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John Brandi / Noriko Kawasaki Martinez — Touchstone Distinguished Books Award Winners 2017

John Brandi and Noriko Kawasaki Martinez are recipients of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2017 for their volume A House By Itself: Selected Haiku of Masaoka Shiki (Buffalo, NY: White Pine Press, 2017).

Commentary from the Panel:

“There are several books of scholarship on Masaoka Shiki’s life and his important re-examination of Japanese haikai traditions. These scholarly books and collections of Japanese haiku include translations of Shiki’s haiku. However, many of these previous translations are the work of literary scholars — accurate in the context of literary history and biography but less evocative as haiku poetry in English. Therefore, we were pleasantly surprised by this new small collection of translations by contemporary haiku poet John Brandi and his excellent Japanese collaborator, Noriko Kawasaki Martinez. This is a collection that provides an enjoyable reading experience of Shiki’s haiku.

“The collection also has an excellent introduction by Charlie Trumbull. He argues against stereotypes about shasei haiku and Shiki’s call for a more realistic haiku that goes beyond poetic tropes and seeks an emotional significance. Trumbull points out that in addition to calling for more original “sketches from life” Shiki championed two additional aesthetic goals: (1) “selective realism” for poetic significance and (2) makoto for heartfelt “poetic truthfulness” in haiku. The selections of Shiki’s haiku translated in A House By Itself demonstrate these three aesthetic goals. These translations demonstrate that Shiki was not “merely” an objectivist writer describing scenes. His haiku and these translations convey attitudes, human emotions, as well as the poetic significance of selective realism. Here are some favorite sample translations”:

Spring rain
I close my umbrella
and take a walk

Lost my oars
looking up from the boat
at the Milky Way

Under the summer moon
twenty thousand people

Autumn departs
for me, no gods
no buddhas

Snow on the garden
enjoyed to and from
the outhouse

New Year’s Day
not good, not bad —
simply human

See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. The link re A House By Itself: Selected Haiku of Masaoka Shiki takes us to Kmart where it says the book is unavailable, although you can buy guns and associated equipment, I believe, which are in stock.
    But you are go straight to White Pine Press, which although doesn’t stock weapons, it has been said that the pen can be mightier than the sword.
    White Pine Press (US/Canada/International):

    1. 🙂 All smiles. I would rather go where they do not stock guns, but poetry that guns for your heart!

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