Per Diem/Haiku of the Day for January 2023 features Guest Editor Shelley Baker-Gard’s collection on the theme of a new year. This is what Shelley has to say by way of introduction to this theme:
In the traditional Japanese lunar calendar, the beginning of the new year was a season beyond winter. Its timing was based on when the second new moon occurred after the winter solstice and started sometime between the last week of January and the last week of February on the Gregorian calendar. This helps explain why, in Japanese haiku written during the New Year Season, there is often a reference to the coming spring like weather frequently felt in February. Many of the Japanese haiku also are about the numerous celebrations in Japan during this special New Year season which lasts for several days. Once Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar, their celebrations and visits and cards to friends also began on January first.
For us who live in North America, January is traditionally the coldest month of the year, and it still is. However, if you are someone who has tended or visited the same plot of land over the past 30 years, you know that our Januarys are increasingly like the Februarys of the past – so now we too like the ancient Japanese poets can feel the coming of spring in our first month of the new year. This of course is sadly due to climate change and not to the cycles of the moon. I became poignantly aware of January becoming the new February as I made a daily commute by bike to and from work along a nature trail. I took this same path for over twenty years – all year long. I knew the personality of rain very well. The first January that I rode by the frog pond (really), it was near freezing and the chorus frogs were still sound asleep. That year, they did not begin their evening songs until mid-February. By the time I stopped this commute in 2020, they were singing in mid-January. They were my harbingers of spring.
One of the best reasons to read and write haiku is to remind ourselves and others of the importance of our relationship with nature. Another is to laugh together and appreciate the sense of optimism and renewal the new year brings. I hope readers enjoy this selection of haiku and senryu for this season (note: the translations of the Japanese poets’ haiku were taken from Blyth’s chapter “New Year Season” in Haiku Vol.2 Spring or from the book by robin d. gill, The Fifth Season.)