Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Autumn 2009, vol 7 no 3
 

HAIBUN
 

Wisteria Journal
Jim Kacian

 

These seventeen haibun are intended as a single work, to which there are attached an Introduction and a Dedication. Since you will be reading these only one at a time, however, it seems more appropriate that this apparatus follow the final installment, and this is where you will find them. My thanks to Simply Haiku for offering these in their entirety.

Jim Kacian

all afternoon it takes to move by train from Akita to Niigata down the Russian coast of Japan     a string of modest-sized towns, drenched in the soporific spring sunlight, drones with some small commerce     exchange a gathering of lunching rotarians from Ugo-Honjo for a gaggle of farmersí wives going shopping in Sakata, later children on their way home from school in outlying Amarume     all regard us with a pleasant curiosity, but none willing to sit beside us

pass by dams and alongside highways, under bridges and over ditches, coming to a first-hand knowledge of the challenges of this terrain, and of the many strategies by which people here have sought control     geography informs character, and character, Thomas Hardy tells us, is fate     the land here resplendent with personality     primal force manifests not in abstractions, but pure being: the perfect cone of Fuji, the cataract that is Yonjusanman     one of the earliest creation myths of Japan: the periodic awakenings of a giant koi, whose struggles deep beneath the sea shiver the land into seismic activity     animism, the popular religion for a millennium, still figures largely in the emotive, if not literal, lives of these folk

in the years following the A-Bomb koi and other creatures buried within racial memory re-emerged, but in a significantly different fashion    Godzilla, Mothra and others, whose movements once created the lay of this land, now move directly into the provenance of man, walking his roads, destroying his cities, completely oblivious to his resistance    they are subsumed only through combat with forces of equal magnitude—each other—and humans escape destruction only through their purblind indifference to us

a culture fraught with unpredictable and dire events will seek control as a guiding principal but there are cracks in such reasoning, just as there are cracks threading the tunnels of the Tokyo subway     control is an illusion we grant ourselves     as a basis of a cultural zeitgeist, it subverts the wild and actual world in favor of a manufactured and manageable one, as all art, all culture     bonsai, ikebana, and the like are not a love of nature as it is but as it may be shaped by hand     while reason may be fooled, we are not so easily misled at the level of myth     there we know we are ever powerless before the most potent of natureís forces, that engineering of the environment is never without incalculable, if not always apparent or immediate, expense, that in the end we have no other place in which to abide     an esthetic which counsels management of the unmanageable ultimately fails; it can succeed only as idea, and there atrophies, devoid of primal force

the landscape rolls on, the fields are largely empty just now, only within the month the cold Siberian wind has ceased to blow across the Northern Sea however, rape is in bloom, and vast fields of it stretch in all directions recall Busonís haiku

the same for us, two hundred fifty years later, as though nothing had changed here in all that time

this train, passing through city, suburb and field, provides a glimpse into the back yards and private spaces of peoplesí lives     everywhere neatly tended plots, tools ordered on benches, sculpted pines, characteristic of the people: apt, artless, sincere     occasionally a lawnchair planted in a garden, a manís washing hung in the suneverywhere tiny revelations, some easy to read, some less so, all suggestive of life beyond interior space, or rather, beyond an interiority mannered and easily translatable to a life spent out of doors, under the sun

 


Jim Kacian Jim Kacian is a past editor of Frogpond (the international membership journal of the Haiku Society of America, and the largest haiku magazine outside of Japan), is past president of the Haiku Society of America and was a co-founder of the World Haiku Association. He has had over 1000 haiku published in English-language journals and magazines in more than 20 countries and was winner most recently of the prestigious James Hackett Award (2002). He has published 7 books, all of which have won major awards. He is author of How to Haiku, a primer for English-speaking poets, as well as numerous articles on haiku form and praxis. He owns and operates Red Moon Press, the largest publishing house dedicated to haiku in the world.