An Introduction to the Haiku of Tsugawa Eriko
Translations, Annotations by
Profs. Richard Gilbert, Itō Yūki, David Ostman, Masahiro Hori
Tsugawa Eriko (1968 -) (family name: Tsugawa)
Born in Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture. Graduated from Kwansai Gakuin University. In 1991, joined the haiku journal-group South Wind [Nanpū] and studied with the haiku poets Washitani Nanako and Yamagami Kimio. In 2006, published her first haiku collection, Harmony [Waon]. In the following year, she won the 30th New Poets Award of the Association of Haiku Poets. In the same year, was awarded the 53rd Kadokawa Haiku Award. In 2011, her haiku works were gathered in the new‑generation haiku anthology Hai-kore: Haiku Collection [Hai kore]. In 2013, her second haiku collection was published, The Tree of the Beginning [Hajimari no ki] and the Collected Works of Tsugawa Eriko, First Volume [Tsugawa Eriko sakuhinshū ichi]. In the next year, won the 4th Tanaka Hiroaki Prize, and the 1st Hoshino Tatsuko Award.
鈴振るやうに間引菜の土落とす suzu furu yōni mabikina no tsuchi otosu as if ringing a bell casts off soil from thin white radishes
Kigo: mabikina (間引菜), thin white radishes; Autumn. Meter: 7-5-5.
Notes. Mabikina usually refers to those radishes that grow between evenly planted ones. They are pulled at an early stage, to ensure that the larger radishes receive more nutrients. Mabiki refers to the practice of pulling out smaller plants between larger plants to aid in the latter’s growth. Hori thinks that this is haiku is of an amateur farmer painstakingly working in a hobby farm, and not a professional farmer (Hori/Ostman).
空蝉をたくさんつけてしづかな木 utsusemi wo takusan tsukete shizuka na ki empty shells of cicada, worn in plenty a tree of silence
Kigo: utsusemi (空蝉), empty shells of cicada; Summer. Meter: 5-7-5.
チェンバロの金色の音の九月かな chenbaro no kogane no oto no kugatu kana golden notes of a harpsichord september . . .
Kigo: : kugatsu (九月), September; Autumn. Meter: 5-7-5.
Note. Chenbaro (Cembalo チェンバロ) is German for harpsichord. Kogane is usually written with different kanji (黄金). This is an autumn image, and gold is the color of gingko leaves when they change color. The harpsicord is also golden, in that it is often decorated or gilded with gold paint (as here) (Hori/Ostman/Ito). For Hori, the golden sound, rather than appearance is the key to this haiku. For whatever reason, the sound of the instrument evokes a golden fall color, similar in sensation to the gold color of the autumn gingko leaf.
軋みつつ花束となるチューリップ kishimitsutsu hanataba to naru chūrippu crinkling wrapped into a bouquet: tulips
Kigo: chūrippu (チューリップ), tulip; Spring. Meter: 5-7-5.
Note. The image is of tulips being bunched into a bouquet and wrapped in moist paper (usually newspaper). In this way, the sound may be more like a crinkle (though there is no exact translation). Rather than “turning into a bouquet” we could also suggest “bunched into a bouquet.”
初蝉や森の封印解かれたる hatsusemi ya mori no fūin tokaretaru first cicada sound — the forest seal broken
Kigo: hatsusemi (初蝉), first cicada sound; Summer. Meter: 5-7-5.
Note. We translated tokaretaru (解かれたる) as “broken” (i.e. “unsealed, unraveled”), as this is the image of silence being broken — as a seal would be broken to reveal the contents of a jar, or letter.
くちばしの一撃深し熟柿かな kuchibashi no ichigeki fukashi jukushi kana a beak strikes deep — ripened persimmon
Kigo: jukushi (熟柿), well ripened persimmon; Autumn. Meter: 5-7-5.
何焚いてこの濃き煙十二月 nani taite kono koki kemuri jūnigatsu what are you burning? this dense smoke — december . . .
Kigo: jūnigatsu (十二月), December; Winter. Meter: 5-7-5.
Note. This is a straightforward image of the practice of burning weeds, branches, bamboo, etc., built up over the course of the year, known as 農焼き(noyaki). In the Mt. Aso area (Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu), farmers usually do this late November or December, following the harvest.
見えさうな金木犀の香なりけり miesō na kinmokusei no ka narikeri almost seen . . . the pungent scent of olives
Kigo: kinmokusei (金木犀), Orange osmanthus (“olives”); Autumn. Meter: 5-7-5.
Note. There is a question, how to translate kinmokusei (“olives”). (Here’s what the plant looks like.) “Orange osmanthus” is more accurate, if not evidently communicative, or poetic. The scientific nomenclature derives from osmanthus fragrans. In our understanding, this pungent plant has traditionally been planted around the house to ward off evil spirits (厄除け). The fragrance is very strong, so perhaps the poet “almost sees” the plant, in that she can smell it distinctly and perhaps knows its location based on smell alone.
噴水の落ちゆく快楽ありにけり funsui no ochiyuku kairaku arinikeri a fountain of fall a pleasure
Kigo: funsui (噴水), fountain; Summer. Meter: 5-7-5.
サルビアや砂にしたたる午後の影 sarubia ya suna ni shitataru gogo no kage scarlet sage drips into sand — afternoon shadow
Kigo: sarubia (サルビア), salvia flower (scarlet sage); Summer. Meter: 5-7-5.
Note. The verb, shitataru (“dripping”) is often collocated with blood—dripping blood. The vivid red sarubia (scarlet sage flower) may explain this word usage (see also here).
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.