Skip to content

Creative Blooms 11: Satō Ayaka (Part 1)



An Introduction to the Haiku of Satō Ayaka


Translations, Annotations by
Profs. Richard Gilbert, Itō Yūki, David Ostman, Masahiro Hori

Satō Ayaka (1985 – ) Daughter of Satō Eisaku (Professor of Linguistics, Ehime University). While in high school, she was a winner of the second place prize of the fifth Haiku Kōshien (national High School competition). Entered Waseda University and joined the Waseda Haiku Club. In 2005, founded the haiku group Haiku Machine (disbanded in 2012). In 2006, won the Shiba Fukio New Haiku Poet Prize (Jury Encouragement Award). In 2008, published her first haiku collection, Seaweed Specimens [Kaisō hyōhin] and won the Sō Sakon Haiku Haiku Grand Prize. In 2010, was included in the noted anthology Shinsei 21, and founded the “Short-term, Short-form Women’s Haiku Group” Guca (disbanded, 2012). In 2012, joined the haiku group Mirror [Kagami]. In 2014, started her own journal group “Ku +” publishing her second haiku collection You Have Eyes Open Your Eyes [Kimi ni me ga ari mihirakare], and published her first non-haiku poetry collection Please Teach Me New Music [Atarashii ongaku wo oshiete]. In 2017, edited and published the haiku anthology The Milky Way Galaxy Power Plant [Amanogawa Ginga Hatsudensho].

yuzu no hana kimi ni megaari mihirakare
flowering citron —
you have eyes and
open your eyes

Kigo: 柚子の花 yuzu no hana, flowering citron; Summer. Meter: 5-7-5.

yotto yori ideyuku mizu wo yoru to iu
from a yacht
water spurts — the water
said to be nigh

Kigo: ヨット, yotto, yacht; Summer. Meter: 5-7-5.

Note: After a long trip, returning to port the bilge water is purged (ideyuku mizu). This represents the end of a journey. The phrase “said to be night” may represent the dirtiness of the water being expelled (possibly also implied is ‘night soil,’ human waste).

utsusemi ni yubi no shimeri wo utsushikeri
to a cicada’s shell
the moistness of my finger

Kigo: 空蟬 utsusemi, cicada’s shell; Summer. Meter: 5-7-5.

Note: Utsusemi has two meanings 1) the cicada shell from which the adult emerges (nukegara), and 2) simply a way to say “cicada.” In our translation, the finger (already moist) touches the dry shell. Our living bodies contain moisture at all times; this fact is contrasted with the dead, dry, lifeless shell. Utsushikeri literally refers to the transfer of something from A to B, in this case moisture (Hori and Ostman). The poet uses the word 移しけり(utsushikeri). The kanji means just “transfer.” However, this word might sound too scientific or cold? (Ito).

mitsuryō no gotoku ni nurete huyu no bara
as if in bloom –
of winter roses 

Kigo: 冬の薔薇 fuyu no bara, winter rose; Winter. Meter: 5-7-5.

Note: huyu no bara (aka, fuyu sōbi) is a common kigo referring to roses blooming in winter. I selected this haiku because it is famous. It is in the lineage of Yagi Mikajo, who was skilled at mixing bodily and sensual imagery with metaphysical imagery. Mikajo (a female avant-garde gendaihaiku poet) evolved within the richness of the New Rising Haiku movement in the 1950s-70s. Satō Ayaka also esteems this heritage, and I feel this haiku maintains a deep connection to New Rising Haiku (Ito).

As longterm members of the Kon Nichi Translation Group, Kumamoto University, founded in 2006, these four denizens of Japan with joy, patience and determination, have continued to devote spare months, hours and days co-translating gendaihaiku. Presently, Dr. Itō Yūki, a Yeats scholar, is an assistant professor at Josai University, Saitama; Dr. David Ostman, who researches the role of empathy in intercultural competence, holds a similar position at Kumamoto Gakuen University; Dr. Masahiro Hori, a world-class linguist is a senior professor also at Kumamoto Gakuen University; Dr. Richard Gilbert is professor emeritus, Kumamoto University.

Creative Blooms will appear every other Tuesday. Three poems will be provided with commentary, and an additional three offered for creative interaction by our readership. With every third installment, Gilbert will introduce a largely unknown Japanese poet, translated into English with annotations, for the first time. We look forward to a lively discussion of these fascinating and challenging poems.

Richard Gilbert, professor of English Literature at Kumamoto University in Japan, is the author of Poetry as Consciousness: Haiku Forests, Space of Mind, and an Ethics of Freedom (illustrated by Sabine Miller, Kebunsha Co. Ltd., 2018, ISBN 978-4-86330-189-4), The Disjunctive Dragonfly (Red Moon Press, 2008, rev. 2013), and Poems of Consciousness (Red Moon Press, 2008), among others. He is also director of the Kon Nichi Translation Group, whose most recent book is the tour de force Haiku as Life: A Tohta Kaneko Omnnibus (Red Moon Press, 2019). In January 2020, he announced the creation of Heliosparrow Poetry Journal, an evolution of the Haiku Sanctuary forum.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I’m very pleased to be introduced to the work of current haijin in Japan.

    Thanks Richard.

  2. Thank you for the introduction to the haiku of Satō Ayaka.
    I was intrigued by this verse:

    utsusemi ni yubi no shimeri wo utsushikeri
    to a cicada’s shell
    the moistness of my finger
    I was curious if there is a possibility that the cicada’s shell could be translated/interpreted as a flute?
    And then in line 2: the moistness of my finger might be translated/interpreted as damping, i.e. transitive verb Music To slow or stop the vibrations with a damper; as with the fingertips closing the open holes of the flute?
    And in line 3 I would use the word transports instead of transfers. In any case, this is the way that I like to read the poem. Thanks again for your work – I always enjoy reading this feature at THF.

Comments are closed.

Back To Top