MELTDOWN メルトダウン (2013) An Anthology of Haiku, Z to A.
Edited by Stephen Henry Gill
Includes almost 500 haiku and a short 4-part seasonal renku cycle over 228 pages.
Cover by Richard Steiner.
Price:￥1,500; airmail $20, incl. p&p
Dimensions: 19 x 13 cm. Covers feature a tactile matt paper finish.
How to order: details are at the Hailstone Haiku Circle’s Publications page: http://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/publications/
I thought I might examine some gems from the latest Hailstone haiku anthology for clues as to haiku possibilities. What makes a haiku a haiku? Wherein lies the haiku’s charm? Why indeed, write haiku at all?
Haiku, we know, should be brief, and Japanese haiku conventionally (though not always) follow a 5-7-5 Japanese syllabic count. There are some masters of the haiku craft who stick to the 5-7-5 syllable count in English – and work wonders within those confines:
Ainu songs are sad:
like this deep blue crater lake
with fog cascading
(Nobuyuki Yuasa, Meltdown, pg 119)
Many people also think a haiku should be written in three lines, and this is often the case. But not always. There are those who throw both syllable and line counts aside, with brilliantly bold experiments.
Unspoken history dark clouds shroud the hunter’s moon
(Duro Jaiye, Ibid, pg 71)
the forest snow
no-one is here
(David McCullough, Ibid, pg 65)
In Japanese haiku, a cutting word (切れ字- kireji) is included, but in English this jumping off point is usually marked by punctuation; a hyphen, comma, colon or ellipsis for example.
Dwelling in the depths
of the elephants eye –
early summer moon
(Hisami Makita, Ibid, pg 15)
This cut or jumping off point can be used to provide a pause between two juxtaposed images, or ideas, sometimes with thought-provoking, or startling effect:
Winter full moon –
a wooden shed floats by
hoisted on a crane
(Yoshiharu Kondo, Ibid, pg 161)
This juxtaposition makes many haiku seem like finely poised balancing acts, between history and nature for example:
On the ancient battlefields of Biwa
the scattered armour
(Richard Donovan, Ibid, pg 28)
… or hardship and grace:
of the scented olive:
a homeless young man
sleeping on the bench
(Keiko Yurugi, Ibid, pg 108)
In English haiku, seasonal references are frequent, though not, as they are in Japanese haiku, essential. And perhaps this relative freedom of the English haiku form, explains its attraction to so many Japanese haijin.
The old tavern –
New Year’s calendar hanging
on a rusty nail
(Yoh’ichi Shinomiya, Ibid, pg 19)
Arashiyama drizzle …
cherry petals plastered
to the tram-car floor
(Kyoko Nozaki, Ibid, pg 121)
Autumn sadness –
it might be buried
in that ancient river
they found on Mars
(Keiko Yurugi, Ibid, pg 37)
A runner approaching
clad in spring light
(Yae Kitajima, Ibid, pg 117)
For though these poems are brief they have boundless potential! A haijin, like an artist, may paint pictures…
Puddles in the road
capture blue sky –
the way to Samarkand
(Akira Kibi, Ibid, pg 126)
In spring, finding
a fine view to sketch:
the chosen scene’s cat
(Richard Steiner, Ibid, pg 199)
…or produce a cinematic slow reveal:
moving to reveal
one golden tree
(Sean O’Connor, Ibid, pg 143)
A haijin may evoke a familiar sound…
Soup-gray morning –
sound of cars
(Ellis Avery, Ibid, pg 67)
every so often
the metal chime
(Duro Jaiye, Ibid, pg 135)
…or employ jazz-like rhythms:
Can’t fall for fall ‘cause
yet, these sunsets do make sense
(Richard Steiner, Ibid, pg 52)
With just a few words you can describe time, place and mystery…
Near Kukai’s spring
a wild boar in the darkness –
eve of pilgrimage
(Kim Richardson, Ibid, pg 59)
…capture a sense of wonder…
To a Kansas flat-roof
of soundless stars
(Akira Kibi, Ibid, pg 37)
Meadow grass darker,
buttercup faces brighter
in the setting sun
(Kamome, Ibid, pg 51)
Haiku can be intensely dramatic…
Out of the river mist –
then the thunderclap
(David McCullough, Ibid, pg 47)
Entering the stage
of bumpy, built-up Osaka
the prima donna moon
(Tito, Ibid, pg 43)
Haiku can work magic:
Pillars of sparks
from the shrine’s courtyard
give birth to stars.
(Ted Taylor, Ibid, pg 36)
And they can be strong, even in the face of disaster, simply describing things as they are:
After the Tsunami –
on a silent, sun-found shore
three black bullocks
(Masako Fujie, Ibid, pg 40)
The best haiku though, are simply instants of experience captured and shared. And it is a wonderful thing that a single moment can be taken like this, from this fleeting life, and made to live again in another’s mind. That our experiences can be crystallized and communicated to another in this way. In that transmission from writer to reader, that momentary recognition, wherein we see as the poet sees, or feel as the poet feels, that moment is reborn, and a little of everyday life’s transient beauty can be salvaged from eternity.
Abandoned kiln –
cool to the touch…
(Moya Bligh, Ibid, pg 177)
Meltdown includes 500 poems from 74 contributors over 228 pages.
To order Meltdown and other books from the Hailstone Haiku Circle please visit their Publications page: http://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/publications/
I began to join Hailstone Haiku Circle activities in 2010, not long after reading their last publication, the very wonderful One Hundred Poets on Mount Ogura, One Poem Each. I am very honored that some of my own haiku have been included in this volume, beside those of so many other poets for whom I have a very great respect.
Upcoming Hailstone Haiku Circle Events:
25 Feb (Tue.) – 2 Mar (Sun.) ECHOES English Collaborative Haiga Exhibition, Kyoto International Community House 京都国際交流会館, Keage, Kyoto. 11:00-19:00 every day (except 1st day opens 12:00/closes 20:00, and last day closes 18:00). Free entry. KICH tel. 075 752 1187. Enquiries: Stephen Gill 075 865 2773, Keiko Yurugi 075 771 9338 (eve.)
27 Feb (Thu.) Eigo de Haiku class, Yomiuri Culture Center, Senri-Chuo, Osaka. 18:00-19:30. Enquiries: Miyamoto 06 6833 5031.
20 Mar. (Thu.) Eigo de Haiku class at Yomiuri Culture Center, Senri-Chuo, Osaka. 18:00-19:30. Please note the revised date! Enquiries: Miyamoto 06 6833 5031.
23 Mar. (Sun.) Spring Hike and Rubbish Clearance, Mount Ogura, Kyoto (organized by P.T.O., but haiku poets welcome!) JR Saga-Arashiyama 9:45 dep. Return around 4. Bring packed lunch and drink. All other equipment will be provided. This event usually spawns new poems and is fun. Enquiries: Gill 075 865 2773.
10 Apr. (Thu.) English Haiku Poems seminar, Friend Peace House, Kyoto. 17:45-19:30. First of the spring session. Enquiries: Yurugi 075 771 9338.
20 Apr. (Sun.) Spring Ginko & Haiku/Haiga to 楽焼 Pottery, 慈 光窯 Jiko-gama, Amidayama, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. Rendezvous 10:00 Sanjusangendo East Gate (car available from car park). 12 min. walk from there to venue (map will be handed out). Local ginko (incl. spring hillside and perhaps even Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s grave). Inscribe haiku and/or haiga from the walk onto preformed plates, cups, etc. These will be fired as we wait! Cost:￥500-1,500+ per piece, depending on size and whether glazed or not. Bring own lunch. Tea/coffee available. Raku firing ends around 17:00. Enquiries: Barrow 080 4252 9007.
24 Apr. (Thu.) Eigo de Haiku class, Yomiuri Culture Center, Senri-Chuo, Osaka. 18:00-19:30. We may first visit Stillhollow Pond 長谷池 ! Enquiries: Miyamoto 06 6833 5031 and, for Pond visit, Gill 075 865 2773.
Stephen Gill says
Very nice, Michael. Thank you for the review. The point about sharing experience is a key one. Haiku began as a form of social poetry. Japan teaches us so much about that aspect of creation and lightly-pointed feedback.
One little thing to amend: it is Kyoko (not Kyoto) Nozaki.
We all enjoy having you amongst us and value your own work, too. Viz.
cross the beck
on freshly placed stones
Michael Lambe says
Thank you Stephen. I have enjoyed participating in Hailstone events with you and the others immensely. And I shall fix Kyoko’s name at once!
Richard Donovan says
A great selection from and commentary on Meltdown, Michael. Thanks for including my one triumph from the Uminobe no Michi haike. But there is a significant omission here — one of your own haiku! Go on, you know you want to! 😉
Michael Lambe says
I also loved your haiku about the sesame tofu Richard! As for my own haiku, I find them hard to judge. It’s rather like hearing a recording of your own voice and thinking “Really? I sound like that?” Fortunately, Stephen has included one in his comment now, so I don’t have to!