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The Haiku Seasons Paperback – February, 1997
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About the Author
William J. Higginson studied Japanese at Yale University where he discovered the haiku, and served, with the U.S. Air Force in Japan. He is a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, founded in 1968, and edited and published Haiku Magazine (1971-76). He has three published collections of longer poems and one of haiku, and has work appearing in magazines and anthologies worldwide. He has also taught in the National Endowment for the Arts "Poets-in-the Schools" program, leading writing workshops in hundreds of schools, and he regularly speaks at conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. Higginson's international anthology of haiku for children, Wind in the Long Grass, is a classroom favorite. His two-volume sequel to The Haiku Handbook, The Haiku Seasons and Haiku World, gives a comprehensive view of the history, present state, and international possibilities of seasonal consciousness in poetry.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
[The opening pages of the first section of Chapter 5, "The Haiku Seasons."]
From Seasons to Saijiki
All traditional Japanese poetry has historically been deeply involved with nature. Natural cycles, such as the seasons and the course of love relationships, have long been major subject matter for composition, the primary source of figurative language, and a large part of the basis for organizing poetry collections. According to principles of Japanese poetry well-recognized by the fifteenth century, certain words and phrases embody ideas that go beyond their literal meanings. For example, using the word "blossom" (hana), without the name of a specific blossom, means the blossoms of ornamental cherry trees. For any other blossom one must specify: "peach blossoms" (momo no hana), and so on. Further, the word "cherry" (sakura) always means "cherry blossoms"--unless one specifies "fruit of the cherry" (sakura no mi). This last is the reverse of the usual English practice, where the word "cherry" normally means the fruit and to specify the blossoms one says "cherry blossoms." But in Japanese poetry the principle goes deeper.
For the Japanese many natural phenomena and human activities and the words and phrases traditionally used to name them immediately bring to mind the seasons in which they typically occur--or become most noticed--along with a whole range of temporally-related images. The effect on the Japanese reader is somewhat like that for a New Englander who reads the phrase "the frost is on the pumpkin": One not only sees the whiteness covering the orange surface of the pumpkin, but also smells the scent of cut-over fields and woodsmoke, feels the nip of frost in the air, and perhaps thinks of a drink of hot apple cider. A friend, when asked what the phrase meant to her, came up with similar images, and without being prompted associated the phrase with Thanksgiving, in late November.
Every culture has phrases, often used in literature, which bring to mind whole complexes of associated images and feelings. Ezra Pound called the use of such phrases "logopoeia," which stimulates "the associations (intellectual or emotional) that have remained in the receiver's consciousness in relation to the actual words or word groups employed" (ABC of Reading). In Japanese traditional literature those "words or word groups" associated with the seasons have been particularly appreciated, and even catalogued.
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Top customer reviews
This wonderful book is organized into six chapters. The essence of haiku is explored in chapter one. Chapter two explains the seasons in older Japanese poetry. Chapter three focuses on the relationship of linked verse (Renga) and the seasons. Chapter four covers hokku, haiku, and senryu. The haiku seasons is explained in chapter five. The final chapter deals with “toward an international haiku almanac.” There is also a bibliography, acknowledgements, a season index and a general index.
I found this book to be a very interesting and informative read. If you are into haiku, senryu, and other short poem forms you should check out this volume.
Rating: 5 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: Zen Poetry Moments: Haiku and Senryu for special occasions.
frog leaps in
water sound (Basho translated by HIgginson)
It has been suggested that the difference between Western haiku and "real" haiku is the former's reluctance to make use of seasonal references. In this book, Higginson explains how the references can be used to convey a vast amount of sub-textual emotion and information by the use of key words and phrases. In short, he shows how it is possible for non-Japanese to use their own cultural and natural pointers, to be able to craft haiku that potentially has as much resonance as those of the Japanese masters.
Needless to say, if you are against the idea/convention/concept of "kigo", this book is not for you. However, if you want to really understand the way that haiku works, if you want to be able to comprehend all the nuances that go in to haiku, you need to at least read this book. It is fascinating and enlightening. Just as good haiku should be.
I particularly like Higginson's explanations of renku portions as well as the richness in scholarship and attention to historic detail. A keeper!
The sheer volume of truly transcendent haiku with kigo will not just evaporate and many haijin still utilise the kigo in haiku as well as in renga/renku experiments for which awareness of season is essential.