Why memories? Actually it was inspired by a submission by Mineko Takahashi, which you will hear in a minute.
In a way haiku and senryu are an ideal vehicle for such a topic. They should resonate with us. Memories are very much the property of an individual, yet often when we write about them, there will be something in the poem that connects with others. We may not share the images, but we can understand the emotion. The bevity which is a characteristic of these small poems, should ensure that this emotion is conveyed without overt sentimentality, which could make poems on this topic quite saccharine.
In the haiku and senryu I’m featuring today, you will find resonance, a little sadness, some aha moments and beautiful use of language. I hope you agree. Let me know what you think and if you would like to join in with our special topics, the next is “women”, you don’t have to be one to write on this topic. I’ll tell you a bit more about this at the end.
And so to our poems: The first is the one that inspired the topic, from Mineko Takahashi in Japan
Why did this resonate with me? Initially I was struck by the use of the work podding. Turn the word over in your head, doesn’t it have a lovely sound?
Then the idea of podding peas, took me back to my childhood. Podding peas was a summer activity and peas are probably my favourite vegetable. I can see myself, sitting on the step of the back door of our house, podding and eating the peas.
But what was it that caused Mineko to write the haiku?
She says, “My mother-in-law is now in hospice having become totally blind at age 67 last year due to cancer. When she was well, she sent me field peas every spring by picking them in the field in the country with a memo how to pod them and cook with rice.” Although the story has undertones of sadness, I chuckled too at the idea of Mineko being told how to pod the peas and cook them. I can quite see myself doing the same thing if I ever become a mother- in-law.
And now to another of our regulars, Giddy Nielsen Sweep, writing a senryu for us from Australia:
I’m lost on a city street
softly her words
I don’t know about you, but this is the stuff of nightmares and definitely has an emotional pull for me. I can feel the panic of a child not seeing anything or anyone familiar in the crowd and then… the soft words of its mother and all is well with the world again. Can you feel the tightness across the chest that I do, reading this poem?
Next we are travelling to England with Dr Tim Gardiner, who has also written great work for us before. We have heard some ekphrastic haiku from him in earlier episodes, but today we’ll hear something a little different.
all that remains
of the flood
The only natural flooding I have been involved with was in Ireland. I was driving from the North to Dublin, I had a flight to catch. It seemed like everywhere we turned the floods were blocking our path. I’ve never seen the aftermath and when I read this, in my mind, the sand hill was what was left behind in a house after the flood water had subsided.
I was wrong. The haiku is written about the Santon sand flood in Breckland, Suffolk in England. It’s not an area I know very well, although I have spent some holidays nearby and I can recommend the area to visitors. If you’d like to know more, then Tim has given me a link.
I promised you work from some new contributors in this episode and so we go to Laughing waters, in the US, but her senryu comes from memories of a sister who lives some distance away, in the Ukraine. Laughing waters is an unusual name, right? Well there is a lovely story behind it and she was happy that I share it with you.
Originally from the Ukraine, she now lives in the States. A few years ago she was very sick and doctors told her father to take her home, because there was nothing else they could do for her. Her dad had a few friends who lived in reservation.Their Medicine women Walking Horse, saved her life and gave her, her name “Laughing waters”. She has taken this name in Walking Horse’s memory.
long orange peel
wraps around my fingers
your auburn hair
I love the comparison between the orange peel and the hair, don’t you?
The piece is about her sister Ann, her hair is red, and Laughing Waters tells me that Ann hates it. but she, Laughing Waters, loves it because it makes Ann unique. That lovely red hair is curly and long, so each morning before school Laughing Waters would help her to brush it, often daydreaming as she did it. This warm, loving poem takes us to one of Laughing Waters cherished childhood memories.
Staying with the Ukraine let’s hear from another new contributor, Nicholas Klacsansky. He has been writing haiku throughout his life. Now it is part of his daily meditation. I personally love the insights his haiku and senryu give me into his life as a commuter.
Nicholas was taught to write haiku by his father. He learnt through a yes and no method. He would show his father his haiku and his father would say yes, or no. His father knew a great deal about haiku, he was active in advancing and promoting haiku in America, starting the first haiku journal in the pacific northwest, Haiku Zasshi Zo, perhaps you know it? Nicholas had a very well informed teacher.
Nicholas himself is active in the promotion of haiku, he writes a blog, haiku commentary to which I have contributed, once or twice. Aside from my contributions, it makes a good read, not just because of the haiku, but the analysis of the haiku is highly informative.
In addition to this, he has written or edited a number of books, one of them with his father. You’ll find the links below.
Now I don’t normally feature haiku that have been published elsewhere, but I loved this so much I made an exception.
an old hand scar
Bottle Rockets, #33, 2015
The use of the word autumn is very clever. It suggests the person with the scar is reaching the later years of life, and, as you might know if you have scars on parts of your body that are exposed to the sun, in the autumn they are bright, their paleness accentuated by the colouring of the summer sun on the adjacent parts of the body.
And then one new piece for all of us here at The haiku chronicle:
night river childhood in my smile
I find the use of the word childhood inspired. Have you ever been down at a river when the sky is midnight blue? There is something magical about it and the smile that crosses your face is like that of a child. It is a simple joy, a childlike joy.
Last, but not least we go to Indonesia to meet another new contributor Feizhan. Feizhan is a businessman who spends his days in his small store. He sells many things, he tells me, half of which are children’s toys. What a super way to spend your day, bringing joy to children!
This is what he wrote:
a shadow from the past
creaking on… and on
For me the crucial word is shadow. The swing creates a shadow, but this shadow is a shadow from the past, which I thought suggested the poem was about someone, alive or dead, whose image was sparked by the rattan swing. We all have activities that do this, don’t we?
As for the creaking, to me, this noise brought a new element, sound, obviously, but also a dislocation. The swing creaked on and on, yet the mind was concentrated on the image of the memory. I’m sure you will see other things too.
I put my idea to Feizhan and he replied that the senryu is about his late sister. In their childhood, they used to exchange turns to swing and push. The seat was made from rattan and attached to the tree with nylon rope. He can recall the sound of the rattan swing while it was swinging in the air.
I feel like I am with them under the tree joining in their game. Do you?
My turn next, I’m taking you to a graveyard in South London in the UK. It’s an old burial ground, surrounding a typical countryside English church, for it was once a village church and London has grown and surrounded it.
This is the original draft, I’m still working on it:
as the dew falls
the family play cards—
in the graveyard
Many people thought that this might refer to a day of the dead, (Dia de Los Muertos), when families go to visit their deceased relatives and make a celebration of it. I very much like that idea.
The real story is this: I come from a HUGE Irish family, most of whom now live n South London. We had an annual card game at Christmas. Mostly it was played by my uncles and aunts, their cousins and Irish friends. Now my father and a number of my uncles are dead. They are nearly all buried in the same graveyard, within metres of one another. When I’ve visited them all, early in the morning and the grass has been damp with dew and a sort of haze hanging over the church yard, I can imagine their ghosts having a get together, playing cards, smoking and drinking whiskey. Somehow that idea cheers me up.
That’s the end of the podcast for today, many, many thanks to all the wonderful poets who contributed their work. I was touched each and every one of you. You are all wonderful.
I am now asking for submissions on the topic of women. I’ll tell you why, nearer the date.
You don’t have to be a woman to take part, so come on everyone, let’s get thinking and writing. I very much look forward to reading what you have to say on this topic. Please can I have your submissions at the latest by 20th July?
Submission guidelines are on the website, poetrypea.com
Thank you as always for listening. It’s great to have you here. Have a lovely week and I’ll see you back here next week. Get writing!
Links for Nicholas:
His book with his father, Zen and Son
His book with Jacob Salzer, How Many Become One
The Nook book: Yanty’s Butterfly: