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Archive for the ‘Children’s Writing’ Category

Chandigarh, India: the author, 2007.

With thanks to the author.

This edited collection is fully bilingual, English and Hindi. (My apologies, I do not understand the orthography well enough to hazard the title in Hindi here.) Mainly a collection of work that has appeared elsewhere in English and/or Japanese, the book opens with a fine introductory essay by a leading contemporary Japanese haiku master, Momoko Kuroda. Momoko-sensei takes up a number of the included poems by children and tells of her personal feelings of connection with them in a marvelously engaging and human way. (I have known her for years, and long been a fan of her “Haiku is for everyone” approach and her work at making the heart of haiku accessible to people of all ages and from all walks of life. Some of this is chronicled in Abigail Friedman’s excellent book, The Haiku Apprentice, available online and internationally through most booksellers.)

The introductory matter continues with an essay by Patricia Donegan and Kazuo Satô. Donegan is herself an important American poet who has also studied with a Japanese haiku master, and Kazuo Satô, a professor of literature at Waseda University and haiku poet, was the first director of the International Division of the Museum of Haiku Literature in Tokyo. (Donegan is also co-translator of Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master, an excellent collection of the major eighteenth-century poet’s work, very well presented in English; widely available. Prof. Satô, in addition to his own haiku collections, has written at least three books on foreign [i.e., non-Japanese] haiku that I know of, in Japanese.)

While personally, I find the emphasis on 17 syllables in Donegan and Satô’s “Guiding Principles” [for haiku in English] disappointing, the other guidelines are excellent: “Kigo or Season Word, Imagery, Feeling, Now, Surprise, Compassion”. Each of these notions forms the basis for a brief essay on its connection with haiku, and these are well thought out. In the examples among these paragraphs, we also find that the 17-syllable rubric is not insisted upon, but rather taken as a nominal guideline. As with the examples quoted in Momoko-sensei’s introductory essay, Donegan and Satô include some examples that more closely suggest the usual spare, clean language of native Japanese haiku. For example:

for a second a butterfly
settles on my cheek
I must not breathe

—Myriam Suchet, 15, France

inside my pocket
there is still a piece of
summer vacation

—Shinji Ikeda, 10, Japan

These two are said to represent “wonder” and “warm feeling” respectively, in the section on feeling.

The main body of Childrens Haiku from around the World consists of 300 poems written by children from 28 countries around the world, all collected by the editor from various contest publications and books published in English and Japanese over the years by Japan Air Lines and the JAL Foundation, who kindly supported this project by allowing the English reprints and translations of these works into Hindi.

End matter includes a useful glossary of haiku-related terms, mostly borrowed into English from Japanese, and now available in Hindi as well. A brief endnote describes the history of the JAL Foundation’s haiku contests, and gives a web address where more information may be found. Unfortunately, there is a typo in the URL, and better access to that information (in English) may be found here: http://www.jal-foundation.or.jp/html/haiku/toppage/etoppage.htm.

Overall, Children’s Haiku from around the World is a fine collection of haiku illustrating the innocence and keen perception children can bring to haiku, properly introduced. Its global reach also underlines the basic premise behind JAL’s interest in children’s haiku from the start: People who grow up sharing common, everyday experiences from childhood on may, one day, help to make the world more human, as well as more carefully observed and preserved by humans. This book marks a new and exciting contribution, piled on several stellar contributions to haiku understanding in English and Hindi, at the hands of Dr. Angelee Deodhar. May all of India be as charmed with haiku, and with the poetry of children, as she so obviously is.

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