On day 2, Emiko Miyashita was discussing haiku from a haiku-translater’s point of view. She gave poems in Japanese and two versions of English.
She led discussions around strengths and weaknesses of what is conveyed and left out.
We all took a quick quiz on Japanese plant kigo using Santoka’s haiku she had translated with Paul Watsky (PIE Books, 2006). We were to guess the month and season of each plant that is indigenous to places outside north America. Many groaned about getting only 1 or 3 out of 10 right./ This pointed out how based in a particular time and place the season indicators are. Particular species have the power to reconstruct and present a time and place. The resonant weight of kigo is social, lived association with the the bamboo or radish tops. She gave this example,
If one is familiar with white radishes, the autumn season of harvest, and the habit of preserving them for winter, and how women gather by the riverbank to wash them, we can feel the suggestion of hands getting cold in the stream’s water. The sadness of closure can be invoked by the repetition. It isn’t as rich and nuances without that context. We are missing part of the cultural picture.
Now that haiku are written worldwide in Japanese and English, there is a diversity in season’s meaning. For example, spring begins on Feb 4th in Japan and March 21st in the west. Words are drawing on a variety of culture, language, climate and religion which make the meaning transference not as sure.
By tracing her development in learning haiku in Japan, and sharing ideas of Basho and Kyoshi Takahama, she presented how central kigo (season words) are in Japanese haiku, and ephasized that haiku is a seasonal poetry.