mr. Joshua Sellers gave us his comment on my haiku in the article ‘Basho’s stay in Kisakata, Akita(Part 1)’.
rising in white clouds
Hakuun no choukaisan ni tonbo tobu
He says in his comment, “This is a beautiful haiku. The contrast between the massive mountain and its stillness and the dragonflies darting about creates a truly beautiful image.”
He also says in his e-mail, “Oh, I have a question for you…This only occurred to me today—there is a piece of music for shakuhachi(honkyoku) that is called ‘Akita Sugagaki’ (which translates as ‘reed fence’). I was curious to know if the ‘Akita’ mentioned in the title of music is the same as the town Akita?”
Mr. Joshua Sellers enjoys playing the shakuhachi (尺八). His performance of the shakuhachi is shown on his homepage“Sketches From Life ( a haiku journal by Joshua Sellers) ”: http://haikuist.wordpress.com/.
I answered his question as follows:
The note of the Kinko school says,“This piece of music was passed down in Akita district by the old shakuhachi player called ‘梅翁子 (Baioushi)’,’ Old Man Plum’, but the details are unknown.”
This time Mr. Joshua Sellers has read the following book, ‘Lucien Stryk, Cage of Fireflies: Modern Japanese Haiku Athens: Swallow Press, 1993’.
And he has contributed his book review.
First of all, we’d like to introduce him to you.
Mr. Joshua Sellers is a 39-year old musician and has been involved in various genres over the years. He is one half of the US/New Zealand rock duo, Joker and also records ambient music under the name of Murmur. After a very long hiatus from writing poetry and co-editing the (now-defunct) philosophy journal Heart Beats, he has returned to writing as a student of haiku. His blog, Sketches from Life is a journal recording his own explorations in writing. Josh currently lives in West Memphis, Arkansas.
Next we post his book review.
Anyone seeking books of Japanese haiku in English will immediately notice that the majority of the books available are translations of Bashō, followed by anthologies that include only Bashō, Buson and Issa, “the Big Three” of haiku. There are two things conspicuously missing・what about older haiku poets besides Bashō, Buson and Issa, and also: what about modern Japanese haiku?
True, Bashō, Buson and Issa are important, indispensable poets. There is good reason they are “the Big Three.” Naturally, they outshone their contemporaries. But there were other haiku poets of merit too. I find it annoying that so many other poets are almost impossible to find (unless you are able to pay several hundred dollars for R.H. Blyth’s out-of-print four-volume Haiku!). Why are there no translations of Sōgi, Kyorai, Onitsura and so many others? Imagine searching everywhere for recordings of classical music, finding only Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, but no Handel, Brahms and Schubert. Its puzzling.
Equally puzzling is the lack of modern Japanese poets, even Shiki. As far as I know, Burton Watson’s slim volume is the only book of Shiki’s haiku available in English. Recently, I have come across Lucien Stryk’s wonderful anthology, Cage of Fireflies: Modern Japanese Haiku. Sadly, even this books appears to be currently out-of-print.
Stryk reminds the reader that the tradition of hokku, later to be known as haiku, did not simply stop with “the Big Three,” but continued on its way into 20th century Japan. It is for this reason that the title of Stryk’s book comes from the following haiku, by Kasho:
Into the cage of
fireflies, mostly dead,
I send a breath.
I find the Stryk’s anthology lovely. Lucien Stryk is an American poet in his own right and unsurprisingly, this works to his advantage. Translation is a tricky task, especially with poetry. To compound matters, haiku is made of very few words・there isn’t a lot of “wiggle room” to begin with.
It has been said many times that translation is a balancing act between the objective and the subjective: accurately communicating the written text but at the same time, conveying the feeling and resonance of the original poem. Usually that balance is never quite met. In the case of Cage of Fireflies, I think Stryk errs on the side of subjectivity.
There is only one other English anthology of Japanese haiku I have found, Makoto Ueda’s Modern Japanese Haiku: An Anthology, published in 1974. Ueda also has a lovely anthology of Japanese haiku by female poets, Far Beyond the Field, another rare contribution to Japanese haiku dedicated to poets other than “the Big Three.” Comparing some of the poems with Ueda’s Modern Japanese Haiku confirms that Stryk may have taken some extra liberties with the Japanese text. Ueda’s anthology also includes the original Japanese text, the Romanised text and a literal word-for-word translation. For example, here is a haiku by Sōseki:
(kata ni kite hito natsukashi ya akatonbo) (Natsume Soseki)
lands on my shoulder.
(Stryk, pg. 39)
It comes to my shoulder
longing for human company:
a red dragonfly.
(Ueda, pg. 46)
And here is the literal word-for-word (or character-by-character I should say!) rendering by Ueda:
Shoulder / to / coming / person / longs / : / red-dragonfly
Stryk obviously has taken a great liberty with the poem, placing the red dragonfly at the beginning of the haiku, rather than at the end, which is clearly how Sōseki wrote it in the Japanese. The English equivalent of the kireji (“cutting word”) is absent. The word order changes the perception of the moment as well. In Stryk’s version, we see the dragonfly searching about and then landing on the shoulder. It is a sharp image. How much can it really be considered Sōseki’s poem I can’t say.
In spite of this, I confess that I prefer Stryk’s translation to Ueda’s. I love Ueda’s anthology, but I can’t help but wish his translations were less wordy・and this is what I find appealing about Cage of Fireflies: here, the haiku are quite spare. This seems to be more in keeping with the Japanese haiku・they are extremely short, much shorter than what most haiku written in English are.
Here are just few lovely moments in Cage of Fireflies. This is one by Hakusen:
sound of the waves.
And this one by Rinka:
how sharply blue
And this one by Seishi, perhaps my favourite in this collection:
I’ll live forever
Stryk’s anthology contains some “seasonless” haiku, an innovation characteristic of some modern haiku. But one misleading thing about Cage of Fireflies is that he seems to have excluded those more radical poets who experimented with content and form. The only notable exception is Kaneko Tōta, with his mention of motorcycles, slums and steel mills. Not that I personally am really attracted to many of those more modern innovations myself, but admittedly it doesn’t reveal the diversity of modern Japanese haiku as Ueda’s anthology, which goes so far as to include four- and five-line haiku.
Nevertheless, Lucien Stryk’s Cage of Fireflies is a joy to read and gives readers in English a rare glimpse into modern Japanese haiku. I’m very pleased to add it to my haiku library.
~ Joshua Sellers
Mr. Joshua Sellers gives us his comment, saying that he wants to add that he has discovered that Lucien Stryk’s book is actually still available directly through the publisher at the following link: http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/Cage+of+Fireflies
Posted by Hidenori Hiruta