Wild Geese – Brief Poems by Takaha Shugyo

Takaha Shugyo (鷹羽狩行) was born in the mountainous Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, on October 5th 1930. Due to the work of his father, he spent his youth in Onomichi (Inland Sea). He began writing haiku when he was 15 years old, studying with Yamaguchi Seishi and Akimoto Fujio. He received the Minister of Education’s Young Poets Award in 1965 for his haiku collection Birth and in 1975, the Mainichi Newspaper Art Award for Wing Lights and Thirteenth Day Moon. He is founder and leader of the haiku magazine KARI (Hunting) established in 1978. In 1979 he resigned from the company for which he had been working since graduating from university and now heads a group called Kari and earns his living as a selector and commentator. Since then he has devoted himself to haiku, providing guidance in the composition of haiku for the Kari Haiku Society’s thousands of members as well as publishing a monthly magazine, also called Kari. To this day he is the President of the Haijin Kyokai (the Association of Haiku Poets), which is the largest association of haiku poets in Japan and has some 14,000 members. Takaha Shugyo has consistently played a central role in the world of contemporary Japanese haiku and at the same time has been an enthusiastic exponent of the art of composing haiku overseas. He is also an executive director of HIA, a haiku judge for the Mainichi newspaper and NHK television’s national haiku contest, a director of the Japan Writers’ Association, and has won many awards for his haiku.

As a professional haiku poet, he has been known to judge some 30,000 haiku each month. That works out at  about 1,000 haiku per day, just the ones he’s judging, mostly for publication. He has even written a poem about this amazing achievement:

the chirping of tree crickets—
after having judged
a thousand verses in one day

He received many prices for his numerous haiku collections and has also written many educational texts about haiku. As one of his translators, Hoshino Tsunehiko has noted, Takaha Shugyo has consistently played a central role in the world of contemporary Japanese haikuand may be said to be one of the busiest and most productive professional haiku poets active in Japan today.

HAIKU CONVENTIONS

Takaha Shugyo preserves the convention of the 5/7/5 sound symbol pattern and, also, the use of a season-word. He places great importance on tradition and on classical haiku while also adding a contemporary touch to his own compositions. This is evident in one of his best-known poems, the first in the series below which is accompanied by four different translations. This was written in 1969, he explains, on a visit to New York, while looking down from the Empire State Building. During a month-long business trip to America in 1969, I wrote one hundred and seventeen haiku. I looked down on Central Park’s verdure (336 hectares) from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. Expressing it just as a miniature garden would be trite like a cheap picture postcard. From this height it looked like the parsley served on a dish in Western cuisine. I felt that this expression could convey my feeling. With the advance of internationalization, this verse was regarded as a groundbreaking example of haiku composed overseas by Japanese haikuists, but many people criticized it for that reason.

Hoshino Tsunehiko explains that the “contemporary note” that Takaha adds to his poems is an “intellectual lyricism” and a skill for “composing haiku overseas”.  He further remarks that this latter tendency “has provided us with many works which can serve as guides or models as to how to adapt season-words—poetic terms which were originally born from Japan’s climate, geography and culture—to the different seasons and climes of foreign countries.

Brief Poems by Takaha Shugyo

摩天楼より新緑がパセリほど

matenrō yori shinryoku ga paseri hodo

from the skyscraper
the fresh greenery of the trees—
just like parsley

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

___

From a skyscraper,
nothing but so much parsley—
springtime’s new greens

translation by Jack Stamm

___

from a skyscraper 
fresh green trees 
look like parsley

translation by Michael Dylan Welch and Emiko Miyashita

___

Seen from the skyscraper
the trees’ fresh greenery:
spring parsley

translation by Michael R. Burch

 

落椿われならば急流へ落つ

ochitsubaki ware naraba kyūryū e otsu

fallen camellias—
if I were one,
I’d throw myself into the torrent

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

___

if I were a fallen camellia
I would fall
into a rapid stream

Translation by Fay Aoyagi

___

Oh, fallen camellias,
if I were you,
I’d leap into the torrent!

translation by Michael R. Burch

 

スケートの濡れ刃たづさへ人妻よ

sukēto no nureba tazusae hitozuma yo

O, somebody’s wife!
carrying ice skates
with wet blades

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

***

ハート型彫られて一樹はや芽吹く

hātogata horarete ichiju haya mebuku

one tree,
a heart carved on its trunk,
buds early

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

___

A single tree,
a heart carved into its trunk,
blossoms prematurely …

translation by Michael R. Burch

 

美しき五月の汗を拭はずに

utsukushiki gogatsu no ase o nuguwazu ni

sweat in May—
too beautiful
to wipe it off

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

***

 秋暑し籠のひしめく小鳥市

aki atsushi kago no hishimeku kotoriichi

autumn heat—
the cages jostle
at the bird market

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

***

馬小屋の一頭で満ちクリスマス

umagoya no ittō de michi kurisumasu

one horse fills
the nativity stable—
Christmas

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

 

kurumi waru kurumi no naka ni tsukawanu heya

cracking open a walnut —
inside the shell,
one unused room

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

___

Inside the cracked shell
of a walnut:
one empty room

translation by Michael R. Burch

***

道化服ぬがずてんたう虫の死よ

dōkefuku nugazu tentōmushi no shi yo

still wearing
its clown’s costume,
the ladybird has died

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

___

Still clad in its clown’s costume—
the dead ladybird.

translation by Michael R. Burch

 

雁渡るらし燭の火の揺れつづけ

kari wataru rashi shoku no hi no yuretsuzuke

geese seem to be flying south—
the candle’s flame
continues to flicker

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

___

Are the geese flying south?
The candle continues to flicker …

translation by Michael R. Burch

***

kari sugishi ato zenten o miseitari

Wild geese pass
leaving the emptiness of heaven
revealed

translation by Michael R. Burch

___

Wild geese pass
Revealing
The whole of heaven

translation by Tsunehiko Hoshino and Adrian Pinnington

 

 

LINKS

A brief profile and five poems on the Haiku International Association website.

Arriving Geese: Learning from Shugyō Takaha

The Takaha Shugyo page on the Introducing Haiku Poets and Topics site.

Translations by Michael R. Burch of poems by Takaha Shugyo are included on the Haiku: the Best of the Masters page on the HyperTexts site.

The image used on this page is a woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshige, Full Moon at Takanawa.

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Michael R. Burch in providing original Japanese poems and his translations for this post.

2 thoughts on “Wild Geese – Brief Poems by Takaha Shugyo

  1. Pingback: Pearls – Brief Poems by Michael R. Burch | Brief Poems

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