Friday, June 29, 2012

Radical, tragic Shiki.

Reading up a little on Issa's life has me thinking about another of the four haiku masters, MASAOKA Shiki (who lived much later than the other three, 1867–1902—note that he died at the young age of 35). He's a fascinating figure, and the more I read about him the more interesting I find him. He was from samurai stock but by his teens, in school (in the early 1880s), he was so strongly in favor of elections, civil rights, etc., that the school actually banned him from speaking in public (ca. 1882), as a pro-democracy radical:
In the 1870s and 1880s, the democratic movement was at its height, and one of its chief leaders was Taisuke Itagaki (1837–1919) from Kochi Prefecture... [...] [D]emocratic thought reigned at the school; yet after the principal's departure many students left, and their numbers decreased from 213 in 1879 to 102 in 1881. Among those strongly influenced by the former principal was Shiki. He neglected most of his schoolwork, so caught up was he in the excitement of making political speeches night after night with ten or so of his classmates. (source)
面白いですね。In the 1880s and 1890s he became a kind of poetry radical, intentionally picking up forms that were in decline in the 明治時代 Meiji era (specifically, haiku and tanka), dropping out of college to do so, and focusing on poetic reform. (What reforms he wanted, exactly, I don't yet know.) Late in his life he had a circle of acolytes and left Matsuyama for Toukyou.*

What's particularly poignant about Shikiさん, amazing as he was, is that he suffered from tuberculosis for much of his life. He was coughing up blood for about the last thirteen years and was bed-bound for the last five. (The source of his poetic name, Shiki, is the cuckoo ほととぎす, which is traditionally held to cough blood as it sings—at least, that's what I've read.) Last week at shuuji 先生 was kind enough to show me some of Shiki's writing, three poems on one page, written at different angles; 先生 said he probably was lying on his left side while writing. So, he may have lost some functioning before then. Beyond sad.

(Did I mention that, in addition to being one of the four great masters of haiku, Shikiさん went to China as a war correspondent in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 and also is in Japan's Baseball Hall of Fame? We all should achieve so much in so little time!) 

Fun fact: Shikiさん was a fellow middle-school student and friend of the novelist NATSUME Souseki, who also wrote haiku, and encouraged him in his writing. (Natsume wrote 坊っちゃん about his experience teaching there some twelve years after Shiki moved to Toukyou.) Apparently the government sent Natsume to study in England from 1901–1903 as Japan's first British literary scholar; since the UK census is conducted every ten years on the '01s, I checked the 1901 census for Natsume, and there he is! At #6, Flodden Road, Lambeth, K Natsume—he was born 金之助 Kinnosuke; Souseki was a pen name taken from his Chinese studies—34, Japanese, married, an instructor of literature. (Presumably his wife, Kyouko, was still in Japan.) Natsume later said that he'd pretty much hated his time in England and had felt alienated by British people. Interesting that there also was, boarding in that house, a Japanese merchant, TANAKA Kotarou. I wonder whether they'd known each other earlier in life—or, if not, why this boarding house would unusually be hosting two Japanese citizens, as there were only about 800 Japanese-born people in all of London at the time, and most of them were ancestrally British.

*I feel silly spelling "Tokyo" that way, but the difference between long and short vowels really is an important one, especially for students, like me; 日本語で they're written differently. So I'm going to be rigorous about it and transliterate things as faithfully as I can.

親のない雀 (Issa's rough life).

On Market Street this afternoon I saw a little sparrow, who presumably was looking for somewhere to enjoy a morsel that he had in his beak, repeatedly try to fly through a glass wall before giving up and winging goofily down the street. A bit later I saw him again, just standing there, looking confused. So I said to him,
我と来て 遊べや 親のない雀
ware to kite asobe ya oya no nai suzume
come and play with me, orphan sparrow
—which amused me because it's the poem (by Issa) that we're currently working on in shuuji. What satisfaction, to have an à propos haiku on hand for such occasions! すごく有名な句だそうです。(In shuuji we're writing the poem on tanzaku, with some interesting hentaigana: 我と来天 遊へ矢 親能ない雀.)

Haiku and Issa expert David G. Lanoue informs us that Issa wrote this poem in a journal in his early fifties, recounting an incident that happened when he was six. He revised it slightly five years later, changing only the form of asobu, "to play": 我と来て遊ぶや ("coming to play with me") in 1814 and then 我と来て遊べや ("come and play with me") in 1819. Apparently the command form is more popular now, but after a while it does start to sound a little stalky—until we realize that Issa himself was a kind of oya no nai suzume. His mother died when he was three, other kids mocked and ostracized him for being motherless, and then the grandmother he'd been living with died when he was fourteen, and then he didn't get along with his father's new family and at fifteen was kicked out to Toukyou to find work. (In later life he married three times, all his children died, he battled his stepmother for his inheritance, he fell into debt, and his house burned down. Pretty emo guy, all around.)

Looks like Issa wrote quite a few more 句 about sparrows and broken families:

(all below are from Lanoue's excellent Issa Archive, searched thusly)

yûgure ya oya nashi suzume nanto naku
how the orphan sparrow

mutsumajiki futaoya mochishi suzume kana
living in harmony—
the sparrow has
both parents!

nake yo nake yo oya [na]shi suzume otonashiki
sing, sing!
orphan sparrow...
so quiet

yûgure to ya suzume no mamako matsu ni naku
evening falls—
a stepchild sparrow
cries in the pine

oya suzume ko suzume yama mo isamu zo yo
parent sparrows
baby sparrows...
a happy mountain

suzumego ya oya no ken[ka] wo shiranu kao
baby sparrow—
his face unaware
of his parents' fights

kawaru-gawaru su no ban shitari oya suzume
taking turns
guarding the nest...
parent sparrows

suzumego wo asobasete oku tatami kana
the baby sparrow
is allowed to play...
tatami mat

oya no nai hitotsu suzume no futori keri
the lone orphan sparrow
and plump

mura suzume sara ni mamako wa nakari keri
flock of sparrows—
and not one of them
a stepchild

shonbori to suzume ni sae mo mamako kana
even among sparrows
a stepchild

giri no aru ko wo yobaru ka yo yû suzume
are you calling
for your stepchild?
evening sparrow
Interesting that he usually uses ままこ or ままっこ for "stepchild" but also uses 義理のある子, "debt/obligation child". Issa also wrote some poems about stunted growth in plants trapped in the shade of larger things. (One of them Lanoue mentions, in the shadow of 鬼婆山 "(W)itch Mountain", I'd love to find, but no luck so far.) I think that's the essence of haiku: a moment that's superficially simple but expresses larger themes (or deeper truths). Still waters that run deep.
takegire de tenarai [wo] suru mamako kana
with a bamboo splinter
practicing calligraphy...
the stepchild

Thursday, June 7, 2012

夏についての句。 (Summer haiku!)

Now that summer is officially upon us—well, as of a month ago in kigo time—it's just about time to wish a fond sayounara to the stone bridge–and–camellias tanka I've been working on and move back to summer themes. (椿 tsubaki, camellias, are a spring theme; the kanji radicals are literally tree + spring.) So, below is a stab at some haiku from a book that 習字の先生 gave us. The book divides them by period of summer, according to the old lunar calendar (officially out of use since 1873 but well worth reading about).

shoka (or, more amusingly, hatsunatsu)
early summer

kokoro koko ni naki ka nakanu ka hototogisu
cuckoo, is your mind on your singing, or not?
井原西鹤—IHARA Saikaku (aka Kakuei) (1642–1693)
ノート: Pun/witticism on the phrase "kokoro koko ni arazu" (心ここに有らず), to be distracted or not fully paying attention to the task at hand. from Chinese 心不在焉,視而不見,聴而不聞 (rendered in Japanese as 心焉ニ在ラザレバ、視レドモ見エズ、聴ケドモ聞コエズ—kokoro koko ni arazareba, miredo mo miezu, kikedo mo kikoezu "if you're not paying attention (if your mind/heart "isn't in residence"), you can look (視) but not see (見), listen (聴) but not hear (聞)". Or, maybe: "though one may look, [it] is not visible; though one may listen, [it] can't be heard". The book's editor suggests (I think) that the poet is wondering whether the reason why he can't hear the cuckoo is that the bird is singing carelessly (and thus can't be heard), or that the bird isn't singing at all. Interestingly, Ihara seems to have been at the vanguard of the literary tradition of (bawdy) stories of town merchants that developed into the ukiyo ("floating world") aesthetic that's now so closely identified with woodblock prints (Hiroshige, Hokusai, etc.). I've been reading one of his books.

hototogisu ika ni kijin mo tashika ni kike
the cuckoo's calling—angry gods, listen up!

西山宗因—NISHIYAMA Souin (1605–1682)
ノート (from the book):This "ika ni" (以下に) is borrowed from the Noh play "田村" (Tamura) and is often seen ("見れらる"—typo in the book?) in old haiku. (I looked at the text of Tamura and did find a mention of an angry/fierce god [鬼神]—"a roar of a demon, shaking rivers and mountains, echoed in the sky and filled the earth..." but nothing in its context that justifies いか beyond the sense of "below".) (Nishiyama is associated with the Danrin "laughing forest" haiku style, lighter and wittier than the "bookishness" [e.g., Bashou's] that was otherwise popular at the time. Apparently, Nishiyama studied with Bashou but then went back to his own style. Ihara above was his student.)
Correction: "ika ni" is 如何に—how, how much, etc.

me ni ha ooba yama hototogisu hatsugatsuo
before my eyes, fresh leaves, mountain cuckoo—season's first bonito
山口素堂—YAMAGUCHI Sodou (1642–1716)

Per the book's notes, first-bonito is a specialty in Kamakura. Apparently they usually show up in fish markets in May, the first catch released for sale (by law) on the first day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar. ("Hatsugatsuo" has furigana in the book, but the last character is を, not お. ?!)

shizukasa ya iwa ni shimihairu semi no koe
silence—the cicada's voice pierces the rocks
松尾芭蕉—MATSUO Bashou (1644–1694)
Book's note: This isn't the midsummer locust (盛夏の蝉), but the early locust. (The editor knows this how?) (Note that the book uses what I think must be an older form of semi, with two 口 at top right. Henshall doesn't list it.)

samidare o atsumete hayashi mogamigaha
uppermost river (?), collecting early-summer rain 
松尾芭蕉—MATSUO Bashou (1644–1694)

uki ware o sabishigaraseyo kankodori
make me lonelier, sake cup—cuckoo
松尾芭蕉—MATSUO Bashou (1644–1694)
Book's ノート: The cuckoo has (also) been called "kankodori" since long ago. This is a haiku about living alone and is famous for its "sabi" feel. (The aesthetic concept of sabi is hugely important, though to me still obscure; in tea specifically, it refers to the sheen, slight damage, etc., that things—tea bowls, etc.—acquire with years of use; desirable. But the kanji is the same as for loneliness, 寂しさ, so it also has a sense of poignancy, impermanence, isolation.) (See also this, about Bashou, Li Po, and the poet's three friends: moon, shadow, and sake cup. Raising the cup, we greet the bright moon / With my shadow we become three.)

sayataki (??) no mizu kumiyosete tokoro ten
(This one stumps me. Something about water collecting from the pure/clear/bright waterfall, and then some kind of ooze? To borrow a phrase from 上級へのとびら, 分かんないなぁ。。。。)
松尾芭蕉—MATSUO Bashou (1644–1694)

Many more, but for now.