Hello and welcome to episode 36 of the Haiku Chronicle Podcast. If you’ve joined me for the next instalment of the haiku techniques season, you’re about to be disappointed. I’ll continue with that next week, with “what, where, when” but this week I have a real treat for you. This week our podcast is brought to you by various members of the haiku chronicle community, writing as, or about women. Today, we will meet lots of new friends and reconnect with some old ones.
Where did this topic, women, come from?
Roger Watson, the rather lovely haiku poet we heard from in Episode 31, alerted me to a chapter in R H Blyth’s s book “A history of Haiku volume one” entitled women haiku writers.
At first, as I read it, I was piqued by Mr Blyth’s comments but then I began to find his pronouncements funny, because in today’s terms, he is talking absolute rubbish, bless him.
Some context; Mr Blyth lived from 1898 to 1964. He was educated at my alma mater, University College, London University, the first college of London University to be established, and it was set up to offer higher education to those of us who were “non conformist” in our religious beliefs and one of the first university establishments to offer higher education to women in the UK. It had at the time of Blyth’s education an enlightened attitude, and continues to do so today. He married a lady he met at said University, and yet, even in this progressive educational establishment, there existed gentlemen with the thoughts of Mr Blyth. Perhaps his views were those of a liberal thinker of the time, I can’t say. A line from the opening of the chapter:
“Men have a tendency towards intellectuality,
women to sentimentality, both foes of poetry. But intellectuality
is easier to cure,”
He provides us with examples from Japanese female writers:
Kawai Chigetsu (1634-1718), a woman who was in Bashö’s circle of writers wrote this:
mountain cherrry petals
fall and scatter
over the water wheel of the brooke
Blyth pronounces this as “too pretty for poetry”
Sute-jo living in the period 1633-1698 wrote:
among the cloudy ways
are there also shortcuts?
The summer moon
of which Blyth says:
“this is an ingenious but hardly feminine verse” he doesn’t actually say why he is of this opinion but I’m guessing it’s because it’s lacking in emotion. Emotion being a feminine trait.
Sono-jo 1649-1723 another of Bashö’s writing circle wrote this:
oh, how busy I was,
plucking the violets,
absorbed in them!
Which apparently, “brings out the unthinking, unthought nature of spring, through the thought-less nature of a woman” steady on Mr Blyth…
Shüshiki 1668-1725, who was apparently famous for her verses, but” he says “most are ridiculously sentimental like the following”:
the pheasant’s tail
touches the violets
“a good example of a haiku of women”
as the girl walks along,
before and behind her.
As I rather like this haiku, I’m choosing to believe that he meant this as a complement but I have a horrible feeling I am wrong.
Blyth’s thoughts on female haiku writers inspired me to ask for haiku and senryu on the topic of women.
Let’s enjoy these pieces in a less judgemental way:
from Sofia, Bulgaria. She is a very creative financial analyst, enjoying poetry, ikebana, photography and film and the time she can spend with her young daughter.
Radostina is starting out on her haiku adventure, having started to write only a few months ago. I hope you will agree for someone who is a relative novice, her haiku is delightful:
her wedding dress
trails the gossips
She has used the colour white to suggest innocence and the peony flower for mysticism. I can see that and I can also see an innocent bride walking up the aisle of a church with the congregation gossiping about her ….
She is one of our regular contributors, living and writing in the USA. Her senryu was written on the occasion of her daughter’s 20th birthday, the day she left her teenage years behind.
Twenty – girlhood fades
Remember witches and magic
Do not die again
She was inspired by Sylvia Plath who wrote:
“You are twenty. You are not dead, although you were dead. The girl who died. And was resurrected. Children. Witches. Magic. Symbols. Remember the illogic of the fantasy. The strange tableau in the closet behind the bathroom: the feast, the beast, and the jelly-bean. Recall, remember: please do not die again.”
who hails from Delaware in the US. Robin hasn’t been able to work for the last 9 years or so due to her disability and she took up poetry as she felt it is something one can do anywhere, even in bed. She began with haiku because of the brevity and the mindfulness it requires, finding that it slows her brain down and forces her to adjust her lens on life. I’m happy to tell you that it has been immensely helpful for her stress levels.
What I like about Robin’s work is that she is not afraid to tackle socially tough, or taboo topics. She says that she is trying to reach both those that identify with her view as well as those who don’t and hopes that what she writes, may cause people to reflect on their views.
open door policy he labels me a complainer
My actual day job is recruiting. When I ask people why they are looking for a new job, one reason I hear again and again both from men and women, but I would estimate that I hear it more from the women I work with, is that when they speak to their managers particularly about something they would like to change or alter in their job, it is heard as a complaint.
a woman begging for money the reek of judgement
What I liked about this piece is that it confronts me straight on. Reminds me that the begging woman is just as human as me or you.
Avi is from the UK although by the time this podcast goes out he might be in Ethiopia, where he will be working for a couple of years as part of the UK’s overseas aid team.
Although he has been writing poetry for years, a friend suggested he tried to write in a more succinct way, which is how he came to haiku. But Avi is an innovator, having found that the form did not allow him to express himself fully he has gone with two verse haiku and senryu.
If there is one thing I have learnt since starting out, it is that we do not have hard and fast rules in English language haiku, and so this could be a new evolution of the genre.
Has anyone else seen examples of this?
This senryu, which is about his wife, he has called awake:
you looked beautiful
as you lay, calmly sleeping,
your face turned to me.
unable to sleep,
turning over, I saw you
and felt comforted.
Another poet from the US. Jannalee thinks that a good haiku is “Anything that speaks a thousand emotions in such little words, anything that tells you a story”
She has written a senryu that could apply both to both sexes and all ages and much like Robin’s work, highlights another serious issue:
we love to be loved
total abuse and misuse
torn flowers don’t grow
Katherine is from Brighton in the UK. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s a sea side town, complete with a little railway along the beach, deck chairs to sit on on the promenade, at least one pier (another was seriously damaged) and a truly unique royal palace, which has to be seen both internally and externally.
This is her senryu:
billowing hair blown
east by the sea breeze
The reason that I chose this for inclusion was to illustrate how well Katherine has used assonance in this work. What is assonance? It’s a literary device that repeats the vowels inside the words, the o in the first line, the e in the second. Can you hear what it does to the poem?
Katherine writes haiku as she finds it meditative and is currently compiling a book.
Three generations of haiku poets writing from Ankara in Turkey. They all share a love of poetry, which they tell me is their family entertainment.
She is a retired English teacher whose favourite poets are Shakespeare and Bashö. She has been published in a number of haiku journals, including The Heron’s nest.
I chose the first of her haiku because for me it illustrates the love between the generations:
colouring a rainbow
Her second piece is another of those uncomfortable ones, looking at a difficult subject:
henna haired girl
no longer my student
a thirteen-year-old bride
Fatma, says she is against child brides and grooms, you can feel it in her writing, can’t you?
Guliz has finished her post doctoral research on “Tenebrismo and Tremendismo in the Spanish Romantic Poetry” at University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain. She describes herself as a Francophone writer and indeed has written 6 poetry books from Editions Apopsix, in France. Additionally Otata Journal published her haiku chapbook in their June edition: Cappadocia and Mount Nimrod.
And on top of this she has time to be a flamenco dancer!
She wrote two very lovely senryu about another generation of women:
the breeze blows
In this piece I find the repetition successful in evoking the idea of a soul that has passed on. Don’t you?
all the storms
I thought this was extremely clever. You could look out of her window and see all the storms and the rainbows, but you could also reverse it and think how many storms and rainbow moments have taken place within the room in which the window lives. Or are the storms and rainbows an expression of Grandma’s character? Intriguing…
who is a member of World Haiku Association and has written haiku, published in various journals, Asahi Haikuist Network, brassbell, Failed Haiku…
I chose to feature this senryu because it just made me smile. See what you think…
i’m going to
Another poet writing for us from the USA, this time from Tennessee, where she is studying to be an Episcopal priest and healthcare chaplain. She can see relationships between her spiritual life and haiku. Seeing haiku as a kind of prayer. She thinks haiku connects science, the natural world, human nature, and the sacred in a beautiful way, holding tension and making room for a multiplicity of beliefs and world views. Reading what she has told me about her exploration of haiku I can feel her mind positively fizzing with ideas and I look forward to reading her thoughts in the future.
She considers herself to be very much a beginner, having been writing for a couple of years. Melissa is only now starting to submit her work to journals.
When I read this I thought of young ladies, perhaps teenagers or women in their early twenties who had left for their first experiences outside their family home. As they reunited, you could see the first buds of the women they would become. I asked Melissa what had prompted the poem. She said “In June I visited my family in New England, and as we gathered outdoors I noticed renewals or “re-flowerings” of relationships, just as the lilies, which come up year after year, were also about to re-bloom
the bright taste of sorrel
as they weed
Of course I enjoyed the synesthesia in the first line, it certainly jumped out at me. But I also loved the happy feeling of the poem, which was inspired by Melissa’s work in the community garden. She volunteers “in her seminary’s community garden,” and says that “while solitary gardening is peaceful, there is also something wonderful about caring for the plants together with her friends, talking and laughing as they work, and sampling the harvest as they go. Sorrel has a lemon candy kind of taste which” she thought “paired well with the visual adjective “bright,” as well as with the joyous sound of our laughter.” I think she was right, it is joyous.
I thought when I read his work that he too came from the US, but I was wrong, he is in the UK and a member of the British Haiku Society, which he recommends as a good resource. Perhaps I came to this conclusion because of the feel of his work. He was introduced to haiku by Kerouac and I think you get that sort of vibe from the work I have chosen to feature here.
the twilight reeks
of her voice
I could not resist this, it speaks as the soundtrack to my pre teen days and has fond memories for me.
two sisters two clouds really one cloud
Mark didn’t know whether I was in to one liners. In truth I’m still mostly working with three lines, but I thought this one liner was perfect. It just says everything it needs to in such a succinct way.
Do you have to be a sister to appreciate it? I don’t think so, after all the author is clearly not a sister, but I forgot to ask whether Mark was inspired to write this by looking at his own sisters, his daughters, perhaps,… maybe he can fill me in and I’ll let you know.
Mineko is one of our regular contributors and often inspires me to try a new topic for my writing. She is from Japan.
in a hazy dream
a partner with
a dead poet
Now this was an interesting idea. Mineko is a big fan of Terayama Shuji, the dead poet in the poem. In this piece she is expressing the notion that she would have liked to have known him in person, to have been a creative partner or a muse to inspire him.
His work is so alive to her that she wishes she could talk to him about things. To get his perspectives and verbal description or interpretation of her observations.
travel with a man
a river never
reaching a sea
This one is about platonic friendships. How do you explain this friendship, when so many people make the wrong assumption?
When I read these two senryu I thought they had erotic undertones. Mineko tells me that was not the intention, but yet again, she has inspired another idea, which I think I will come back to next year.
I’ll put out my list of topics for next year soon, I promise, but one of them will be erotic haiku/senryu.
My offering for the week:
my nose struggling
for granny’s scent
the garden centre
granny’s fragrance guiding
my credit card
yellowing christening robe
mother, mother, mother,
I am so happy to have been able to feature all our lovely poets, thank you , all of you for treating us to your work.
Thank you to all of you who joined us today to listen to the haiku and senryu from our community of poets.
To redress the balance I’m planning to do a podcast special in August 2019 on men. Happy to get submissions from now until July 31st 2019 on that topic. Look at me, organising things for next year….
The next podcast special will be on the 3rd September this year, on any topic you like as long as it is written using one of the sense switching methods, you’ll get some help by listening to Episodes 32 and 33. Submissions open until 15th August 2018. I ‘m looking forward to reading your work.
R H Blyth A History of Haiku. Volume One