The yearly pamphlet Akita – the Land of Poetry『詩の国秋田第６号』, whose 6th volume is posted as an e-pamphlet, features haiku special from the English haiku submitted to the 3rd Japan-Russia Haiku Contest in 2014.
A great number of haiku fans willingly sent their haiku in English to the contest from 46 countries including Japan.
Let me take up the following haiku here.
The Akita Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Award
Adjei Agyei-Baah (Ghana)
leafless tree —
lifting a cup of nest
to the sky
As Professor David McMurray at the International University of Kagoshima mentioned in his report “ASAHI HAIKUIST SPECIAL/ Former minister Arima finds support for UNESCO haiku bid” on November 17, 2014, Adjei Agyei-Baah delightedly spoke to attendees via Skype from Ghana when he received his award from the president of the Akita Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Adjei Agyei-Baah tells about his haiku as follows.
LEAFLESS TREE: AN AFRICAN HAIKU EXPERIENCE
The above haiku was written on my way to Accra from Kumasi when our bus broke down on the highway. The specific nearby town where the incident occurred, I cannot recollect. In fact, we were in the harmattan season characterized by dry winds, dust explosion and leaves purging exercise of trees. Amid the distress call, some of the passengers took an advantage of the situation to attend to nature’s call while I personally crossed to the other side of the road where I thought was much safer to stand and stretch out as well. Though I had no intention of getting down, I was naturally affected by their actions, call it an instinct or biological drive, a situation anyone might have experienced before.
While on the side of the road, something caught my attention, being a leafless tree with a bird nest seated on its extended branch and stretching up skyward, as if pleading for something from the heavens. My curiosity grounded me for a close observation of the scene and suddenly an image jumped at me and a moment of serendipity struck. I immediately saw some kind of a wretch or perhaps an urchin stretching out a bowl to passerby for a coin to be dropped in. The image further became more deepened and vivid, like the desperate prophet Elijah in wilderness, stretching forth his hand to the heavens for manna to drop in. Then the ‘aha’ moment struck and I penned these lines:
lifting a cup of nest
to the sky
When I got home, I coincidentally saw this haiku competition online captioned “The Japan-Russia Haiku Contest 2014”, which was opened to everyone around who had the interest to participate and I quickly sent the above haiku as my entry. In fact, I had no idea of what this haiku was to become since my intention was to put Ghana out there and not to go for any glory. So two months after submission, I received a mail from the organisers declaring me as one of the four winners of the ultimate awards and inviting me to be attend the awards event in Japan.
In the heat of the jubilation, I called my wife and broke the news to her with the sole purpose of making an impression; since she had often not given my poetry exploits much attention. As part of the award package, I was given the opportunity to travel to Japan to attend the Awards Event at the Akita International University, Japan with all my travelling expenses partially catered for. But the sad thing was that I couldn’t make the trip since I was by then enrolled in a sandwich language programme at the University of Ghana, Legon and absenting myself from lectures would have been disadvantageous on my part.
On the Awards Day in Japan, I was connected through Skype somewhere at dawn and shared my inspiration behind the haiku with a large beaming audience who gave me a thunderous clap perhaps seeing me as African to have pick the award of the English Haiku Section. My son who was by then asleep heard the clap and burst into the interview half naked and made the audience roared louder.
A few weeks afterward, I received a package from EMS Ghana containing my award, some haiku leaflets and a wooden trophy made from the cherry tree considered to be one of the cherished woods used by Japanese craftsmen. And this award I have securely kept in my treasure chest and looking forward to adding more in the future.
So when the winning haiku (poem) was finally published online at Akita Haiku International Network, a whole of lot of congratulatory messages poured in from almost every corner of the world, from the known and the unknown faces, all celebrating my feat. In the media circles, others requested for an interview with me whereas others created their own story with the little information circulating and had me celebrated internationally.
In fact, the award, I should say, elevated me overnight and challenged me to stand up to the test and popularize the haiku art in Ghana and for that matter Africa that has become a latecomer in this beautiful Japanese poetry form which has already received an international appeal in Europe and other parts of the world.
And after the award, I was challenged to read extensively and now greatly fulfilled as I am about to release my first haiku collection this year titled “Afriku” with the intention of revealing to the world the haiku side of Africa. This treasured encounter will remain among the few Nirvanas that will continue to live with me as a poet.
By Adjei Agyei-Baah
We are now holding the 4th Japan-Russia Haiku Contest.
Readers are invited to send haiku about “lake” to Hidenori Hiruta at the Akita
International Haiku Network by e-mail to (firstname.lastname@example.org) .
By Hidenori Hiruta