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An Interview With Toshiro Takeshita by Robert Wilson

Q. You have been writing haiku, haibun, and tanka for over forty years. How would you compare traditional haiku with modern haiku?

A. I do not think there is much difference at all. In Japan, many circles study an individual 'Master,' each with his own style and rules. Throughout history, this has been the case. Yet who is to say what style is 'the' haiku style. This has been debated for a very long time. My personal answer is there is no set form or rule. The only concrete rule in haiku has been, 'to each his or her own.' In any modern writer you can say: I see Issa in this one, I see Basho in that one, and Shiki in the next. Those three especially had very different styles, and even difference within their own styles.

Q. What state of mind do you have to be in when composing a haiku?

A. I write haiku in every state of mind. I think this is the only way to be true to your writing, as well as to add dimension. In life we have many emotions; each has its place in haiku. My inspirations come from moments in life. Sometimes I will be doing something, then all of a sudden a haiku will just hit me about that very action. Sometimes they come about from memories or even something I see on television or read. Sometimes even others' haiku light a spark.

Q. What to you constitutes a good haiku?

A. I think in haiku, the moment comes quick. So the importance comes in how the image is shown to the world. Haiku are so short that how you show inflection, emotion, time, structure, and sometimes insinuation is very, very important. If a haiku paints a picture for me and strikes a chord of emotion, then to me it is a good haiku.

Q. You are a Buddhist. How does your religious belief system affect your haiku?

A. In Buddhism, there is a thing called 'no self.' This simply means that we should actually view the world as it is, without attachment. This does not mean we should live as if not part of the world, only that we should see everything, as well as 'know' what it is we are seeing. This is not so easy to explain. But in short, it allows me to view things in their most simple state. Not just to view them, but to see them . . . and to experience them. This is one of the great benefits of haiku as a whole. It allows everyone to do these very same things. People who may never have paid very much attention to anything, once they start writing haiku, they start to look at things 'to see them.'

Q. Who is your favorite Haiku master and why?

A. My favorite haijin is Taneda Santoka. Taneda Santoka wrote haiku in a free verse form. He broke everyone's rules. Yet the simplicity of the day to day images in his haiku are among the best I have ever read. He did not write so much about an 'awakening moment' or 'zen moment.' He wrote about everything, right down to the most unimportant things. He was very poor, he drank too much, and was at times belligerent in his writing.Yet he was always honest in what he wrote, and wrote simply because he wanted to write. He did not want fame or recognition. He just wanted to write.

Q. Regarding the following haiku you recently wrote:

morning toast---
sunrise spreads over
last night's snow

Your haiku is beautiful and well crafted, making use of a symbiotic juxtaposition between morning toast and the spreading of the sun during sunrise. Please explain the process you went through when composing this haiku. What went through your mind? Why a juxtaposition?

A. This haiku was written exactly as it happened. I wish I could say there was a bolt of lightening or such. But to be honest, it was just a very ironic moment that made a good haiku. Like many people, when I am in the kitchen doing anything, I am looking out the window. The morning I wrote this, I was buttering my toast while looking out the window. It was right there in front of me. I could not pass it up.

Q. How important is the use of a kigo word when composing a haiku?

A. Kigo has its place, but it is not the most important thing. The truth and vividness of an image, and the story behind it is. If needed, I could place some type of kigo in every haiku I write. You can find haiku without at least an implied kigo by every classical haijin. But why? If it is not pertinent to the image, leave it out.

Toshiro Takeshita is a Japanese poet living in America. He was born in Sakai City, Osaka, but was brought up in Orlando, Florida, where he still lives. He has a long career as a poet, writing haiku, tanka, senryu and haibun, for over forty years. During that time, he has belonged to many literary circles at different times. He has closely studied all the major haiku masters from the beginning to modern times. He especially likes the work of Taneda Santoka. His current memberships include the World Haiku Club and the Evergreen English Haiku Society.

Toshiro Takeshita:



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