Haiku and the Seasons: an exploration

Beverley George

Beverley George is president of the Australian Haiku Society


The entire Japanese poetic tradition is grounded in the observance of the passing of the seasons, and it is quite simply second nature for Japanese to view human emotions through seasonal metaphors. Liza Dalby

The link between seasonal awareness and the writing of Japanese haiku is apparent. What is not so clear and causes much debate is whether this essential aspect of Japanese haiku can be successfully adopted into other cultural sensibilities and linguistic frameworks, including the English language.

In this article I would like to discuss the situation in Japan as I have observed it directly, rather than relying on readily accessible texts such as those by William J Higginson and Donald Keene and the pioneering work of RH Blyth, Harold G Henderson and James W Hackett, with which readers interested in haiku will already be familiar. I would then like to offer some thoughts about the importation of haiku into Australian writing and how it might be more widely understood and better incorporated. Three visits to Japan in the past two years and ten years of studying haiku do not an expert make, and I hope the tone of this paper is discursive and exploratory rather than in any way prescriptive. Writing haiku is a journey, not a destination, and it has many pilgrims.

Read the entire article by Beverley George as a PDF file

seasons

Haiku, Zen and the Eternal Now

Understanding or embracing Zen is not a prerequisite for writing wonderful haiku but even a little contact can expand horizons and help writers take haiku beyond simple commentaries on nature. Sometimes it is useful in any art form to look back to what came before and to look at beginnings for fresh inspiration. That was the workshop’s objective. Not to provide a guided tour of Zen Buddhism. Rather, the objective was to take participants on a journey to extend and stretch minds and our approaches to writing haiku.

To read the complete article by Jacqui Murray click on the following link to download it in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Zen and haiku jacqui murray

 

An Australian Voice?

Recent discussions with some of HaikuOz’s ‘greats’ – notably patron Janice M Bostok and co-founder John Bird – have revealed a common thread of concern. Namely, that some writing of haiku in Australia has, unfortunately, slipped away into the phenomenon of the pretty postcard. In other words, that the spirit and subtlety, that once placed Australian haiku apart from that so frequently written elsewhere, has been submerged to a more mundane, more prosaic form of writing which, in one of my darker moods, I see as:

three ducks
in perfect formation
across a cloud wall

(or to be more strictly ‘correct’: three autumnal ducks/in quite perfect formation/ across a cloud wall)

This opinion is bound to be greeted by indignation, offence and, perhaps, horror. That I accept. I also apologize. I beg, however, that my discussion be accepted in that spirit. As a starting point for further discussion. What I am advocating, is a rethink, a re-examination, of how we are writing haiku in Australia. A move away from the formulae that accept phrasing such as ‘autumn evening’, ‘winter day’, ‘summer afternoon’. In other words, that we look again at the craft of our writing and the spirit of haiku – particularly as it applies to Australia.

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3rd Pacific Rim Haiku Conference, Matsuyama, Japan, April 2007

Report: Beverley George

President
Australian Haiku Society (HaikuOz)

Through haiku composing, you can exchange your way of thinking and deepen your understanding about the people beyond the borders, isms and religions. Kanda Sosuke.

It is impossible to imagine a more idyllic and appropriate setting for a haiku conference than in cherry blossom season at Matsuyama, the birthplace of the poet, Masaoka Shiki where this year marked the 140th anniversary of his birth.

Matsuyama is a castle city on the island of Shikoku and it is also famous for its ancient onsen (hot springs). It was in this city that the Matsuyama Declaration was signed in 1999 to establish the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Research Center. The Declaration signifies the generous intent of Japanese people to share haiku internationally.

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Masaoka Tsunenori — the Haiku Master Shiki

by Janice M Bostok

A pure black
butterfly frisks keri
Cloud Mountains

Shiki was born on 14th October 1867, in Matsuyama, Japan. His gô, or pen name Shiki, which means a small cuckoo-like bird, came about after he spat blood for a week in May 1889. It is said the bird, in order to attain the fine tone in its voice must keep singing until it spits blood. For most of his adult life Shiki suffered from tuberculosis. He died on the 19th September 1902. His father was a Samurai and his maternal grandfather a Confucian scholar. He began writing Chinese verse at the age of eleven. His earliest existing tanka was written at the age of fifteen. He began studying at university but left without graduating. For a time he was a war correspondent in China. Shiki is considered to be the last of the traditional haiku masters and the first of the modern ones. Although he advocated reform most of his poems are written in the traditional form. It is his method and content for which he is remembered.

Into the ashes

it fell and got smudged;
new calendar kana

He formed a group and had a number of disciples who followed him in his desire for reform. Some of those who came after him were the free metre poets, Kyoshi, Hekigodo, Ippikiro and Meisetsu. The free metre poets tended to lengthen haiku and dismiss the seventeen Japanese syllable count. Makoto Ueda says if we are to think of the three lined haiku as a triangle shape, the free metre form of the New Trend Haiku could be considered as a rectangle.

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Soft Upon My Shutters

Hattori Ransetsu 1654-1707

by Jane Baker
Basho is rightly famous but why does the western world know so little of his contemporaries? Deep in Basho’s “old silent pond” dwell all sorts of interesting other frogs – Kikaku’s that “command the dark”; Onitsura’s “froglets” that in summer “sang like birds” but with winter’s onset “bark like old dogs”; Joso’s “good Buddhist frog…/ rising to a clearer light / by non-attachment” as well as Issa’s “fat frog / in the seat of honour / singing bass”.

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Haiku Lessons

by Alison Williams

This article was first published in Yellow Moon 18, Summer 2005, pp. 30-31, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.

Alchemy is sadly missing from the curriculum, and so it is possible that you may not be aware of something called prima materia. Prima materia is said to be the original pure substance out of which everything was created, and is so easily overlooked that only a master alchemist recognises it as the vital ingredient of the Philosopher’s Stone.

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Nobuyuki Kobayashi — ISSA

1763 — 1827

by Janice M Bostok

The spring moon
Shines Godlike
Upon a flower thief
At work on a hill. 1

Issa was born in Kashiwabara village, Japan, the first son of a farmer. His childhood name was Yatarô but he was registered with Nobuyuki as his first name and Kobayashi as his surname. Issa did not have a happy or fortuitous life. While he was still young (at the age of about three) his mother died. His grandmother took over raising him. Later she also died and his father remarried. His stepmother eventually forced Issa to leave home at the age of thirteen.

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