HAIKU Selection

Haiku selected by Cor van den HEUVEL
Translated into Japanese by HASHIMOTO Kayoko

10 haiku

Translations of the Japanese haiku into English by Cor van den Heuvel?Ryuin and Issa after translations by R. H. Blyth and Shiki after a translation by Harold G. Henderson.

shizukasa wa kuri no ha shizumu shimizu kana

a chestnut leaf sinks
through the clear water

Ryuin (died circa 1690)

yoi goshi no tôfu akari ni yabuka kana

kept overnight
the beancurd glimmers whitely
a striped mosquito

KOBAYASHI Issa (1762-1826)

rai harete ichiju no yûhi semi no koe

after the thunder-shower
one tree in evening sunlight
a cicada's cry

MASAOKA Shiki (1867-1902)

hemlock shadows flicker
across the boulder

John WILLS (1921-1993)

into the blinding sun . . .
the funeral procession's
glaring headlights

Nicholas VIRGILIO (1928-1989)

Quiet afternoon:
water shadows
on the pine bark.

Anita VIRGIL (1931- )

pig and i spring rain.

Marlene MOUNTAIN (1939- )

staples rust
in the telephone pole

Alan PIZZARELLI (1950- )

dead cat . . .
to the pouring rain

Michael McCLINTOCK (1950- )

the library book
overdue ―
slow falling snow

Gary HOTHAM (1950- )

Reviews of 4 haiku

hemlock shadows flicker
across the boulder

In his haiku, John Wills evokes the essence of America's wild nature with a purity of image and an economy of language. Here, one must be aware of the hemlock's affinity for water?similar to that of the willow. One will then realize that the coolness in the poem is probably coming from a mountain stream, where boulders are also common. That the tree's shadows flicker tells us that the stream's coolness is being carried to us by a breeze. The flickering shadows in combination with the fact that the coolness is obviously welcome suggests to me a sunlit, summer morning. Altogether a refreshing and inspiring scene from the American wilderness. And it is presented with an appropriate crispness of language?note the hard c and k sounds which contribute to this effect?plus a 2-3-2 accented beat, a rhythm that echoes the flickering of the sunlight. The second beat in the first line falls on a rest, or pause. The sound of the language is as pleasing as the visual scene.

pig and i spring rain

Ogiwara Seisensui said a haiku is a circle, half of which is created by the poet and the other half completed by the reader. Marlene Mountain in this minimalist haiku takes his prescription to an extreme, presenting an arc that spans only about ten degrees of the poem's circle. But that arc is packed with such suggestive power that a perceptive reader should easily supply the remaining three-hundred and fifty degrees. The poem expands to inspire a feeling of joy in the arrival of spring. A joy shared by the poet and reader with trees, flowers, animals and birds?wild and domestic?as they experience their release from the freezing hardships of winter. Nature is represented by the pig, who is enjoying the increasing warmth, the refreshing wetness of the rain, and the sensuousness of the ensuing mud. To not supply with your imagination the unmentioned mud to the circle of this haiku is to miss both the humor and the whole point of the poem. The poet who speaks its few words shares the pig's sensual pleasure?vicariously, we hope, as regards the mud?but also feels pleasure in feeling at one with the pig, the rain, and the spring. .

the library book
slow falling snow

Gary Hotham's haiku are not only minimal, but more understated and plain than most. The strange congruence one feels in this juxtaposition of a book with a natural phenomenon is hard to explain. There is the contrast between nature, which can take its time about letting the snow fall, and the human world of rules and time limits. Then there is the opposite: that the poet, too, is taking his time?about returning the book?and that nature has a timetable, the seasons. Yet these thoughts remain sublimated to the immediate experience of a lazy winter afternoon when somehow everything seems in harmony, including the snowfall outside and the library book waiting to be read or returned.

staples rust
in the telephone pole

Alan Pizzarelli finds the unity of human nature with Nature in the most unlikely urban places. In American cities and towns wooden utility poles?called telephone poles even when they are not carrying telephone lines?are nearly ubiquitous, except in the bigger cities where electric and telephone lines are underground. People attach posters and notices to these poles with staples. In time these get torn off leaving the staples still stuck in the pole. Hundreds of staples may accumulate on a pole, where they rust in the rains and snows of the passing seasons. The extreme ordinariness and simplicity of these rusted pieces of metal, combined with the human purpose they once served, can give to those who take the time to attentively observe them a wabi-like feeling not unlike that we might experience from seeing the patina on an old tea bowl. At twilight, with its rusting memorabilia of past unknown human events, the unpainted, natural-wood pole presents a sabi-like scene of loneliness and mystery.