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Viral 2.5

Virals is a section in which one person chooses a haiku by another person and comments on that haiku. Then the author of that haiku is invited to select a haiku by someone else and comment on that poem, and so on. For an introduction to this section, see Virals.

Viral 2.5

ECHOES

BY Sue Stanford

谺(こだま)して山ほととぎすほしいまゝ

kodama shite yama hototogisu hoshii mama

making echoes the mountain cuckoo just as it likes

                        
                                                
—Sugita Hisajo 杉田久女 (translation by Sue Stanford)

This haiku by Sugita Hisajo, which won a prestigious prize in 1931 (one of the first prize winners out of more than 100,000 submissions), is remarkable for its simplicity and its resonance. Hisajo wrote that as she thought over the final phrase, she climbed Hikosan, the sacred mountain where she was first startled by the cry of this rarely heard bird, a number of times.

The simplicity of the haiku is apparent phonologically in the echo-like placement of the three “ma” sounds. Note the other chimes in its tightly controlled soundscape. Then there is the economical way in which, in just six words, Hisajo manages to give a sense of the extent and mystery of a mountain scene through the evocation of the random cries of a bird which can never be quite pinned to a definite location.

The haiku also works at an allegorical level. “Hototogisu” (lesser cuckoo), the name of the famous haiku group to which Hisajo belonged, is derived from the penname of its founder Masaoka “Shiki”. Suffering from tuberculosis, he identified with the cuckoo which was said to sing until it coughed up blood. Shiki’s approach to haiku composition stressed “ari no mama” – or things as they are. Hisajo, who was often frustrated by the roles available to her as a woman, both salutes this attitude and deflects it to express her own longing for freedom in her choice of “hoshi no mama“- just as [she] likes.

Some additional translations of Sugita Hisajo’s poem:

The mountain cuckoo creates echoes as it pleases

(translation by Hiroaki Sato, Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology, 2007)

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
keeps re-echoing—

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
little mountain cuckoo likes

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
having its own way


      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
(translation by Sasa Važić)

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
over these mountains

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
cuckoos’ trill echoes
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
as free as it wishes

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
(translation by Eiko Yachimoto)

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
in echoes . . .
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
a song of the mountain cuckoo
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
as I wish to play

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
(translation by Fay Aoyagi)

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
Voice echoing,
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
the mountain cuckoo,
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
does as it pleases

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
(translation by Waseda Weekly)

Sugita Hisajo (1890-1946) cannot select the next poem, and so Viral 2 comes to an end.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Viral 2.1 (Metz ➾ Beary)
Viral 2.2 (Beary ➾ Tauchner)
Viral 2.3 (Tauchner ➾ Brophy)
Viral 2.4 (Brophy ➾ Stanford)
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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