Posts Tagged ‘Bilingual’

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):

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):

keitô no jûshi-go hon mo arinu beshi

there must be 14 or 15

(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!



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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.


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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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