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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

On the cover: The Story of Issa, Japanese Haiku Poet (technically, this is not a subtitle, as it does not appear on the title page, but I think it should, and if it had . . . well, read on).

San Carolos, CA: Golden Gate Junior Books, 1970. Illustrated by Lydia Cooley; written “with the editorial assistance of Mark Taylor. Haiku translations by Hanako Fukuda”.

1970! Gosh, if I’d not come to Chatham Middle School and had some free time to roam their school library, I might never have seen this book.

Thank you, Chatham Middle School!

This is a gently illustrated prose narrative of Issa’s life, appropriate to elementary and middle school readers. In the course of the text, Ms. Fukuda includes numerous haiku that arose from some of the more personal aspects of Issa’s life, set in a frame story of the time Issa returned to his family home after establishing himself as a major haikai master. At the outset, old man Issa approaches a mountain village, and engages in conversation with a group of children who are singing a song he rememvers from his childhood. I do not now have time to read through the engaginly told story, but I notice that in this book, published in 1970, the haiku translations are not in 5-7-5. Rather, they use only the words the translator feels are needed to convey the poems’ meanings. For example, one of his more famous poems is offered as:

Come and play with me,
Motherless, fatherless
Little sparrow.

Unfortunately, because this book is a biography, no one scanning the poetry shelves in a library is likely to spot it. But the gentle telling of the story, the softly pastel or gray-scale spot and occasional full-page illustrations, and the simple, straightforward haiku translations make this a winner. I’ll be looking to find a copy for myself. If you’re the parent of a reader, or a teacher, or just enjoy children’s books yourself, you might like to get a copy of this one for yourself.

Bill

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Edited by LeRoy Gorman.

Comes with membership in Haiku Canada (details below).

Well, thing pile up while you’re distracted, as I have been for the past several months, with work (that brings in the wherewithal to keep going) doing one of the things I most enjoy, working with students and teachers to improve their writing and teaching of writing. Some details about that on Penny’s and my “Events” web site: http://www.2hweb.net/events/.

One of the things piling up is haikai periodicals, of which there are now more than a score to report on—that’s a score of different titles, a lot more than a score of individual issues. So, I’ll take up the most recent issue in a minireview, and create lists of additional issues, so that we can get—I can get—an overview of what’s happening as quickly as possible.

In this context, it’s a delight to report on one of the latest entries in the haiku magazine business, Haiku Canada Review. Not entirely new, HCR is a follow-on from the Haiku Canada Newsletter, which has been issued in pamphlet form for many years. However, last year (2007), editor LeRoy Gorman noted that the newsletter had been going in the direction of becoming a magazine, a “review” (that is, a magazine with not only literary content, i.e., poems, but includes reviews and articles on topics related to its literary content). He asked if he could not move it all the way over into the review style of publication it was becoming, and the Haiku Canada membership agreed at last May’s HC Weekend in Ottawa. At the same time, Marco Fraticelli became the editor of an e-mailed HC newsletter, which goes out to members as he accumulates things to report, which has turned out to be every few weeks. Marco’s done a great job with the newly dubbed Haiku Canada Newsflash, turning it into one of the best ways to stay abreast of developments in English- and French-language haiku worldwide. (Hint, hint, you might find it useful to be a member of Haiku Canada just for this e-mail newsletter! Check out the Haiku Canada web site, here: http://www.haikucanada.org/.)

So, to the matter at hand: Haiku Canada Review, 2:1, contains a great mix of poems, mainly haiku/senryu and tanka, haibun, and linked verse, along with a note from the editor on current developments in Haiku Canada, a couple of fine essays (more on them below), pithy book and magazine reviews, and other commentary. (E.g., here again is one of Tom Noyes’s essays on “Two Favorite Haiku”.)

The short poems in English, offered under the heading “Haiku Plus . . .”, include the following, almost at random (I usually strive to include authors’ whose names I’m less familiar with in these quick compilations):

city cab—
at each intersection
the full moon

izak bouwer (p. 3)

Li Po’s moon
I go to the window
to see for myself

Renée Luria Leopold (6)

back from Paris
at the suitcase rollers
leaves from the boulevard
retour de Paris
aux roulettes de la valise
feuilles du boulevard

Klaus-Dieter Wirth (10)

This last forms a neat segue into the section of haïku en français, under the heading Haïkus du fleuve, réunis par Micheline Beaudry. Some samples:

première neige
une mouette s’envole
dans le gris du ciel

Hélène Leclerc (14)

Tout chaud, enrobé
Les cristaux nous effleurant
Barbe à glaçons
Czeply, okryt
Krysztaly nas muskaja
Broda z lisieta

Robert Bilinski (17)

Soir d’Avril
derrière la haie
des rires d’enfants

Martine Hautot (18 )

The second poem above illustrates the fact that while English and French may be the dominant languages of global haiku, many other languages are also involved, and I salute HCR and its editors for sharing poems in several languages with its readers. (Another illustration of the fact that, for all its internal political difficulties, Canada may be more truly welcoming of cosmopolitan influences than some other countries we could name.)

Between the sections of short poems in English and French, we have three quite fine haibun, each with a light touch, though two of them deal with quite serious matters.

And, what makes this a “review” rather than just another haiku magazine: following the poems, a major article by Janick Belleau, translated into English by Dorothy Howard. (The article first appeared in the magazine Haïkaï, in French, December 2006.) In English the title reads “Canadian Haiku Women Pioneers from Sea to Sea (1928–1985)”. The article provides its own overview in the first paragraph, noting that it concludes its survey concurrently with the landmark book Haïku: Anthologie canadienne/Canadian Haiku Anthology, edited by Dorothy Howard and André Duhaime, published in 1985. (I’ll note here my gratitude to the editors for sharing proofs with me as I was putting the finishing touches on my Haiku Handbook, published the same year.) Belleau continues:

We shall see among these women, women who have devoted a good part of their creativity to the writing and publication of haiku, and women who spent great creative energy in haiku promotion through critical studies, journal publications, mentoring and leadership in haiku associations. (20)

The article goes on to feature:

  • a poet who published haiku in an award-winning poems in French, including haiku in 1928 (Simone Routier)
  • “the first author in English Canada to put out a collection of haiku”, in 1965, a book I remember well for its striking wood-engraving illustrations (Claire Pratt)
  • a “haiku theorist” who published The Haiku Form in 1974 (Joan Giroux)
  • three poets from Saskatchewan (Catherine M. Buckaway, Mildred A. Rose, and L. Pearl Schuck)
  • and poet, essayist, illustrator, and co-founder of the Haiku Society of Canada—now Haiku Canada (Betty Drevniok)

Toward the end of her article, Belleau mentions a number of women whose major activity and influence reach far beyond 1985, right up to a couple of living folks that I might liken to “national treasures” of Canadian haiku, Anna Vakar and Dorothy Howard. For each of these and others unnamed here, Belleau provides brief biographical info and a synopsis of their contributions to the haiku community, in many cases embellished with poems.

As elsewhere today, haiku in Canada is neither a women’s nor a men’s world, but a world richly intertwining the work of both. Perhaps someone else will undertake a similarly instructive survey of men’s contributions to the genre in Canada, but in the meantime, it is very good to be reminded of these leading ladies and their contributions.

But the feast of this issue of HCR does not end here. Next up is an article by Angela Leuck, part II of her essay “Approaching Beauty: Writing Haiku About Flowers”—begun in the previous issue. This piece, subtitled “The Human Connection”, includes examples of her poems making that connection, as here:

watering the daylilies
a woman like my mother—
summer dusk (31)

How gesture, form in motion, can bring us back to the memory-artifacts of our personal history. (Angela’s article is based on a talk she gave at the Haiku Canada Weekend, Ottawa, May 2007. You can read my review of that event here: http://haikai.home.att.net/haiku/haikucanada07/.)

The issue moves forward with three linked poems in a variety of forms, one a solo piece we might call “cut prose”, another classically moving kasen in 36 stanzas, and a rengay, the latter in an experimental format that I’ll leave for HCR readers to discover.

After H. F. Noyes’s brief “Two Favorite Haiku” the issue draws toward a close with book and magazine reviews. After one by yours truly (perhaps to appear here later), we have a review of Abigail Friedman’s The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan, written by Angela Leuck; she likes it. And, finally, a section titled “Books in Brief”, which actually covers as many magazines as books, and gives a good thumbnail sketch of its subjects. Each provides full physical descriptions and ordering info, then a very brief synopsis. Here’s what the editor—we must assume, these are unsigned—has to say about Roberta Beary’s The Unworn Necklace:

These are haiku of the heart that quietly catch and draw the reader in. It is no surprise, after reading the credits, to learn many of the poems are award winners.

Haiku Canada Review frequently comes with extras. With this issue we have a Haiku Canada Sheet (a simple trifold brochure) with poems by Naomi Beth Wakan, a long-time poet and advocate for haiku, plus a list of the organization’s 200 or so members. If you’re not one of them, click on the “Join Haiku Canada” link on Haiku Canada’s home page, and find out more of what’s going on in the world of haiku, northern perspective: http://www.haikucanada.org/.

Bill

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Full title:

World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600–1867.

New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976. Hardcover, 6.5×9.5″ (17×23.5 cm), 606 + xv pages.

Condition: In d.j. with three slight tears and slight creasing, text and binding mint condition, signed by the author.

Original price: $22.95; this copy: $15 + shipping. Click for ordering info.

This is the first book issued of what would become Donald Keene’s magnum opus, a brilliant 3–4 volume history of all Japanese literature (the number depends on whether you count the two-volume Dawn to the West as one or two “books”). With this volume and the volume of Dawn to the West mentioned in the previous post, one has a nearly complete history of what we call “haiku” as it grew and matured in Japan. (The only thing missing would be the pre-history of the genre, in the linked poetry—classical renga—of the 1300s–1500s, which features in Prof. Keene’s final volume in the series, Seeds in the Heart.)

The opening six chapters of World Within Walls give the history of haikai from the late 15th century, when a more playful style of courtly renga began to emerge, to the full-blown art of Bashô, whom we know today as “the father of haiku”, but who was actually a master of haikai no renga in his own time. Then, after seven chapters devoted to fiction (3), drama (3), and waka poetry, Keene takes up haikai again with chapters titled “Buson and the Haikai Revival” and “Haikai of the Late Tokugawa Period”; the latter mainly deals with Issa. Further excursions into fiction and drama intervene between these and the final three chapters, devoted to “Waka of the Late Tokugawa Period”; “Comic Poetry” dealing with kyoka, the “mad verses” related to waka; and “Poetry and Prose in Chinese”—written by Japanese authors.

Despite its large size and page-count, this book is set in very readable type, with good margins, and forms probably the best single-volume introduction in English to the writers and writings of the Tokugawa Era, the era that includes Bashô, Chiyo, Buson, Issa, and others of the time with whom we may be familiar from the writings of Blyth, Henderson, and others. Thus, it makes a good introduction not only to the haikai poets of this time, but but to contemporary writers and works with which they would have been familiar.

I picked up this copy at a used book store, mainly because of the fact that Donald Keene had signed it for someone (name withheld to protect the guilty!), and it seemed fun to get such a copy. But now, with my earlier copy of the same book all marked up, when I come to part with one, it’s the signed copy that must go.

To Order: If you are interested in purchasing this copy of World Within Walls, e-mail me with name, postal address, and phone number.

Bill

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Full title:

Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era—Poetry, Drama, Criticism. (Note that there is another volume with the same title, only differing at the end, where “Fiction” replaces “Poetry, Drama, Criticism”; that other volume is over 1300 pages long, and is not for sale here.)

New York: Henry Holt, 1984. Paperback, 6×9.25″ (15.5×23.5 mm), 685+xiv pp.

Original price: $19.95; this copy: $10 + shipping. Click for ordering info.

Condition: Solid binding, cover good, faint (pale green) remainder mark on top edge near spine, a few pages dog-eared, a few marginal notes in ink. A good “reader’s copy”. (Note that the notes are mine, mainly in the section “Poetry in Traditional Forms”, and are not terribly intrusive.)

Here one can get a good overview of “haiku”—the word Shiki coined to separate the independent hokku from the linked poetry it originally belonged to. (The separation actually goes back to old renga masters such as Sôgi and Sôchô, and was reinforced by Bashô and many poets of his day in haikai.) Keene’s grasp of the overall situation of Japanese literature and his special affection for the haiku in all its guises inform his writing. He also translates many haiku and tanka by many poets, some well known in the West, others less so.

Keene includes comments on and translations of tanka by poets from Shigene Suzuki (1814–1898 ) to Takashi Okai (b. 1928), touching on many others including such figures as Akiko Yosano (1876–1942), Hakushû Kitahara (1885–1942), Takuboku Ishikawa (1886–1912), Shiki Masaoka (1867–1902), and Mokichi Saitô (1882–1953). He also sets out the major groups of tanka poets and their differing philosophies of tanka composition, including a number whose approach to tanka form was quite radical. (Note that I list the names here in Western order, which accords with the style sheet I’m following here on the Pub generally, but that Keene gives Japanese names in Japanese order, as do most scholars of Japanese literature writing in English.)

Keene then takes up haiku; poets from Eiki Hozumi (1823–1904) to Kin’ichi Sawaki and Tohta Kaneko (both born 1919) are covered, including those well known to us such as Shiki, Santôka Taneda (1882–1940), Hôsai Ozaki (1885–1926), Shûôshi Mizuhara (1892–1981), and Seishi Yamaguchi (b. 1901). Among these poets, he also writes of many others, less well known to the West, such as Raboku Ohashi (1890–1933), citing one of his oft-quoted minimalist haiku, hi e yamu (“I am sick with the sun.”—Keene’s tr., in which “I am” expresses ideas included in the original, but not its words), the essentially deaf poet Kijô Murakami (1865–1938), Sekitei Hara (1886–1951), and Hisajo Sugita (1890–1946), who led many women and men away from Shiki’s dominant and arch-conservative disciple Kyoshi Takahama (1874–1959), and the “Humanist” haiku poets Kusatao Nakamura (1901–1983) and Shûson Katô (b. 1905). The whole passage on haiku is a fine expansion and continuation of the similar treatment given of fewer of these poets in R. H. Blyth’s History of Haiku, volume 2 (1964) and Makoto Ueda’s Modern Japanese Haiku (1976).

As the title of the book suggests, there are also substantial sections given over to poetry in new forms (i.e., “modern poetry”), modern drama, and modern criticism—all reflecting the opening of Japan to Western influence in the late 19th century through well past the middle of the 20th.

To Order: If you are interested in purchasing this copy of Dawn to the West, e-mail me with name, postal address, and phone number.

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