Simply Haiku has not shut its doors down. As you can see by the staff, artwork, features and contributors, our journal continues to be a major voice for the English language Japanese short form poetry world. You’ll see within and in future issues, that Simply Haiku is expanding in breath, reach, and quality.
Japanese short form poetry, to paraphrase the late Andre Segovia, whom the world labeled as the world’s finest classical guitarist, is the easiest to write but the hardest to write well. Haiku and tanka, for instance, are poetry of the now, a pathway to growth, a song where the unsung is as meaningful as the music and words. A good haiku causes one to think, to listen, thus the value of using an economy of words. Limited to three lines, the poet’s job is to compose a haiku in such a way as to stimulate interpretation. The poet writes it, doesn’t “tell all,” and has something he wants to communicate with the aide of aesthetics and an awareness of nature.
The same goes for tanka. Children are exposed to memorizing and composing tanka at an early age. In Japan, it’s a major form of communication used to release emotions and in prior times, secret codes.
Two examples of quality modern tanka:
she was a girl
who had eyes
as I looked through them
the sea silently unfolded
Translated by Kozue Uzawa & Amelia Fielden
Ferris Wheel ©2006
mienu kara nao itsu made mo mite orinu umi no muko ni aru hazu no kuni
all the more
because it cannot be seen
I gaze forever
towards the land said to be
lying beyond the ocean
Translated by Makoto Ueda
Modern Japanese Tanka
Even today, the Japanese are miles ahead of western poets in depth, usage of the unsaid, and the ability to write poetry that lingers after being read. Simply Haiku’s Co-founder Robert Mestre and myself had a dream from the beginning to expose the English language Japanese short form poetry world to the quality and depth of poetry of the Japanese who both founded the genres therein and have a deeper understanding of the tools to write a poem using an economy of words that say more than long free verse poetry. To many in Japan, writing poetry is a form of meditation, a way to express inner feelings.
Beginning with this issue, Saša Važić joins myself as this journal’s owner and publisher. Važić’s a team player, a vital resource, exceptionally talented, and not full of herself.
It was heart warming when the false news of Simply Haiku’s demise was published world-wide, disappointing a lot of people who to this day can’t figure out why a journal as successful and vital as Simply Haiku would suddenly close stop; yet the rumor persisted. Poets, educators, and readers of our journal sent messages from around the world asking Simply Haiku to continue.
We never closed our doors We took a much needed hiatus to meditate and reassess our vision. As the journal’s owner, that was my decision and mine alone to decide. Over 7 years ago, Robert Mestre and I shared a vision to create a journal for traditional English language Japanese short form poetry. We also wanted to showcase up and coming poets besides those who are well published, showcasing five of each poet’s tanka, haiku, haiga, etc. coupled with their photos and a short bio. Anyone can get lucky and write one good haiku and have it published, but by showcasing five of a poet’s unpublished works, we get an inside view of the writer and his or her skills. Haibun, of course, can be lengthy, so using five haibun would take up too much space. It’s a prosaic piece that contains one or more haiku. Unfortunately, the majority of poets in Japan practicing the genre are few, but the practice is gaining popularity in the Europe and North America.
We continue to provide you with the best in interviews and articles from the greatest Japanese short form poetry scholars and poets, including those penned or discussed by Japanese scholars and poets via translation.
Renga (linked poetry) will soon be featured. Understanding of this genre by western poets are varied and sometimes confusing. I find myself attracted to the renga cultivated by Shinkei (1406–1475) and other medievil Japanese court poet/masters. They saw in renga a spontaneity that expressed depth versus technical competence. Writes Professor Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen (Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Washington) in her book, Murmured Conversations: “It’s distinctive character lies in . . . the conviction that poetic praxis is equally the conduct of a life lived purely and a pedagogy of the mind aimed at liberating the Buddha nature in oneself, the one being a manifestation of the other.” Many during that age were inspired by Fujiwara no Teika and other great practitioners of waka (now called tanka). Posits Ramirez-Christensen, they were wise to see in these practioners of waka’s “techniques of syntactic fragmentation and elliptical ambiguity [as] relevant for a genre like renga, because of its brevity of each successive verse unit, and the formal separation between them, which required a subtile rather than obvious connection to be poetic at all.” By then, renga was no longer a social game of words, a way for men in the Emperor’s Court to entertain themselves They began to see in renga an emphasis on the inner mind of a renga poet. Writes Ramirez-Christensen, ”the ultimate aim is to arrive at this disinterested mental state that is the only true source of great poetry, the mind-ground (shinji) achieved through meditation, the Buddha mind.” Most of those practicing the art of renga today are not Buddhists, but there needs to be an inner depth and the usage of some kind of aesthetics for their linked verse to be successful.
With haiga, a painting (today photography is used sometimes as an alternative) with a haiku that forms a symbiosis with the art work, but can stand alone as well, there must be the same depth and understanding as seen in the following haiga by Marc di Saverio:
All Saša Važić and I can say is, “Simply Haiku is our gift to you.” Enjoy, learn, and grow on your poetic path, becoming one with reality, the painting you paint in your minds, striving for the abstinence of ego.
Robert D. Wilson
Closing my eyes, I envision my long ago travels around the world, which wasn’t so big as it is in my dreams. And I see a street, long and straight. At the very end of it is a house. A magical house. Not imagined, not dreamt. A real one. A house that’s normal during the day. Perhaps white or yellow. But at night, the walls become violet. I used to visit it every night. Pure walls, pure color. Violet. I would stare at the walls in awe. Never could I depict them in a poem. And I won’t try. Violet.
As I am writing this, I cannot get rid of that house nor of this one where I spend my days and night. The reason I am here is Simply Haiku. As violet as Simply Haiku. This place in this space could perhaps replace all my past travels through the world leading me to that magical house. This house, Simply Haiku, is a host of magic coming from ancient times and distant places. You, travelers through nature, reality, dreams, imagination, bearing violet feelings and thoughts, stop for a while, share your experiences, outward and inward. No matter what form you choose, it’ll be perfect if it is yours and it will be ours as well.
This house is for everyone, in the open air, breathing and eager to always and, as always, since it was built, be full of the best craftsmen’s mind and hand works. The only condition, apart from excellency, is that they have to be honest, sincere, such as they are and in compliance with what we have been gifted by the Japanese ancient arts. This is what it is and what it will be as long as there’s a violet house that exists.
a cottage in the woods
fills with light
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