RW: Mr. Kishimoto, your writing style is known for its simplicity.
Tell me more about it and the journey you took to develop it.
KN: I try to write haiku using a minimum of adjectives and verbs.
For me, the ideal haiku is one without verbs. A haiku consisting
of nouns is my ultimate
goal. Adjectives and verbs make haiku loud and talkative. If I can compose
a haiku with a minimum of nouns, the better. The haiku then becomes
After examining my haiku repeatedly, and discussing them with my
haiku friends, I have concluded that the most powerful force of
haiku originates in its
simplicity. If I select the nouns properly, use few adjectives, and rarely
use verbs, the
style of haiku becomes simpler and simpler.
RW: You have studied haiku
under some of the best poets in Japan including Dr. Akito Arima.
Tell us about
the poets I have studied under, Mr. Hatano Sôha is the most important.
I met Mr. Hatano when I was 20 years old. I studied
under his tutelage
for 10 years until he passed away at the age of 68. Mr. Hatano was a
disciple of Mr.
Takahama Kyosi. Perhaps you have heard of him. He was one of the most
important modern haiku poets in Japan. ("Modern" means "in
and after the Meiji Era, 1868-1912, in Japanese history.")
Mr. Hatano's style is known for its objectivity and sensitivity. Please
allow me to introduce to you my favorite haiku by Mr. Hatano:
Nisibi sasi, soko ugokasenu Mono bakari
the sun penetrates from the west
from there is nothing movable
Mr. Hatano lived near Kyoto while
I lived far away in Yokohama near Tokyo. We met therefore, only
once or twice
I sent my
haiku to him monthly. He selected my good pieces and abandoned
the bad ones. We discussed haiku mostly over the telephone. When he
died of cancer,
a need to become independent as a poet. Mr. Hatano was also in
his thirties when his teacher, Mr. Takahama Kyosi, passed away.
You've stated that you were inspired by Mr. Akutagawa Ryûnosuke's
haiku. How did his haiku inspire you and what is it about his haiku
that you admire? Can you give us examples?
KN: The following haiku by Mr. Akutagawa inspired me:
Kogarashi ya Mezashi ni nokoru Umi no iro
preserved in dry sardines
the color of the sea
Mr. Akutagawa's haiku here expresses the cosmic relationship between
the slight signs of life in the dried sardines and the
dynamic energy of the
RW: What is it you look for when composing a haiku?
KN: I hope that a haiku can awaken the reader's feeling
that everything - insects, grasses, human beings, and
all - has
equal value in
the haiku world.
social context figure into your work?
KN: No, it does not. Of course, I live in social context
as a citizen, but I am not especially interested in
as a poet.
I understand you have written haiku since you were in junior
school. The last thing a
lot of children that age want to do is to read
or write poetry. What was it about
haiku that caught your eye, that caused you to
jump into Bashô's pond, that sent you
down a road usually traveled by adults?
KN: I was interested first in nature, with an emphasis
on living things; secondly, I was drawn to literature,
poetry; and lastly,
fine art, with a focus on painting. I had ambition
to create something unique. Through haiku, I dreamed
a world that included
all of my interests.
Haiku was the most suitable vehicle for me to accomplish
this, in spite of my young age.
What differences do you see between
KN: Syllables in the Japanese language are different
than those used in the English language. Simplicity
is the core
and I guess the themes and motifs can be common
to both schools of haiku as well.
RW: What advice
for those new
KN: My principle advice is as follows:
Trust the imagination of readers.
Compose a haiku dedicated to the most
Kishimoto Naoki Te
wo tsuke te Umi no tsumetaki Sakura kana
As I dip my hand
The coolness of the sea
Mushishigure Neko wo tsukame ba atatakaki
Crickets singing like rain:
Catching a cat
Catching the warmness
Hito yukite sukoshi Nai aru Aki no Yowa
After he passed away
A slight earthquake
Hachi wo kaku shidai ni Cho ni nite kitaru
I'm drawing a bee . . .
The bee becomes more and more
Like a butterfly
Haka ni Kao araba to omou Nowake kana
I wonder how it
Might be if a face were on a tombstone
In an autumn storm
Yakiimo no Yuge mite toru Todaiji
Looking at the steam
From a baked sweet potato
I pass the Todaiji Temple
Kishimoto (1961- ) was born in Okayama Prefecture. Inspired
by Ryunosuke Akutagawa's haiku, he began writing haiku in junior
high school. As a student at Tokyo University, he joined haiku groups
led by Tetsuo Kosada, Akito Arima, and Seison Yamaguchi.
the Shinjinsho ("New Voice") Award from the Association
of Haiku Poets (Haijin Kyokai) in 1995. He has published three
haiku collections, Keito ("Cockscomb," 1986),
Shun (name of an ancient Chinese king, 1994), and Kentan ("Healthy
as well as two books of essays on haiku. He is a leading member of the Ten'i
Yane ("Roof"), and Yu haiku groups. His writing, following the traditional
style, is known for its simplicity and plainness.