A Crown of Roses

by Sayumi Kamakura



Sayumi Kamakura is reading from her book to the accompaniment of a live cello player.

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Reply by Humming

English translations by James Shea & Jim Kacian



Our smiles

lighter than a cloud—

sweet peas in bloom




a rabbit

crosses the horizon



Reflecting Paris,

my crystalline lens

must be pure blue



“Isn’t it warm?”

I reply

by humming



In the deepest part

of the kaleidoscope:

the Emperor’s room



A balloon,

a deck of a ship,      

and a bright sun in May



For the stone Queen

far in the distance:

a crown of roses



The echoing sound

of the Greek letter “alpha”—

the rain stopping



Walking, it’s two minutes

to the mailbox ―

running, it’s spring



The yawn of a carrot

is covered

with mud



If I’m a primrose

at your side,

I’m allowed to bloom



Tradition says

the face of Spring

is the face of dragon



I swallowed a piece of parsley—

Did I lock the door?



This summer heat—

the ruler wants

to remove its gradations!



A cutting board,

a cat and a pinky

basking in the sun



Enjoying the station plaza—

sprays of water

fall from the fountain



On the shoulder,

head and back of the wind:




Hoisting up

a sunflower,

the blue sky never ends


Haiku and I

A Short Interview with Japanese Haiku Master, Sayumi Kamakura

by Robert D. Wilson


RDW:  When composing a haiku, Sayumi, what is central to your composition?

SK:    The most important thing when composing a haiku is not the search for seasonal words.  It is the search for the truth of one’s spirit.  When I first encountered haiku in my teens, I strongly felt, “Yes, this is what my heart was seeking”. It was close to a conviction.  I can express my sentiments most frankly through haiku.

RDW:  Why did you choose haiku as the poetic genre to express yourself instead of, for instance, tanka?

SK:    The poems by which I could most closely approach the truth within myself was haiku. I engaged myself with haiku for more than 30 years afterwards, but there was no change in this feeling. Rather, it only became stronger.

RDW:  Please elucidate.

SK:     I also enjoyed playing outside with friends when I was small, looking at the mountains and trees, the grasses, flowers, and the brooklets of rivers. In the postscript to my first collection of haikus, I wrote that I compose haiku while facing “feelings that differ from joy, sorrow, and also from loneliness”, and this has not changed even now.

RDW:  I’ve noticed in reading your haiku in your new book, A Crown of Roses, a depth and sensitivity that has matured compared to your early haiku.  What do you attribute this change to?

SK:    What has changed is my experiences of love, marriage, of having children, becoming sick, and having lived in Paris due to my husband’s research. Through the occurrences surrounding me, in my physical world, so to speak, my heart has always been stirred.  It is enjoyable to gaze at my heart as it is stirred, and in turn, changes little by little.

It is likely I will continue pursuing the irresistible expression of these matters of the heart . . . no, of the soul, from here on after through the means of haiku.  Just as long ago I ran through the meadows playing tag until the day grew dark.

RDW:  Thank you, Sayumi, for taking the time to let me interview you.  Your poetry touches me deeply and I find myself reading and rereading your poetry again and again, and each time I read them, I get something new.  It is a gift when one can use an economy of words coupled with the unsaid to write a poem that literally lives.

Below is a sampling of the haiku in Sayumi Kamakura’s new book of haiku,  A Crown of Roses, with translations by Jim Kacian and James Shea.  A suggestion:  Read each poem slowly twice, with an empty mind, then interpret each haiku, guided by your own cultural memories, aesthetic sense, experience, etc.

In the deepest part

Of the kaleidoscope:

The Emperor’s room

Water for an iris

That falls easily –

And wine for you

A cat on the roof,

The moon in the east,

My husband



The floating ice

Enjoys the rays of the sun


From the background

Of “Mona Lisa”,

The wind has left


Someday my knees

Will be wrapped

In brilliant clouds



Born in 1953, Sayumi Kamakura, started composing haiku as a student at Saitama University.

The winner of numerous awards including the Oki Sango Prize, she founded the haiku magazine, Ginyu, with Ban’ya Natsuishi, and continues as its editor.  She has penned numerous books of haiku including Jun (Moisture, 1984), Tenmado kara (From the Skylight, 1992), and A Singing Blue: 50 Selected Haiku (2000).  She is married to the haiku poet, Professor Ban’ya Natsuishi.


A Crown of Roses was first published in 2007. A second edition, was published last year (2009), by Cyberwit Press in India, and can be purchased online via www.cyberwit.net  for $15.

ISBN: 978-81-8253-090-4