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Subtitle: Poems and Meditations on Nature and Beauty.

London: Duncan Baird Publishers, 2006.

Full color illus. throughout, approx 7×7″ (175×175 mm), 160 pp., US$12.95, CDN$16.95.

With thanks to Michael Lustbader.

Now this is exactly the kind of book that rankles me. An overcooked gifty book trading on a kind of effete understanding of Japanese sensibility, with a dozen different kinds of phenomena all smushed together, and haiku tossed in as a hook to get someone to buy this thing, probably at a museum gift shop or the like. It is pretty to look at, and the illustrations show up well on the low-gloss pages–until you look at them closely. But half the book is in fact written by “Dr.” James, with “more than 50 new translations of haiku poems” and two of the five chapters written by Lowenstein, who also supplies the introduction.

The typical “chapter” is a series of disconnected, extremely brief overviews of rather complex matters. These read more like popularized one-volume encyclopedia entries than like any sort of useful explanations of their topics, and are so sketchy as to leave out essential elements of their stories. For example, the chapter “Society and Court Life” contains mini-essays on such things as “The Heian Period” (fewer than 300 words, on two pages, no end-date given), “Emperors” (around 400 words; names three “capitals” of Japan: Nara, Heian-kyô/Kyoto, and Kamakura–but Kamakura was a shogun’s capital, not the emperor’s; though the Meiji Restoration of direct imperial rule is mentioned, Tokyo–the then and present capital–is unmentioned until a later essay), “Life at Court” (ca. 200 words), “Go” (the board game; ca. 400 words), and so on, ending with “Kimonos” (ca. 350 words). In amongst these mini-essays are quite attractive two-page spreads with translations of haiku. For one of the three haiku on each spread, there is also a nicely-done calligraphy of the original Japanese, though no printed or romanized text appears for the haiku otherwise.

The haiku are almost all very familiar to any reader of Japanese haiku in translation. Among the dozen haiku presented between the essays of the first chapter, fully two-thirds can quickly and easily be found in R. H. Blyth’s great four-volume Haiku–a resource not listed among the dozen or so books in the list offered for “Further Reading” at the end of Haiku Inspirations. The haiku scattered through the book also appear to have no connection with the particular prose texts that surround them, nor does there seem to be any special reason for the groups of three, either within the groups or moving from one to another.

In other words, Haiku Inspirations is a helter-skelter assembly of mini-essays and haiku, mostly unrelated except by the happenstance that they all refer, one way or another, to the culture of Japan. Apparently, a book of haiku was wanted, and some prose to give it window-dressing for much the same reason that there are illustrations scattered throughout, though at least these seem mostly relevant to the particular essays they sit among.

To give the translator his due, his own prose contributions to Haiku Inspirations seem fairly sensible, though his initial take on haiku as written “with the uncluttered sensitivity of children” seems pretty far from the mark. Fortunately, he quickly goes on: “The art of haiku is not, of course, child’s play” and gives a reasonable beginner’s account of the features of haiku as written in Japanese. But, as is usual in such short compass, errors creep in among the shorthand. Following this description of haiku’s features, we have “Some haiku writers, such as the early 19th-century poet Issa, took pleasure in violating these rules, and indeed the late 19th-century poet Shiki specifically advised beginners to forget the old rules of grammar.” In the first place, “the old rules of grammar” would have nothing to do with any of the preceding rules, which have to do with poetic form and structure. In the second place, I’ve been reading about haiku in both English and Japanese for over 40 years, and never came across such advice from Shiki, though it’s quite possible he offered such advice. If he did, he was advising new poets to not get tied up in the classical literary grammar that to this day pervades mainstream haiku, but to pay most attention to the basics–the aforementioned “rules” pertaining to form or structure. (Note that this classical literary grammar puzzles everyday Japanese folks much the way some passages of Shakespeare puzzle present-day Americans. Its effect is virtually untranslatable, and creates some of the tension over how haiku get translated. If a translation of a classic haiku sounds very colloquial, it’s probably not communicating the tone of the original very well.)

The introduction goes on into the history of haiku, taken up as if mysterious:

Haiku almost certainly evolved from tanka (short poems), also called waka (Japanese poems).

I have no idea why there should be any mystery about haiku’s “evolution”. From waka to renga (classical linked poems) and haikai no renga (linked poems by Bashô and others of his era), to the hokku (starting verses of these linked poems), to the modern haiku. There is nothing “almost” about this history, which is plainly written about in many places, including some of the “Further Reading” resources given in Haiku Inspirations. Why anyone would attempt to make the jump directly from tanka to haiku, without mentioning the intervening genres, eludes me. But then, I’m a specialist.

Lowenstein’s translations make fairly pleasant reading, unfettered by syllable counts and the like. Taking one where the original is given in calligraphy for example, we have in Japanese and his English translation (romaji supplied by me):

朝霧や絵に書く夢の人どうり
asagiri ya e ni kaku yume no hito-dôri

Hazy morning:
as in a painting of a dream,
the people passing.

Casual readers might not understand that a foggy mist is meant, and that the poem refers to an autumnal phenomenon. But the basic image, of people moving through a dream-landscape painting, comes through.

As a book of some fifty haiku in translation, with pretty illustrations more relevant to non-haiku aspects of Japanese culture, Haiku Inspirations makes a nice and relatively cheap gift book from one who knows nothing about haiku to another in the same boat. I’d hope those on both ends of the transaction would read further, soon.

Bill

Advertisement

Liverpool: Snapshot Press, 2007. Paperback, 80 pages. UK £7.99, US$14, CDN$17.00.
From the press, POBox 132, Waterloo, Liverpool L22 8WZ UK.

With thanks to the author.

Stumbles in Clover is another in the series of very nicely produced haiku collections from Snapshot Press, run by John Barlow. Like others in the series, it features quality design, good paper, a photographic cover, and so on. Straightforwardly, the cover image for Matt Morden’s new book shows a close-up of purple clover, a plant most anyone can related to. I’ll not say here what else is in that cover image.

The 72 poems in Stumbles in Clover, both haiku and senryu, follow one another straight through, one to a page. One of the latter that jumped out at me goes thus:

a colleague’s sigh
arrives before he does
monday morning

As a former government office worker myself, I can relate to this one, a half-wry, half-sympathetic comment on a life shaped, in part, by a co-worker’s sighs.

Morden works the language in some poems in subtle ways that may not immediately reveal their meaning to a casual reader. For example:

death register
nothing fills the silence
as the ink dries

These kinds of unfortunate moments have their own timelessness, and indeed, it is precisely “nothing” that fills such a silence.

Not all the moments captured in Morden’s haiku dwell on such things, however, and some find us in a totally different time-out-of-time, as in this piece:

out of mist
swans glide through
the flooded wood

Sometimes, the language of a particular poem requires a non-global English to appreciate. Here is one that has come into full meaning for me, an American, through some recent involvement with British poetry without which I’d probably have been at a loss, though often cross-referencing a few of the relevant poems in the book will make things clear. (A good dictionary will quickly fix you up, should you need help.) Given that access, I find this one very apt, as well as moving:

winter moon
a pregnant friesian
paces the byre

Morden’s haiku here span a variety of images, situations, and moods. Stumbles in Clover is my idea of a truly fine collection of haiku and senryu.

Bill

New York: Melanie Kroupa Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

With many thanks to Melanie Kroupa, and to Phillis Gershator.

Sky Sweeper is the story of Takeboki (say “tah-kay-bow-key” keeping the vowel sounds short and pure), a young man who takes up a simple job. As the Flower Keeper, he must sweep up the flowers that fall around a Japanese temple garden. Although urged by parents and an older brother to take up more promising work, and by a sister to settle down and raise a family, he stays with his task. As the story moves through seasons and years, he discovers many fine things doing his simple job, faithful to his calling regardless of advice and hardship. As he passes beyond this world, the people of the temple come to realize what they have hardly noticed, all these years. They also realize that they need a new Flower Keeper. In the meantime, Takeboki has found somewhere else that needs sweeping. The book concludes with a well-known Japanese haiku and its translation into English, which I’ll not give away here. The poem seems to take on new life in its new setting. (I may be somewhat prejudiced, since I did the translation of the poem, at Phillis’s request.)

Sky Sweeper would make an excellent gift for any young readers who would like to spend time in a variety of seasons during January’s cold days and nights.

Bill

New York: Scholastic Press, 2007.

With thanks to Michael Lustbader.

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), of course, is one of Japan’s favorite haiku poets, and often the subject of works for children. What most people, in Japan and elsewhere, know about Issa is that many of his poems are about small creatures, and about the spirited way he made through his sad life. Unfortunately, this picture trivializes Issa, who became a very successful and well-known poet, though he did have some difficulties as a young man and more in his last decade.

Issa was successful in his own day not because he often wrote of difficult times or of bugs and little animals, but because he was a fine poet. He deeply understood the richness of the Japanese language, from the terse, formal grammar of haiku to the pithy sayings of his home-town region in the mountains of Shinano. And he made full use of that range and more, as he travelled up and down Japan, spreading his well-crafted poems and building a reputation almost unrivalled before his death. In his last two decades, he became a land-owner and father. It is true that the sadness of losing a wife and four children to illness before he himself died seems to put a tragic ending to his long, productive life. But he had remarried, and a daughter born after he passed away survived, as did most of his hundreds of poems. His collected works fill nine volumes. And his reputation continues to grow, even if it tends to celebrate the “smallness” of his subjects more than the fineness of his skill as a poet.

Regardless of the specific subject matter of any one of Issa’s haiku, reading them, we see pretty quickly that he has both a sharp eye for what is going on around him and a broad empathy that includes people as well as other beings. Capitalizing on this empathy and humanity, G. Brian Karas has selected 18 from among existing translations of Issa’s haiku, and provided a seasonal arrangement and child-like drawings of a family of four—or members of the family—to tie the poems together. The translations are from three sources, including work by Sam Hamill, Robert Hass, and one by Nanao Sakaki. The latter is the best translator of the three, and, to the best of my knowledge, the only one who worked from the Japanese originals, rather than reworking others’ already published translations.

Overall, the book works well and gives an impression of a more well-rounded Issa than many larger collections of his work, which tend to focus on the well-known poems about small creatures and the pathos of the author’s life. The following are typical of the tone of the book:

Once snows have fallen,
the village soon overflows
with friendly children

Summer night—
even the stars
are whispering to each other

These are translations that any family might enjoy, reflecting tender moments of their life together—as seems to have been just what the selector-illustrator wanted.

Bill

Matsuyama, Japan: Prinart, 2007.

With thanks to the Shiki Team.

This is a perfect-bound book of some 68 pages, approx. 18 x 25.5 cm (7 x 10″), with color cover and inside black and white images by Masahiko Fujita. The book is fully bilingual, Japanese and English, except for the title and table of contents, which are solely in English.

In the Preface by Shiki Team member Manabu Sumioka, we find a brief introduction to the Shiki Team’s work, which first became public in July 0f 1994–a time when few people had even heard of the Internet. This was the beginning of “the Shiki List”, one of the first places online where haiku received serious attention as an art form, not some sort of joke in 5-7-5. This was an electronic mail list where people shared haiku and commentary on haiku, worldwide, in English. The archived messages were (and are) public, and Google searches on things related to haiku still often turn up links to those early e-mail messages. As Mr. Sumioka points out, not only was the Shiki List innovative for its day, but it may be taken as an early manifestation of the “Interactive Web” or “Web 2.0” so much discussed today, these thirteen years later. The “Shiki Haikusphere” of the book’s title is also the name of the group’s current web site, which acts today as a gateway to information on haiku and to participation in the ongoing NOBO e-list, successor to that original list, as well as full archives of previous recensions of that original Shiki List. (There were actually four different lists, several of them operating concurrently for a time.)

Beyond the Preface, the book Shiki Haikusphere has as its main contents ten haiku each by ten poets who have been involved in one or another of the Shiki lists throughout the first decade of their existence. These are, in order as they appear in the book, Roberta Beary, Yu Chang, Earl Keener, Dhugal Lindsay, Paul David Mena, Paul Miller, A. C. Missias, Jane Reichhold, Timothy Russell, and Michael Dylan Welch–all names I imagine many readers of this blog will find familiar. The poems are presented in their original English and in Japanese translations, the latter by Shiki Team member Kimiyo Tanaka, except for those by Dhugal Lindsay, who wrote both the English and Japanese versions of his own haiku. Here are a couple of poems, chosen almost at random (Japanese text will appear as ???? on computers not set up to read it):

sleet–
a saltshaker becomes
the white queen

(みぞれ降る / 食塩入れは / チェスの白女王)

Earl Keener

living by the sea
I cannot grow old or
wish for paradise

(海辺に暮らす / 老いゆくことも / 極楽を望むこともな)

Jane Reichhold

And then, there’s one that catches my eye in particular, and brings a smile. I don’t know how long ago this was written, perhaps it was in an early post on the Shiki list:

disinfectant jar–
there must be 14 or 15
barber’s combs

(殺菌壺 / 床屋の櫛/ 十四五本もありぬべし)

Michael Dylan Welch

Play this against one of Shiki’s most famous verses, which I’ll translate in parallel with Michael’s poem (though that’s not the order of the original):

鶏頭の十四五本もありぬべし
keitô no jûshi-go hon mo arinu beshi

there must be 14 or 15
cocks-combs

(Original order: of cocks-combs / fourteen or fifteen [stalks or blooms] / there must be)

Note how the third line of Kim’s Japanese translation of Michael’s poem (just above his name) exactly quotes the latter two-thirds of Shiki’s original cocks-comb poem.

While Michael’s poem is a refreshing, humorous take on Shiki’s verse, the reference to the latter also brings to mind the fact that Shiki, at that point in his life, was bedridden, and perhaps could not see the contents of his small garden well enough to distinguish such a number. Shiki’s verse, in turn, reminds me of William Carlos Williams’s poem, later called “The Red Wheelbarrow”, which opens “So much depends / upon /” and so on. The one anecdote I know about that one tells how it was written about a young patient of Dr. Williams’s, who, bedridden, could only see that scene from her bedroom window.

In contrast with this, Michael is out and about, taking in the world inside a barber shop. The number, of course, is no accident, and may or may not represent a reasonable approximation of the number of combs he saw. But by bringing together a barber shop–the former home of Western medicine–and Shiki’s slightly vague number of cocks-combs, Michael raises the infinite wonder of life, even against illness and dying, just as Williams in his poem did. The impertinent combs, of whatever variety, trumpet our will to see, even on the edge of the abyss.

Too much freight for one small, grinning parody? I don’t think so. Michael knows North American poetry, probably as well as I do, especially that of the so-called Imagists and other masters of the early 20th century short poem. So, even if he did not intend to reach all the way over to Williams through Shiki, consciously, I’m willing to bet somewhere inside he knew what he was doing. And even if not, as I’ve said before, the language knows more than we do.

Speaking of younger poets, Shiki Haikusphere continues with some valuable essays on things haiku. First, Shiki Team member Kimiyo Tanaka writes “Fukio’s Haiku–The Road Home”, an engaging essay on a very promising haiku poet from Shiki’s home province who died even younger than Shiki, at 26. Four of Fukio’s haiku are presented and discussed, and I think will convince most readers that, though we have been deprived of a possibly major haiku figure with his early death, we still benefit from the poems he did write during his brief life.

The next essay, by team member Hiromi Maya, connects three elements in the world of haiku, “Bashô ~ Shiki ~ The Shiki Internet Haiku Salon . . . ’94”. Quoting two of Basho’s poems from his last year, and one of Shiki’s written 200 years later, Hiromi notes that the team started the Shiki Internet Haiku Salon 100 years later still. He draws a parallel between Shiki’s masterless attitude, in which he treated his haiku colleagues as peers, with the open sharing and conversations about haiku that characterized–and still characterize–the forums created by the team.

Finally, team member Takeshi Wada reports on some Shiki Team members’ “Participation in HNA (Haiku North America), 2005” in Port Townsend, “about 100km north of Seattle, Washington from the 21st tp 25th of September.” He writes of the team members’ prior contact with writers across the globe, the team members’ presentations and positive reception at HNA, and their hopes for the future of the Shiki Haikusphere web site.

So, congratulations to the Shiki Team! These folks have made a wonderful contribution to global haiku, pushing themselves to do so in a foreign language (English). The effects of their work will never be fully known, but from this book it is evident that they have assisted many poets to become better poets than they might otherwise have, giving them a community to work in and a forum in which to test their work and their understanding. The poets named at the beginning of this review clearly benefitted from their involvement in the Shiki List(s), and we have benefitted too, as I look at their names and consider what I know of each one’s contributions to our “haikusphere” over the past decade and more. Like the Shiki Team itself, each has not only grown as a poet, but has given the rest of us their time and energy through organizations, web sites, publications, and many other ways. As the old saying goes, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

A Haiku Pub toast to the Shiki Team!

Bill

This post consists of a listing that will eventually include all the issues of Kaitei in my collection, most recent at the top. For a post that describes a particular issue, please see Kaitei (海程), no. 437 (2007:11). Links to other individual issues will be added to the table as they appear in the blog.

Bill

Issue Number Date Notes
438 December 2007 Includes name and address listing of some 450 “fellows“.
437 November 2007 Reviewed.
Issue Number Date Notes

Notes:

Fellow (in Japanese, 同人dôjin): I’m using “fellow” in English to designate the top or leading members of a haiku group or club, who may be either female or male. In such an organization, they take leadership roles in various club activities (such as organizing and leading kukai, helping to organize ginko, managing the day-to-day operation of the group, etc.), and pay more substantial dues, thus becoming financial as well as volunteer supporters. In most haiku clubs, the dôjin are invited into this role by the master on the basis of quality in both writing and service to the group. Typically, the dôjin of a haiku club form a small percentage of the membership. Hence, a group with 400+ dôjin normally has several thousand members.

Bill

Edited by Johnye Strickland.

One of the great benefits of HSA membership, since Doris Heitmeyer started expanding her secretary’s report in the 1980s, has been this Newsletter, now a pamphlet of some 40 pages packed with news from all over the English-language haiku world. This issue contains:

p. 1. The “President’s Letter” in which Pamela Miller Ness reviews the year so far, comments on the election of next year’s officers, etc.

pp. 2-4. “National News” where we learn of HSA doings past and future.

pp. 4-25. “Regional News” which includes reports from the HSA’s various regional coordinators, and much info as well on smaller local groups within those regions, from Bangor, Maine, to Alaska and the Central Valley [California] Haiku Club. This is one of the best places to find out what’s happening in haiku at the grass roots!

The regional news also often includes poems written or presented at meetings by the members of the various groups reported on. So, rather than a dry recitation of meeting activities, these pages–the largest section of the Newsletter–provide a cross-section of haiku as they are being written all across America today.

p. 25-33. Contest info. Although this begins with HSA-sponsored contests, it goes way beyond that. Some 14 contests in this issue, if I counted correctly.

p. 33. Conferences, lists two, one an HSA quarterly meeting that will go for more than two days, and the other the 2008 Robert Frost Poetry Festival in Key West, Florida, which will include a number of haiku notables among its readers and presenters.

pp. 33-36 lists new books and journals, followed by announcements on pp. 36-37.

pp. 38-39. Here find an early announcement for the 2009 Haiku North America conference, an announcement of a new feature to appear in future issues of the Newsletter, a series of articles about teaching haiku by members who do that, plus revisions to membership lists and such.

If you like bang for your buck, it’s hard to imagine where you could spend the same amount as HSA dues and get as much solid and useful info on haiku activities as found in this publication. (The dues aren’t even listed here, but there’s information on how to join on the HSA website at: http://www.hsa-haiku.org/.) Note that members also receive copies of the tri-annual HSA journal, Frogpond, which I’ll take up in another post.

Bill

Japanese title: 『新しい池—英語圏の俳人たち』 宮下 恵美子 編者訳者

Tokyo: Hokumeisha, 2002.

With belated thanks to Emiko!

This book came to Penny and me in July of 2002, and somehow got left at our son’s house. On a visit there just a few days ago, I saw it on a shelf, and, not recognizing it as mine, pulled it down to look at it. (It was on the family poetry shelves.) Wow! There in the front, not only an inscription, but a very pleasant note from the editor. Well, I thank the powers that be for the return of our book. (Come to think of it, July 2002 was just when Penny and I were in the middle of our move back to New Jersey, after eleven years in fabulous Santa Fe, New Mexico, the main reason for the move being precisely that distance between Santa Fe and our children, all here on the East Coast. I guess the book must have arrived in our midst while we were in transit.)

Both Penny and I have two poems each in this collection, which is unusual, as Emiko points out in her note. The pages are so openly designed, and the poems given lots of air, such space is at a premium, and we are duly honored to be included, twice each!

But the book is not about pleasing us, or any of the other contributors. Like books by our friend Prof. Kazuo Satô before her, Emiko’s book is to help Japanese readers get to know and appreciate English-language haiku. The book has the poets grouped into the following sections, each with a brief introduction, sometimes in English and Japanese, sometimes in Japanese only (these titles are my loose translations of Japanese headings):

1. The American Midwest
2. Northern California: Yuki Teikei Haiku Society
3. Boston Haiku Society
4. Towpath Haiku Group (Washington, D.C. area)
5. American Pacific Northwest
6. Haiku Poets of Northern California
7. British Haiku Society
8. Spring Street Haiku Group (New York City)
9. Haiku North America (2001, held in Boston)
10. Haiku Canada
11. North American Haiku Poets
12. September 11, 2001

Each section features one haiku by each of ten poets, with very few poets appearing in more than one section. The introduction to the last section, in which the poems reflect upon the terrorist attacks on the USA on that date, is a sequence of two tanka and four haiku by Cor van den Heuvel.

Each poem appears in English, with a literal translation in colloquial Japanese and a “haiku translation” that represents the poem in traditional haiku form. Two sample poems from the book by poets whose work is less familiar to me (Emiko’s haiku translations are given below in parentheses; if your computer is not prepared to read Japanese text, you will see a series of question marks instead):

Summer’s highest tide—
the roots of the old fig tree
mingle with the shells

( 夏の潮満たて古木に届く貝)

Wendy Wright (Yuki Teikei)

rust speckles the new saw
left by the carpenter
under the stars

( 星月夜大工忘れし鋸に錆)

Randal Johnson (Pacific Northwest)

An eminent collection of 120+ haiku by a similar number of North American and British poets. Well-done, Emiko! And my apologies for this late notice . . .

Copies of The New Pond are available in North America from Brooks Books.

Bill

moonset: the newspaper

Vol. 3, issue 1 (Spring/Summer 2007). Edited by An’ya.

With thanks to Carole MacRury.

The front page of this tabloid-newsprint publication lists the creators of “Over 300 Verses and Works of Art in this Issue!”–along with countries of origin. These are mostly people from the USA, but there is a good number of Canadians and Europeans, with the Balkans well represented, and a smattering of folks from Japan, Australia, and South Africa.

Personally, I’m not fond of newsprint, even for newspapers, but this issue of moonset has some things to recommend it. For one, a feature of haiku and tanka on cats. Pick of the litter, to my taste:

a feral cat slithers
out of the storm drain–
spring thaw

Ruth Holzer, USA

Another interesting section contains “signature haiku”–“being the poem that you have written which is your own personal favorite and/or has been published the most, or one that you consider best represents you and your writing style”–so says An’ya. In two pages, some 60 or so verses, my pick:

apple blossoms
my grandfather snaps
his suspenders

Andrew Riutta, USA

Tanka is less numerously represented than haiku, but holds up its end very well, nonetheless. My favorite of the issue is this translation by Amelia Fielden and Kozue Uzawa (names in Western order, given name first):

in a country
where fog coldly descends
like the darkness
of the Middle Ages
I cross a street-corner

Watanabe Koichi
(name in Japanese order, surname first)

This from the translators’ book Ferris Wheel: 101 Modern and Contemporary Tanka, from Cheng and Tsui, 2006 (available on Amazon.com). About 30 of the poems from Ferris Wheel are included here, along with a useful essay by Fielden about translating Japanese poems into English.

Another striking mood-piece of tanka, from the “Signature Tanka” section:

something
has been set free . . .
a gull
lazes past my window
bright white in the sun

Melissa Dixon, Canada

Given An’ya’s own high interest in tanka, we might expect it to advance in percentage-contents in future issues of moonset.

A single, excellent, nijuin (20-stanza) renku, “Adrift with Her Dreams” reads at least as well as, if not better than, the pages and pages of other verses here. Hortensia Anderson piloted this ship with Carole MacRury, Adelaide B. Shaw, Heather Madrone, and Bette Norcross Wappner in the crew.

Two book reviews and a bunch of contest information round out the issue. The paper is also full of illustrations, of varying quality, from quick sketches in pencil or pen to (deliberately) grainy photographs, many of these combined with hand-written poems into haiga.

Published twice a year. More information is available on their web site: http://moonsetnewspaper.blogspot.com/.

Bill

No author/editor listed as such (see below). Kingston, Ontario: Rideaucrest Home, 2007.

With thanks to Philomene Kocher.

This project is the brainchild of Marjorie J. Woodbridge, Coordinator of Spiritual Care at Rideaucrest Home in Kingston, and poet Philomene Kocher. The flyer that came with a lovely note from Phil Kocher and this small booklet (~13.5 x 11 cm; 36 unnumbered pages) says, “This book is a true collaboration. The persons with dementia spoke all the words and phrases that appear in the poems, and we assisted with creating the poems. As facilitators, we shared haiku with the group and asked prompting questions. They responded in language that was often fragmented, sometimes pithy, and at times luminous.” They mention two forthcoming articles on what they did and how, one on the Soul Sessions program in which this work was done, another on the haiku sessions specifically. If this interests you, you may ask Ms. Kocher for notifications by e-mailing her. (Phil and Marjorie gave a presentation on this work at the Haiku Canada Conference 2007, and may be seen in my review of the conference, at http://haikai.home.att.net/haiku/haikucanada07/program.html#marjorienphil.)

There has been talk about the possible therapeutic use of haiku in North America since Canadian psychologist and poet George Swede brought up the possibility in an article in one of our haiku magazines in the 1970s. In the meantime, Japanese psychiatrists have actively used both haiku and linked poetry (in the traditional renku style) in therapies for various neuroses. This is the first case where I know of either being used to help those with dementia.

Here are a couple of the results of this collaboration which I find interesting and touching:

jumping in puddles
more water in your boots
than out

sitting around the table
grandmothers
remembering grandmothers

I’m glad to have this collection, both as evidence of a useful application of haiku in a situation where we might not have thought of it, and as a human document specific to its time and place, yet relating to all our lives.

Bill