giving a shout out and a little love…

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My dear friend and fellow blogger AshiAkira is publishing a book of his wonderful haiku poems. I met him seven years ago when I was a baby blogger. All those years and he’s never stopped writing and sharing his amazing gift. And now I’m happy to give a shout-out and highlight his upcoming launch. Please look for purchasing details at the end of this post.

And now, let me introduce AshiAkira, using his own words. Because, well, he says it best!

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I became interested in writing haiku poems originally in English after I turned seventy.

Born in Tokyo in 1938, I went to the United States for study after graduating from a Tokyo metropolitan senior high school in 1957.

After returning to Japan from the United States in 1963, I worked for a news agency as an English reporter, thus continuing the use of the English language I had learned in the previous years in America. After reaching the mandatory retirement age of sixty with the news agency in 1998, I continued to work for its subsidiaries taking charge of correspondence and translation, thus further continuing to make use of my English skills.

When I reached the age of seventy, I fully retired from all the chores of work to make a living and decided to live on a pension alone. My income then drastically went down, but in return, I gained enough leisure to do whatever I wanted, and I chose to spend the remaining years of my life in writing novels, short stories, poems, or anything I found myself interested in.

I then noticed on the internet that haiku writing was gaining considerable popularity in many countries outside Japan. I didn’t have much knowledge of haiku writing above the common sense level of a person born and raised in Japan, where saying things in the haiku rhythm penetrates through people’s lives. But I felt something amiss about many of the haikus written by non-Japanese writers, and I thought it would be interesting to write haikus directly in English.

When I told a friend of mine that I’d try to write haikus in English, he introduced me to a member of the haiku-writing club of a famous university in Tokyo. The haiku writer apparently discussed my plan with other members of the club, and he told me it was utterly impossible to write haikus in English or in any other language than Japanese. He said that I should first train myself to write in Japanese until I became familiar with traditional haiku writing. He said he resented so many non-Japanese poems that are claimed to be haikus simply because they are short and broken into three lines. He said many Japanese haiku writers feel the word haiku should not be used for the non-Japanese three-line poems.

I know it’s said that “poetry is what gets lost in translation,” but I also believe that the prosody is not all there is to poetry. Having been born into and grown up in the haiku-writing culture, I feel there is something in the core of haiku that can be retained in whatever language it is written.

I decided to call what I would write haiku poems, meaning haiku-style poems, instead of haiku to avoid hurting the feeling of the haiku experts as much as possible. I also decided to throw away all rules and tradition about the haiku writing except two basic ones, namely the five-seven-five syllables—rhythm—and its connection with nature, without which a haiku cannot be a haiku.

The Japanese language, when it’s spoken in five and seven syllables, gives to the Japanese ear a pleasant rhythm. I believe this stems from the fact that Japanese is always pronounced in combination of a consonant and a vowel or in a vowel independent of consonant clusters. It is also because Japanese is pronounced with the tone accent rather than the stress accent, like that of English.

For hundreds of years, saying things in the five-seven-five syllables was popular among the Japanese people, and it was called haikai. Several people might get together for a party where they would compose the haikai, mainly jokes to throw at each other or allusive sarcasm against corrupt or oppressive officials of the feudal rule that lasted until nineteenth century.

It was Matsuo Basho who made the revolutionary achievement of writing poems of artistic value in the haikai form in the seventeenth century. There was no such a word as haiku in Basho’s days. It was not until about two hundred years after his death that the writers of artistic haikai began to call their works haiku to distinguish them as an art from jokes or allusively ironic pieces which then began to be called senryu or kyoka, respectively.

The counting of syllables in an English word varies from speaker to speaker. The word poem pronounced by some English speakers, for instance, sounds like a one-syllable word or by others as a two syllable word. The word poet, however, is pronounced almost always as a two-syllable word. Thus, the haiku poems I write in English often follow the five-seven-five syllable rule loosely.

Connection with nature is another basic core tradition in the haiku writing. The reason for this would no doubt call for heated discussion by experts. But as a full-blooded Japanese who received more education outside Japan than at home, I must ask for others’ permission to say that the haiku artists feel that nature is the ultimate ruler of all living things deserving our due respect. We all came into this world by the natural power in disregard of our own will. And in most of the cases, we leave this world when the time for each individual to do so comes. Before nature we are powerless. We don’t know what nature is as we don’t know what life is. But we can have a glimpse of what happens in nature as its work. For example, the blooming of flowers and birds flying and chirping are works of nature. By catching a glimpse of nature’s work, only a momentary spark, and jotting it down in words as a reflection of our mind, we may get closer to knowing it. The five-seven-five-syllable poem, or close to it in any language, is a handy form of poetry to capture the works of nature when noticed. Doing so could be a way to bring the unseen power of nature into the human consciousness.

I have written around two thousand haiku poems in nearly a decade, and I have randomly selected and edited 496 of them for this publication. I plan to publish all the rest of them, in addition to other forms of poems I have also written, in the future.

Finally, since so much must be squeezed into the seventeen syllables, I take full advantage of poetic license to disregard grammar or any rule of the language. Since I intend my haiku poems to appeal directly to the imagination of the readers through words only, the use of pictures or illustrations is avoided. And like any other form of poetry, each haiku poem, although it’s so short, is meant to be independent. I would be honored if the readers read them as such.

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AshiAkira’s book will go into full global distribution networks, including Amazon.com and BN.com in the next 6-8 weeks. For the time being the book can be purchased directly from Lulu, and the link to the page for the purchase is:  http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/haiku-poems/20836642

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matchmaker Monday… short stories and other stuff

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Well, it’s Monday again. And that means happiness because I get to share with you an awesome link. I must thank my friend, Kassie, over at http://youwhoineverknew.wordpress.com for this wonderful information. She’s an amazing writer and a dear friend.

This one is geared toward poetry and short story contests. The Review Review is a great place to check out some upcoming and ongoing contests.

I’m no poet, but I can appreciate the value of creating short stories. As Kassie and I recently discussed, there’s something so fulfilling to creating and FINISHING a piece– especially when you are in the midst of a huge writing project. It gives you confidence that you can complete something and teaches you the fine art of pacing.

In one of my previous blogs (http://letterstorosa.wordpress.com) I traced my father’s tree and wrote some of my family’s history in the form of creative non-fiction. Rosa was my great-grandmother (pictured above. The young woman to her right is my gram, Mary Blaine). They were French Canadian immigrants who settled in Vermont. I’ll share with you a story from that blog, if you don’t mind.

Ready? Cause, here we go…

 

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Dear Rosa,

I saw you, mid-morning on a clear fall day. You were hanging the wash and fretting about chores not done. A quick glance at the sky confirmed what your aching joints were telling you. Blue now, but white mare’s tails promised cold, fall rain.

A snap of a sheet and you continued. Hurry, hurry, the words echoed in your mind, there’s still wood to stack and cover, the garden needs to be put to bed and Mary, dear sweet Mary, needs help with that brood of young children…

A soft breeze rustled the trees and carried the scent of lavender. And so you stopped. Busy hands held the damp sheet close as you took a deep breath. There, mixed with the spice of the lavender was the smell of fall.

What propelled you to stop your chores, drape the wet sheet haphazardly over the line and step away? Did your heart tell you what your body already sensed?

See, Rosa Blaine, see how busy you are today and a fine, hard-working woman you are. Yet, you should know, there are changes coming… the winter time of life approaches. Take this moment, Rosa, to enjoy the colors. Survival is not always enough. One must also find the joy.

And so you grabbed your shawl, tossed it about your shoulders and set off. No word to Henry, your husband, who was splitting wood across the yard. Just following instinct, you walked down Summer Street with a hello to Maude, your sister-in-law, and yes, the children and see how they’ve grown. At the end, you turned right and pushed on to Lovers Lane. The colors would be best there, from the maples trees that lined the dirt road.

A knee began to ache, telling you to slow, but you ignored it and pressed on. One moment, you thought, just one damn moment to be a woman. Not a mother, a grandmother, a wife struggling in rural Vermont. Not a woman who’d watched the ’27 flood wash everything away. Not a mother who’d buried a little boy but four years old…

You sought the rock, the large one on the right side of the road and sat down. Autumn colors swam before your vision. Golden leaves from the beech trees, orange from the yellow birch, but your favorite was the stunning, unnatural red from the maples. Late afternoon sun deepened the green fields and cast long, purple shadows across the cows that grazed so peacefully. More colors to wash your cares away.

And look at you, Rosa, you look ten years younger. Happy almost. No memories of lost children or grinding poverty. Just this moment to sit and see and rest.

I like to think of you that way. Sitting on that rock with sunlight dancing off the leaves above your head. I like to imagine your smile, soft and carefree as you wrap your shawl around your shoulders and breathe in the splendor that is Vermont in autumn.