Excerpts from Go-Shichi-Go Columns, Susumu Takiguchi Special to The Daily Yomiuri, Japan


Bending the rules can be the thing to do - 9/11/2002; Susumu Takiguchi Special to The Daily Yomiuri, Japan


"Today , let's look at some English-language haiku poems in this column by "seasoned" haijin from different parts of the world. This haiku is by an'ya, who is an experienced haijin, an American living in Oregon.


snow on jonquils
today my life too
seems indecisive

This haiku uses tori-awase (mixing two or more objects in a single haiku for effect, juxtaposition being a typical method). Here the objects are snow/jonquils and the author herself, which is a bold inclusion, since Western Zen school haiku rules say that "I" (ego) should not appear in the poem. Again, that rule is bent here to good effect-an anthropomorphosis, especially with the word "too", which makes the whole meaning clear--perhaps too clear.) The indecision referred to is the tantalizingly close advent of spring, while winter still lingers, a very familiar feeling. What is indecisive about the author's life remains a mystery--it's a subject that probably needs a novel to complete. In a novel, tens of thousands of words would be used to explain what presumably needs explanation. In the haiku however, what an'ya as said is enough. If she wishes to explain it, that would be another haiku."


Haiku in English/Haiku from around the world: 1/6/2003

"This autumn's world network has spread farther afield, and now non-Japanese and non-American haiku poets have joined in the fun. It is part of the long-term and fundamental policy of the World Haiku Club (WHC) to celebrate and encourage the growth and development of haiku outside Japan, the United States, Canada and other English-speaking countries. I hasten to add that we hold nothing against these countries, but the other cultural and linguistic areas of the world cover a vast part of the globe and boast distinct and rich poetic traditions and sensibilities. These different traditions and sensibilities deserve to be given special attention because they bring to haiku different styles, themes and ways of looking at the world. Negligence on our part would mean such a loss to all of us. an'ya (haiku name) is a well-known and well-loved haiku poet from Oregon":


snow on jonquils
today my life too
seems indecisive

an'ya is too well-read not to know of the snow on a narcissus haiku of Matsuo Basho (1644-94), but this, like all her work, is no imitation. Basho's narcissus is bent as far as the snow's weight can make it bend. The equilibrium thus created presents incredible serenity and tension. In an'ya's haiku, a similar equilibrium seems to contain precarious and uncertain feelings and a hint of self-mockery, half-despondence and detached observation of her own life. This is a clever comparison of a natural phenomenon to a predicament of human life.")


The poetry of despair and death 2002

"Despair can shake the very root of human existence. It often leads to illnesses, especially mental. haiku by tradition deals with humanity in a light-hearted and even humorous manner. What would happen, then, if we were to try our hands at writing haiku on despair? Can haiku manage such conditions as have been dealt with, say, by the Scream, by Norwegian painted Edward Munch (1863-1944), or by the thoughts of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55)? Death is the predominant theme of the poems discussed in this column, which attempts to deal with despair. Often the human sense of despair is projected in animals:


spring despair
the beaver drags its dead mate
off a rainy highway

The author, an'ya from Oregon USA, loves people, but I suspect she loves animals more. Her haiku is based on a real story that she and her husband experienced.* The knowledge that beavers mate for life adds to the sorrow. She thought of using spring melancholy (shun-shu, a spring kigo, but it was not strong enough to express her feelings, indicating a limitation of traditional haiku. Among her other international activities, an'ya is editor of "haigaonline, which may also explain the vivid pictorial description of this haiku." *an'ya would like everyone to know that although she wrote about this experience, they did not hit the beaver . . .)

In Praise of Non-Japanese Haiku


a sudden vastness

between stars

Once again, a "universal" haiku. Not place-specific or season-specific. The poet (an'ya) is not depicted in so many words in the haiku, but she IS there. Without using the word "I", or some action by herself, at least to me she makes her presence so vividly by the absence of putting herself in the poem. "a sudden vastness" may well be a physical fact but to me it comes over very strongly that "she feels it is vast" suddenly by the disappearance of light and something much larger and prominent. This haiku probably will stand the test of time, It is also very good material for students of haiku, ourselves, to learn quite a few things. 


Using poetic color in haiku 2004

"Of all our senses, sight may arguably be the closest to haiku, namely the visual image. Let us therefore explore pictorial elements that can be pursued when both writing and appreciating haiku.

fogged in-
so many shapes never
before noticed

"If we take out from the three elements of a painting color and composition, the last one is form. In this haiku by an'ya from Oregon, the fog denies the first two elements and one is left with different shapes that the author did not notice before.


Haiku written in fire suit the cool of autumn 2004

"After the theme of water we examined last month, let us deal with fire as this month's broad topic. Fire is as fundamental as water in terms of the physical world, science, religion, philosophy and poetry. From Ahura Mazda in the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism to Kurama no Himatsuri, a festival still held each year in Kurama, Kyoto, fore has long been worshipped. It has also been a popular theme for haiku.

family hearth
a shower of sparks
from the yule log

A sparks haiku about a holiday tradition according to the author, an'ya of Oregon. Her family celebrate Old Christmas on January 7 when it is a family custom for the first Christmas visitor to strike the Yule log to see how many sparks fly to determine the family's fortune for the coming year, how many sheep, cows, horses, children will be born and so on. It is a good thing to depict in haiku customs such as this in different parts of the world. This is partly how Japanese kigo seasonal references evolved." 


Haiku that can take the breath away 2005

"Air is the last of the four elements in ancient Greek philosophy that we will deal with in this column. This haiku is Issa-like:


mountain air
a caterpillar reaches

the twig's end

"Its author, an'ya of Oregon, USA, has experienced living in the mountains and therefore is more conscious of all kinds of interesting phenomena in such an environment. we all know what a caterpillar does when it reaches the end of a twig and how it behaves as if searching for something, or trying to reach out for something in the air. It is nice to see old haiku masters properly "digested" to become nutrients for, contemporary poets, rather than swallowed wholesale or imitated in an obvious and clumsy way to the extent the authors themselves are surprised by such comparisons. Let us look at some more haiku by this author":

alpine air
white with butterflies
paper thin

spring wind
more than enough to fill
all the carp flags

first light
a paper hawk rises up
from the child's hand

Using musical elements in haiku 2003

"Haiku is poetry of senses. Of the five senses, hearing plays an important role not only because sounds are prominent in haiku, but also because they are remnants of the old poetry before the separation of songs and written poems. We do not sing haiku, but many haiku poems have musicality in them. This ranges from various sounds we hear to actual music itself. Thus we have in haiku, a poetic musique concrete, a recorded montage of natural sounds."

the canyon
echoing back proof
of the falls

"There have been plenty of haiku on waterfalls in Japan. This one by an'ya of Oregon USA would be like a poem by haiku poet Hisajo sugita (1890-1946), if she inserted a cuckoo in it. The word "proof" makes the haiku original, but is it not too clever or scientific? Yes, just the plain "sound" might have been a better choice. Naturally, I understand that one tends to feel nervous whenever one uses the world "sound" because of the old pond haibu by Matsuo Basho (1644-94)."

Finding tranquillity in a bustling world 2003

"Over the past six months or so we have been dealing, as haiku themes, with serio us subjects of high passion and emotion such as love, death, war, loneliness, despair and sorrow. Can we also deal with themes at the opposite end? "Tranquillity" for instance I have asked readers around the world to try their hand. Interestingly, what has transpired is that on the one hand we seem to share a lot of emotions when it comes to serious subjects, we seem, on the other hand, to fall apart when we think of tranquillity."

circling vultures
the dead feral cat's
dead fetuses

"Well, well, well, where is the tranquillity in this one? the haiku is written by one of the best lovers of animals, an'ya from Oregon USA. She hesitated with this haiku, but wrote it because in her own words, "...even though this was a heart-wrenching scene that I observed, I also see 'tranquillity' in death..." In this column, I also make mention of Shiga Naoya, a famous Japanese writer, who depicted a dead wasp in a similar way to an'ya's.