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Montage #22

Montage #22, presented by Allan Burns, is now up here on The Haiku Foundation website. This week’s theme is “Lifefulness” and features the work of James W. Hackett, Christopher Herold, and translations by R. H. Blyth.

fig71m                     In one single cry,
                     The pheasant has swallowed
                     The broad field.

                        — Yamei (trans. R. H. Blyth)

                     Half of the minnows
                        within this sunlit shallow
                           are not really there.

                         — Hackett

                     cloud shadow
                     long enough to close
                     the poppies

                        — Herold

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Thank you, Merrill — James loved your painting very much. I gave him all the pages that you sent me. Just came back from Haiku (a few hours ago, actually). The birthday party in his house was great, and our Haiga Book brought tears to his eyes. I’ll post photos and the story of my trip to my LJ soon, so please welcome to read, everybody who is interested.

  2. In his poem To a Stranger: The last lines reinforce my feeling of earthiness in his work:

    It is through the sensate world of things
    that my spirit wings
    with songs of wonder. 2004

    This is his song…a song of the earth. Each of us have a song of our own to sing…and the joy of discovering what it is.

  3. When I had to choose a haiku to create a haiga for his 80th birthday celebration (thanks to Origa’s invitation…thanks Origa)…it was difficult to choose one…his work has so many depths to it. But Origa sent me a photo of his four dogs (all of which he rescued from the pound) and it came down to this one:

    A winter sadness…
    but my old dog comes to nuzzle
    with kindly eyes
    12/24/07 from the Cornell Haiku blog.

    There is a good bit of earthiness to his writing…a groundedness that knows where home is.

  4. A supplement to the current Montage:

    I hope the haiku community will join me in wishing a happy 80th birthday to James William Hackett, one of the true pioneers of our tradition.

    He discovered haiku in 1954 through the writings of R. H. Blyth and Alan Watts; but it wasn’t until after a near-fatal accident that he determined to devote himself to Zen and haiku. He received encouragement from the two godfathers of English-language haiku, Blyth and Harold Henderson, with whom he corresponded for many years. Hackett published 11 haiku in the inaugural issue of American Haiku (1963), including one that was judged the issue’s best. After the second issue of AH, he elected to go his own way, separate from the nascent haiku community. At that point his only real peers in English haiku were Southard and Virgilio.

    In 1964 thirty of his haiku appeared as an appendix to the second volume of Blyth’s History of Haiku. Also that year, a revised version of his “Bitter morning” haiku from AH 1.1 won the Japan Air Lines haiku competition, judged by Alan Watts. It was selected as the best entry from among no fewer than 41,000 submissions.

    In 1968, four volumes of Hackett’s Haiku Poetry were published in Japan and subsequently collected as The Way of Haiku. His work was praised by luminaries such as Blyth, Watts, Henderson, Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, Thomas Merton, and Joseph Wood Krutch as being a successful domestication of Japanese haiku. The list of concise suggestions for writing haiku in English that Hackett developed has frequently been cited. He has since published Zen Haiku and Other Zen Poems (1983) and A Traveler’s Haiku (2004). The link on my name will direct you to his current website, “The Haiku & Zen World of James W. Hackett”.

    Here are three more of his haiku:

    Drifting whitely
    over a deserted beach…
    the sound of surf.

    Nothing but mountains…
    and yet with every wind,
    the smell of the sea.

    An old spider web
    low above the forest floor,
    sagging full of seeds.

  5. Thanks a lot, David!
    Obviously there are more versions of this, as you mentioned:

    The first draft of this haiku read

    harukaze ya kooya ni utenu kiji no koe

    utenu, a form of the verb uteru, meaning “to be impressed, overwhelmed”.
    utenu could however be mixed up with 撃てぬ, not to shoot

    so the next draft was

    hiroki no o tada hito nomi ya kiji no koe

    The word UTENU has been transformed to more clear version of “tada hito-nomi ya”.

    But then, the first line did not read smoothly enough and in the end, this version was choosen

    haru no no o tada hito nomi ya kiji no koe

    and a bit more is here


  6. Sorry, there was a typo at the end of my last message. It should have read that haiku “…did not appear as a revision of the old hokku until near the beginning of the 20th century.”

  7. Gabi,

    “Hito-nomi” means to swallow in one gulp. It is used in the same way in hokku by Issa, one of his verses similarly referring to a pheasant’s cry (“kiji naku ya”).

    Incidentally, the version you gave is not the hokku translated in the example, which is simply:

    Hiroki no wo tada hito-nomi ya kiji no koe

    Elsewhere Blyth translated a variant hokku that is in Japanese not quite what you wrote, and his originals in both cases give hiragana for “nomi” and not kanji:

    Haru no no wo tada hito-nomi ya kiji no koe

    Spring’s field (object marker wo) — just one gulp (cutting word ya) — pheasant’s voice

    In any case, the kanji used here “呑” is a direct borrowing from Chinese, and even in Chinese — (“tūn” in Mandarin) — it means to swallow.

    So Blyth’s version is, as usual, quite accurate, though he reversed the elements in his translation of the first variant, which in the original are:

    Wide field (object marker wo) — only one gulp (cutting word ya) — pheasant’s voice

    In opening his mouth, the pheasant’s one great cry swallows — i. e. envelops — all the wide field.

    And I add my usual caution that hokku should never be confused with haiku, which did not appear as a revision of the old hokku until near the beginning of the 19th century.

  8. In one single cry,
    The pheasant has swallowed
    The broad field.

    — Yamei (trans. R. H. Blyth)

    I have been checking the Japanese for this one and found the following Chinese characters

    haru no no o tada hitotsu nomi ya kiji no koe

    Looking at the Chinese characters, I understand NOMI as “to be overwhelmed” のむ【呑む】, not a form of the verb NOMU 飲む, swallowing or drinking something.
    “hitotsu nomi” can also mean: only (this) one.)

    Can anyone shed more light on this translation?


  9. Allen, What a great contrast in poetic styles this Montage presents!
    It seems to me that “A trout leaps;” in one poets haiku, “Clouds are moving” in another; and the stream flows in the third. (Not necessarily in that order) Peter’s attention to bird shadow seems to recall the concept of chanting… What amazes me is how different they all are from each other in spite of them being so close not only in personal relationships but also in their study. Each listens to his own song.
    I have just finished a haiga for James W. Hackett’s 80th birthday celebration and his haiku are full of the warmth of a loving soul, and Christopher Herold’s use of words has always amazed me and taken me to places I’d never have known without knowing his work.
    Thanks for this Montage.

  10. Christopher Herold’s: bird shadow/ from tree shadow/ to fence shadow /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// ///
    is such a beautiful song. Not everyone agrees that haiku is poetry (Blythe, if I remember correctly did not) let alone lyric poetry, but this poem (I’ll go out on a fence and sing that) really is so wonderfully embodied: to say just a little I’ll note the different densities of shadow, modified 3 times by bird, tree and fence, each a different sound played with the constant of the word shadow itself, very easily the song of a sparrow or warbler– shadow shadow shadow/// bird shadow tree shadow fence shadow///– shades and hues and notes. You gotta really be there to write a poem like this.

    (But don’t get me wrong: there are a lotta places a poet can really be; more dimensions than out).

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