‘A Silver Tapestry: The Best Of 25 Years Of Critical Writing From The British Haiku Society’: book note – Beverley George

Selected by Jon Baldwin & Margery Newlove

Edited by Graham High
ISBN 978-1-906333-03-4
Ramsgate, Kent, The British Haiku Society, 2015 [265 pages]

This carefully selected anthology brings together fifty of the major articles published in The British Haiku Society’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ between 1992 and 2014. The selectors considered between three hundred and four hundred articles before making their choice of fifty, with no more than one by a single author. Its publication was made possible by The Sakaguchi Literary Studies fund which supports the production of special publications, and by the personal benevolence of Akiko Sakaguchi.

Lifted from the diverse pages of the quarterly issues these articles take on new value, coming together as a reference book of personal value to writers and readers of haiku and related genres, and also as one that would be a useful acquisition by leaders of the various small haiku groups, for sharing and discussion between members.

Browsing the contents pages sparks interest in various topics. I am currently very interested in the distinctive ancient role of Shintoism in Japanese culture, too often undervalued and dimly understood by westerners who readily embrace the broadly adopted concepts of Zen, without paying due regard to the significance of both practices. I recently attended a lecture on Shinto at the Art Gallery of NSW, and have been gathering articles on the topic to try to understand it better. Thus the article in ‘A Silver Tapestry’ by Stephen Henry Gill on ‘Shinto in Haiku’ is timely and helpful.

Also helpful are the two articles, both by Japanese authors, on haiga, the second of these also being translated by two Japanese people. As with all aspects of haiku and related genres, it is sound practice to return regularly to the basic origin of these genres, before forging our own pathways once more.

Explaining haiga, Akiko Sakaguchi writes “The existence of haiga arises from the incompleteness of haiku”, before commenting on the value of the light touch that Buson brought to haiga in his illustrations for Bashō’s ‘Oku no Hosomichi’.

In a separate article on haiga, this one by Kōta Kusura (tr. Susumu Yamane & Kiyoko Fukutomi), we read “haiga is the expression of poetic sentiment in harmony with haiku, drawing and calligraphy artfully combined.” The article cogently covers key aspects of haiga: including the following:

“Haiku is, in a sense, the poetry of silence; likewise haiga is the art of emptiness. An important factor in haiga is the beauty of blank space. The poet’s soul and feeling flows into the blank space …”

Two articles which prompt reading in conjunction are ‘A Sense of the Language’ by William J Higginson, and ‘Englishness of English haiku and Japanese of Japanese Haiku’ by Nobuyuki Yuasa. A topic that will always be relevant is addressed in these articles by two luminaries who have given so much time and thought to the internationalisation of haiku.

Of personal interest in recent times, was the article by W A Grant on Taneda Santoka 1882-1940 when in November 2015, in company with eight other Australian travellers, I visited Santoka’s memorial site on Kyushu, having previously visited his last home in Matsuyama, on Shikoku.

The chronologically ordered articles and contents pages, are in part useful to map the progress of haiku in English, always with the proviso to revisit original Japanese sources from time to time.

‘A Silver Tapestry’ is yet one more valuable achievement by the British Haiku Society for all who enjoy the diminutive but powerful haiku genre. At £12 UK ($17.00 US) plus postage, it is reasonably priced.

Purchases are most easily made through the British Haiku Society Bookshop, and can be made by cheque, transfer or PayPal, but please check details first.

http://www.britishhaikusociety.org.uk

Beverley George
Editor: ‘Yellow Moon: haiku and terse verse’, issues 9-20: 2000-06
Editor: ‘Eucalypt: A Tanka Journal’ 1- ; 2006-
http://www.eucalypt.info
Editor: ‘Windfall: Australian haiku’ 1 – ; 2013-
President: Australian Haiku Society 2006-10
http://www.haikuoz.org