Inner happiness

Days I don’t enjoy:

Any day I don’t walk.
Any day I don’t drink sakè.
Any day I don’t compose haiku.
– Taneda Santōka

In these volatile times it feels more important than ever to identify just what brings me inner feelings of contentment and stability.   What activities really resonate with my true nature – my authentic self?   The world is full of suggestions, even directives, as to what that might.   Well-meaning friends and family, advertisers, authority figures, banks and insurance companies all have opinions as to what I should be doing with my time, energy and resources.

More and more I am finding that there is a deeper authority that knows exactly what  makes me feel most content.  It has nothing to do with what the world tells me I should do for it is that quiet inner voice I can only hear when I take time out away from external distractions.

The later years of Taneda Santōka’s life were spent seeking to live in tune with this voice.

Pierce the poverty of the poorest man,
throw yourself into the most foolish foolishness.
Rather than imitate anyone else
Use the nature you were born with.
                                     –   Taneda Santōka

Kikusha-Ni  appears to have spent her life listening to it:-

Licking the fragrance
of immeasurable happiness –
the taste of dew
                           – Kikusha-Ni

Of course, what brings inner happiness is different for everyone.   The reclusive Buddhist monk/poet Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831) described his own formula for contentment thus:-

Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to the night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.

038 - Copy

Prompt:   This week ‘s prompt is to take some time out and reflect on what brings you true contentment.   You are invited to write a haiku or related form on this theme.   The poetic form of tanka could work here for it allows more room for expression of personal feelings and emotions than traditional haiku.   This week I have added a new Page to the blog  –   About Tanka

I hope you enjoy the prompt.   Please post a link your response in the comment thread below.   The tag #ontheroadprompts can help others find your work.

You are also welcome to add this logo to your post if you want picture_thumb.jpg

 

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Embracing Wabi Sabi

Wabi-sabi is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It is an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect and even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things.  -Andrew Juniper

One of my daughters pointed out to me that the exhaustion and health problems I am experiencing right now sound exactly the same as the symptoms I experienced when I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome several years ago.   The acute phase of my illness then lasted for about three years.   After that I spent a year or so making the long slow journey to recovery.   Over the next few years I had several relapses (such is the nature of the condition) but for the past couple of  years I’ve been feeling much better and had come to think of myself as cured.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been experiencing extreme exhaustion and other physical symptoms that are all too familiar.   I’d been passing it all off by saying things like “it’s the weather” or “I’ve been working too hard” but the time has come to acknowledge that I am, in fact, experiencing another relapse.

The only way I know to recover from this is to rest often, take Chinese herbal remedies and to live a very quiet life where stress is kept to minimum.  Meditation and time spent contemplating the ‘transient beauty in the physical world’ are powerful healing tools as well.   My past pattern that is that I’ll slowly regain better health but the recovery can’t be rushed.  I also know from past experience if I don’t heed the warning signs now I will become progressively worse.

Going through drafts of ideas for On the Road prompts I came across words of the Japanese Architect, Tadao Ando.  http://www.nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/WhatIsWabi-Sabi.htm

‘Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.’

It’s time for me embrace my frayed edges.

prompt:   The concept of wabi-sabi underlies haiku.

Loneliness—
Standing amid the blossoms,
A cypress tree.
– Basho   (found on http://simplyhaiku.com/SHv5n2/features/Irwin.html )

I’m having a bit of trouble putting words together in a coherent way at present but if you want to write a haiku or related form that reflects ideas of wabi-sabi please leave a link to your work in the comment thread.   Hopefully I ‘ll be feeling more coherent next week.  Thank you – Suzanne

chronicals

 

Light on the Road

“Above all, the way of haiku is to put emptiness first and substance last”  
– Nishiyama Soin (1605-1682), acquaintance of Basho

For a long time I struggled to understand what the Buddhists meant by the term emptiness (Sunyata).

The sound of silence
is all the instruction
you’ll get
  – Jack Kerouac

I had been interpreting the word in a Western way and was thinking of emptiness in terms of absence, nothingness and negativity.   What I had not understood that the Buddhist concept of  emptiness embodies the qualities of openness, spaciousness and the union of opposites – that middle ground where Yin and Yang are in perfect balance.  It is potent space of mental and emotional freedom – a space of utter fullness that resonates with creative potential.   The Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield describes it as “the fertile ground of energy that gives rise to all forms of life”.

midnight – no waves, no wind
the empty boat is
flooded with moonlight
– Dogen (1200-1253)

“We paid homage at Gongen Shrine on the fifth. The first shrine on the mountain, it was built by Nojo, no one knows exactly when, The Engi Ceremonies calls it Ushusato Mountain, Feather Province Village Mountain, but calligraphers’ errors got it changed to Feather Black Mountain, The province is called Dewa, Feather Tribute, dating from an eighth-century custom whereby feather down from this region was used as payment of tribute. Together with Moon Mountain and Bath Mountain, Feather Black Mountain completes the Dewa Sanzan, or Three Holy Mountains of Dewa. This temple is Tendai sect, like the one in Edo on Toei Hill. Both follow the doctrine of shikaxaztz, ‘deep-sitting concentration and insight,” a way of enlightenment as transparent as moonlight, its light infinitely increasing, spreading from hermitage to mountaintop and back, reverence and compassion shining in everything it touches. Its blessing flows down from these mountains, enriching all our lives.” – Basho – “The Narrow Road to the Deep Interior”.

Image result for Zen emptiness
image source – https://laotzulaozi.wordpress.com/2007/09/01/iluminarea-in-zen/

PROMPT:

“If you want to become full, let yourself become empty” – Tao te Ching

Create a haiku or related form inspired by the concept of emptiness.

Please post a link to your post in the comment.   You can use the tag #ontheroadprompts to help others find your work.

You can also paste this logo into your post if you like.  picture_thumb.jpg

Here’s a list of recent responses to On the Road prompts.

https://odaciuk.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/suzannes-on-the-road-prompt/

https://whippetwisdom.com/2016/09/14/pause-here-on-your-journey/

https://ontheland.blog/2017/09/12/suchness/

https://whippetwisdom.com/2017/09/12/haiku-trees-beside-the-water/

https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/the-suchness-of-things/

Please let me know if I’ve overlooked anyone’s response this week.  I was copying the links as they came in then accidentally deleted the list.

Sources for this post –

https://poetrysociety.org.nz/affiliates/haiku-nz/haiku-poems-articles/archived-articles/haiku-and-zen/
http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/en/index.php/Yin_and_yang
http://lukestorms.com/2007/12/17/the-narrow-road-to-the-interior/

 

Flowers beside the road

In traditional Japanese society women were not permitted to join the haiku circles of the male poets.  Despite this many women wrote haiku.   Because they were generally confined to the home and domestic duties their haiku tends to focus on everyday life.  For this reason their poetry was often dis-regarded and considered to be ‘kitchen haiku’.

The frustration these women felt finds voice in their haiku.   Early in the 18th century Chiyo Ni wrote:-

Airing out kimonos
as well as her heart
in never enough.
– Chiyo-Ni

Early in the 20th century  Sugita Hisajo wrote:-

Pressed into the obi
too tight and rigid
an autumn fan

Despite, or perhaps because of their frustration, the women haijin found their spirituality in the world around them.

Spirit of women
keeping on!
indigo dyed yukala
                   – Sugita Hisajo

Through observation of the ordinary things around them they develop an acute awareness of the sacredness of all things.  Even the most menial tasks can be infused with this awareness.

stopping 
my work in the sink 
voice of the uguisu
                 -Chigetsu

The translation of uguisu is nightingale.

Everyone is asleep 
There is nothing to come between 
the moon and me.
                    -Seifu-jo

The morning glory!
It has taken the well bucket,
I must seek elsewhere for water.
                               – Chiyo Ni

T.D. Suzuki says of this haiku – “The idea is this: One summer morning Chiyo the poetess got up early wishing to draw water from the well…She found the bucket entwined by the blooming morning glory vine. She was so struck…that she forgot all about her business and stood before it thoroughly absorbed in contemplation. The only words she could utter were ‘Oh, the morning glory!’ At the time, the poetess was not conscious of herself or of the morning glory as standing against [outside] her. Her mind was filled with the flower, the whole world turned into the flower, she was the flower itself…” D.T. Suzuki – google book

Prompt:

IMG_20170329_173028

 

Rice flowers 
these too, the gift 
of Buddha
                  – Chigetsu

Please leave a link your post in the comment thread below.   You can tag your post #ontheroadprompts  so that others can find your post.

picture_thumb.jpg   You are welcome to use this logo if you want.

I will post a list of your responses next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A heart as clear as water

“When beauty is expressed in terms of Buddhism, it is a form of self- enjoyment of the suchness of things. Flowers are flowers, mountains are mountains, I sit here, you stand there, and the world goes on from eternity to eternity, this is the suchness of things.” – D.T. Suzuki

Related imageChiyo -Ni beside the well –  Utagawa  Kuniyoshi           

The haiku poet Chiyo Ni (1703-1775) was the daughter of a scroll maker.   At the age of five she wrote her first haiku and was introduced to the work of Basho at 12.   Basho’s journey to the deep north had taken him through the area where she lived and his haiku techniques influenced the poets of the region.  Although Chiyo studied his work she retained her individuality.

To listen,
fine not to listen, fine too…
nightingale
– (trans. Lenore Mayhew)

When she was twenty Chiyo-Ni married the servant of a Samurai.   After only two years of marriage her husband died.

sitting up I see
lying down I see
how wide the mosquito net
– (trans. Jane Reichhold)

This tragedy was compounded by the death of her only child.

dragonfly hunter
how far has he traveled
today I wonder?
– (trans. Jane Reichhold)

Returning home she cared for her parents in their old age.

parents older than I
are now my children
the same cicadas
– (trans. Jane Reichhold)

As the years passed the heartbreak of her early life was distilled into a way of life known as  fugo no michi or Haikai the way of refinement of one’s own life and art. 

loneliness
lies within the listener –
a cuckoo’s call
– (Trans. Patricia Donegan) 

In her early 50s Chiyo-Ni became a Buddhist nun.   Not because she wanted to renounce the world but because she wanted ‘to teach her heart to be like the clear water which flows night and day.’

Although she was an accomplished poet, calligrapher and painter Chiyo-Ni always sought to learn more.   When a haiku master visited her town she asked him to teach her. He instructed her to compose a haiku about the cuckoo, a bird which sings at night.   Chiyo-Ni complied but her efforts were rejected by the master as being too conceptual.   Searching for the perfect haiku she spent a night meditating on the cuckoo.   At last, with dawn, a haiku formed in her mind.

Calling “cuckoo”, “cuckoo”
All through the night,
It dawns at last.

The haiku master accepted this haiku because it communicated her true feelings.
D.T. Suzuki, the Buddhist writer, says of this haiku –  “Chiyo’s haiku… reflects her minds’s sincerity… Sincerity means to be true to one’s own nature, to realize suchness, to attain a state of single-mindedness or “one-pointed-ness ”  (ekagrata)”

Mid week prompt:

Flowers are flowers, mountains are mountains, I sit here, you stand there, and the world goes on from eternity to eternity, this is the suchness of things. – D.T. Suzuki

 In the basin of water
 the slap,slap
 of waves
– Chiyo-Ni (trans. Leonara Mayhew)

044

Please leave a link to your response in the comment thread.   You can add the tag
#ontheroadprompts to your post to help others find your work.

picture_thumb.jpg Here’s a logo to cut and paste into your post if you want.

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I know I am not alone in finding the current times difficult to negotiate.   Last week was tricky for me and the road went through a particularly rocky patch.   Among other things my list of links to your responses went a bit haywire.   Here’s a fresh list of responses.   I hope I have included everyone.  Please let me know if I’ve left anyone out.   It would have been entirely accidental.

Thanks so much for your patience.

https://morselsandscraps3.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/cemetery-beach-gives-again/

https://ontheland.blog/2017/09/02/wandering%EF%BB%BF-2/

https://cheryllynnroberts.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/traveling-with-the-moon-troiku/ 

https://ontheland.blog/2017/08/27/young-moon/

https://odaciuk.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/on-the-road-being-in-the-world/

https://whippetwisdom.com/2017/08/24/tanka-joie-de-vivre/

https://morselsandscraps3.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/ripples-and-subtleties/

https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/step-by-stepsky-quilt/

Sources for this post:   (where-ever possible I have included the name of the translator under the haiku)

http://webpages.charter.net/sn9/literature/poetry/chiyo.html
https://www.upaya.org/program/way-haiku-chiyo-issa/?id=1708
D.T. Suzuki – google books
https://wkdhaikutopics.blogspot.com.au/2007/03/chiyo-ni.html
https://hubpages.com/literature/Classic-Haiku-Chiyo-ni

 

Not a prompt…

Having written myself into a corner on the road I turned back and read expert opinions about which way to travel.   There were so many experts offering so many opinions my head spun.  It seemed too that they couldn’t agree.  One said go this way, another said no, go another.  Yet more referenced the past and formed opinions as to how the road had been travelled then.   They disagreed with each other as to what paths had been taken.

My eyes ached and the words merged into a fog of obscuration.

I pulled off the road.   The only thing I could find to hold onto were these words of Basho –  “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.”

Ok, I thought, spring is coming here.  I’ll sit in my garden, watch the grass grow and forget about the world and its experts.

20160225_165544  As I sat I began to think about the women haiku I ‘d written about.   The big name Japanese haiku poets from the past are all men.   Most of the modern experts are men.   Not many mention the women haijun.

Here on this meandering road it is the women that are talking to each other.   It is women that are writing haiku.  Apparently this is also the case in modern Japan.  These days more women than men write haiku there.

These realisations snapped me out of my funk.   The road had presented me with new directions.    It is time to really explore the path taken by the women haiku poets of old.   Exploring the ideas behind Basho’s wanderings is another path to journey along.

Haiku Ukiyo-e by Kitagawa Utamaro, woodblock print  Haiku Ukiyo-e by Kitagawa Utamaro – from wikipedia,org

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This is not a prompt.   This coming week I’m going to spend more time watching the grass grow.   I’m going to let my thoughts flow where they will.  Last week I wrote that modern society doesn’t support meditating mendicants.   Last night when I browsing the internet I discovered that the town I live in has recently re-opened a Japanese garden.   This public garden was created in the 1970s but had become overgrown and neglected.   It is has now been restored and is open to the public.   One of the features is a mendicant’s hut!    I shall explore it this week. Perhaps a haiku will emerge.

You are welcome to pursue a similar course of action/non-action and post a link to any haiku, tanka and haibun you happen to write along the road.

Thanks for reading.   In the last couple of days there have been some wonderful responses to previous On the Road Prompts.   They inspire me to keep travelling –

https://morselsandscraps3.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/ripples-and-subtleties/

https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/step-by-stepsky-quilt/

 

 

 

 

 

 

The haijun on the road

‘Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.’ – Matsuo Basho

In feudal Japan Basho supported himself teaching haiku.   From time to time he took to the road and made pilgrimages to temples and revered places.   Often he followed in the footsteps of an earlier poet, Saiygo and wrote poems in homage in places where Saiygo had composed poems.

A stream flows through the bottom of Saigyo Valley, where I wrote a poem about women washing yams.
women washing yams
if Saigyo was here
he’d compose a poem
–  Basho  (trans. Jane Reichhold)

One hundred years later Nikusha-Ni lived as a wandering nun.   Her journeys were to particular educational destinations where she developed her skills as a painter and poet.  Although selling her work provided her with a meagre income her travels were not always easy.

I do not like the way you look at me.

Even wearing a straw coat
I like to travel –
rain of flowers
– Kikusha-Ni

Taneda Santoka (1882-1940) is considered to be the last of wandering Buddhist poets.   Santoka was the son of a wealthy landowner and studied literature at Waseda University in Tokyo.   It was there he began writing haiku.   Unfortunately he developed a taste for sake at the same time.   Excessive drinking and a nervous breakdown forced him to drop out university in 1904.   After that his attempts to run a sake brewery failed along with his arranged marriage.  Despite these problems he continued to write and  attempted to support his family.  His growing alcoholism affected his mental health and 1924 he attempted suicide.   After the incident he was taken to a Zen temple where he studied Buddhism and became an ordained priest in 1925.   Soon afterwards he left the temple and became a wandering poet-monk.  For the last 15 years of his life he wandered around Japan practicing zazen and writing haiku.  His haiku is as free-form as his lifestyle.    He did not adhere to the 5-7-5 syllable rule but instead wrote short poems that are a direct depiction of the human experience.  https://www.enotes.com/topics/taneda-santoka

His life as a wandering poet was not an easy one –
Daily torn and tattered,
Turning to shreds:
My robe for traveling

and

Hailstones, too,
Enter my begging bowl.

His taste for sake followed him wherever he went and appears to have fuelled some of his travels –

Sakè for the body, haiku for the heart;
Sakè is the haiku of the body,
Haiku is the sakè of the heart.

Despite the physical hardships and the pitfalls of alcoholism it is a deeper spiritual quest that is true motivation for his wanderings.

Going deeper–
And still deeper.
The green mountains.

and

There is nothing else I can do;
I walk on and on.

then

The Dharma Hall gates
Are opened;
It becomes light.

It is this spiritual quest that intrigues me most about these wandering haijin (haiku poets).   The idea of being able to travel about visiting temples and writing haiku is appealing but hard to emulate in this day and age.  Modern society doesn’t offer much support to mendicant meditators.  Rather than lifestyle choices what these haijun are showing us, I think, is a way of being-in-the-world.

Whether of not writing haiku sustains them at all times is a matter of individual temperament.   Most appear to have moments of struggle and self doubt yet all have found spiritual solace living as a haijin.

Yappari hitori wa samishii karegusa.
After all
It’s sad to be alone–
The withered grasses.

Yappari hitori ga yoroshii zassō.
After all
It’s good to be alone–
The wild grasses.

                       – Santoka

It is this aspect of writing haiku that I’m trying to nail here on the road.   What is the shape of it?   What are the concepts behind it?

Prompt:

Thrusting my feet
Into the rough sea–
My life as a traveler.
– Santoka

                20110219_11 (mixed media painting – S. Miller)

As always there is no time limit on the prompt and new writers are always welcome.  The Road is open to everyone and is a
non-competitive place.  The prompts are offered as suggestions for creative exploration and self understanding.

Please leave a link to your post in the comment thread below or create a pingback by copying  the URL ontheroadhaiku.wordpress.com and pasting it into your post,  I love reading all your responses but am finding it hard to track them down if you don’t do either of these things.

The tag – #ontheroadprompts  also helps us find each.

You can also include this logo in your post if you want.   Simply copy and paste it.

picture

Already one writer has responded to yesterday’s challenge.   Here’s a link to her post

https://whippetwisdom.com/2017/08/24/tanka-joie-de-vivre/

Being-in-the-world

“All who achieve greatness in art … possess one thing in common: they are one with nature.” from Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel – Matsuo Basho

“An accurate communication of the experience of oneness with nature is more important than the rules of the form,” Sam Hamill writes in his  essay, “Basho’s Ghost. “The poet strives for amari no kokoro, meaning that the heart/ soul of the poem must reach far beyond the words themselves.    http://www.kyotojournal.org/the-journal/fiction-poetry/basho%E2%80%99s-ghost/


Basho Riding a Horse by Sugiyama Sanpu

                                                 http://www.online-utility.org/image/gallery_credit.jsp?title=Matsuo+Bashō

“When composing a verse let there not be a hair’s breath separating your mind from what you write; composition of a poem must be done in an instant, like a woodcutter felling a huge tree or a swordsman leaping at a dangerous enemy.” – Matsuo Basho

The scholar, David Barnhill writes of Basho’s work “subject and object are not separate entities but part of a single field of experience, like poles of a continuum.  What Basho experienced was his particular being-in-the-world, not some objective reality.  The text arises out of that experience and is … “fictive” (no matter how autobiographical it seems), not exactly equivalent to that of the historical author’s”.https://www.uwosh.edu/facstaff/barnhill/es-244-basho/journals.pdf

This idea is subtle and hard to grasp.  The British author David Cobb, who published one of the first novel length haibun written in English in 1997,  puts it more simply.   He describes the act of writing haibun as ‘setting out on an adventure’, as ‘roaming between actuality and fiction,’ so that that the ‘reader can travel through [the poet’s] memory, experience and universal human experience.’

“Basho does not lose himself in nature: he paradoxically finds himself through a desire to lose himself in nature, knowing that he cannot dissolve his ego completely. He can, though, direct his ego towards things beyond his body…  A flower is a flower. It has its own objectivity. Yet, it is seen. There is an entwining of perception and objectivity”  https://sites.google.com/site/worldhaikureview2/whr-august-2011/basho-s-journey

from Basho’s  “On the Narrow Road”

composed on the road –

the red, blazing red
of the pitiless sun – yet
autumn in the wind

soft focus

                                          _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If this collection of quotes and musings leads to a prompt it is simply to write a haiku or related form about your experience of being-in-the-world in “an entwining of perception and objectivity”.  

If you feel inspired to write something please leave a link to your work in the comment thread or create a pingback to this site.   Thank you.

There have been some wonderful responses to “On the Road Prompts this week.   It is well worth taking the time to read these diverse and inspiring poems and haibun.  (I think I’ve included everyone here – please let me know if I’ve missed anyone – it would have been entirely accidental)

chasing butterflies – Ontheland
https://odaciuk.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/on-the-road-chasing-butterflies/
https://cheryllynnroberts.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/chasing-dreams-troiku/
https://whippetwisdom.com/2017/08/21/haibun-heart-of-the-glen/
https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/sun-and-
http://ontheland.blog/2017/08/21/solar-eclipse/
https://cheryllynnroberts.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/always-hope-solo-no-renga/

https://morselsandscraps3.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/under-full-moon-a-memoir/

Chasing Butterflies

“I would like to make a haiku out of : What touches my life, what my eyes see, ears hear, what my heart speaks to myself in a strong voice…  I want to sketch things that left an impression in the depth of my soul.“     —  from ”A Letter Written In Daybreak, 1922” –  by Sugito Hisajo  (1890~1946)  

                                                                                            

Sugita Hisajo was born on 30 May 1890 as the third daughter of Akabori Renzo,  a high-ranking civil servant.  Hisajo was given a good education and  attended Ochanomizu University in Tokyo.    In  1909, at the age of 20 she married the art teacher Sugita Unai.    The couple then moved to Kokura, an industrial town on Kyushu Island.  

morning glories –
smog begins to foul
the town’s sky

Two daughters were born early in the marriage.   Hisajo adored her children but her marriage was not a happy one.     In 1915 her brother Akohoro Getsuken came to stay and taught her how to write haiku.   Despite her husband’s disapproval painting and writing haiku occupied much of Hisajo’s time. 

haiku poet,
caring mother –
this summer I’m a wreck
 

reading a play
dishes left in the sink
this winter’s night

Despite the constraints of her marriage Hisajo appears to have been a lively, sensual woman.
blossom kimono—
on untying the obi
assorted strings now cling

She  wrote of this haiku –   “A woman  back from cherry-blossom viewing takes off each layer of her best kimono by untying obi and various cords. Each cord clings to her slippery silk undergarments as it falls to her feet on the tatami.  She feels only a little annoyed for she is in a sweet fatigue after being in public for blossom viewing (and being viewed).  Boldly and sensually this haiku describes the sluggish motion of silk cords with their beauty of colors.”

In 1920, after the death of her father she returned to Tokyo and lived with her mother for a year.   During that time she contracted a kidney disease and was hospitalized for an extended period.   Concerned for her health her mother entreated Unai to divorce Hisajo.   He refused and Hisajo returned Kokura.    Although Unai’s work as a teacher supported the family Hisajo taught haiku and took in sewing to earn the extra money needed to provide her daughters with a good education.

mending tabi-socks
a teacher’s wife
has not become a Nora *

From 1917 Hisajo submitted haiku to the influential magazine “Hototogisu”edited by the poet Takahama Kyoshi and in 1932 she began publishing and editing her own magazine of women’s haiku, “Hanagoromo”.     In an article in “Hanagoromo” she explains what she means by ‘a Nora’*    –
“She is in her early thirties with eyes losing the brightness of youth. Mending her husband’s old tabi socks under a dim light, she looks tired. Wives in the transition time who experienced feudalism but awaken to modern values tend to get caught badly in social contradictions and personal problems. She can not easily part with old traditions. She is attached to her children. She keeps on treading on the path of patience and resignation.”

hardly a word spoken
the man and his wife part –
autumn nightfall

During these years writing haiku sustained Hisajo.    In 1934  she contributed an essay to the first issue of Haiku Kenkyu (Study of Haiku) magazine.  In it she wrote –
“I used to consider myself poor and unhappy, but not any more. With no jewels to wear, no knowledge of fashion-trend, I kept on writing haiku. Reflecting on my past days, I am pleased and even happy now. Haiku has given me spiritual strength by encouraging my soul all these years.”

the persistent spirit
of a woman –
indigo-dyed yukata

Despite her enthusiasm and love of haiku Hisajo’s magazine “Hanagoromo” folded in  1936.  In the same year she was suddenly expelled from “Hototogisu” by the editor Kyoshi.   Hisajo was devastated.   Her reputation as a haiku poet was besmirched and she was no longer able to teach.   From that time on she suffered from bouts of deep depression and sometimes behaved very erratically.   She was shunned by the haiku community and rumours flourished that she was a sexual predator who had affairs with male writers.    Although she was outspoken and unconventional there is no evidence to support these accusations.  

At the same Japan was at war and the country was under attack.  Hisajo was often alone during air-raids because of her husband’s war duties.     
 air-raid sirens _
the last to turn off the lights
is a temple with blossoms

Hisajo’s health deteriorated and in 1945 she was forcibly admitted to a psychiatric ward.   She died there in 1946, probably due to malnutrition and kidney failure.    After her death the poet Kyoshi wrote an essay in “Hototogisu” where he declared she was schizophrenic.   He developed this essay into a novel titled “Kuniko’s Letters” in 1948 where he distorted letters Hisajo had written to make her appear to be insane.      These writings so damaged Hisago’s reputation her poetry was disregarded by the haiku community in Japan for many, many years.

In recent years her work has been re-assessed and she is now regarded as one of the finest Japanese haiku poets of the 1930’s and 40’s.   Her haiku style is similar to the Japanese style of painting where details are implied rather than accurately depicted.   What is not said must be filled in by the reader’s imagination.     Hidden metaphors often express her thoughts about the rigid nature of Japanese society in the first half of the 20th century.
stiff as a board-
the tight obi jabbed
by an autumn fan

Prompt:   I found it impossible to pick just one of Hisajo’s haiku for this week’s prompt

chasing butterflies
deep into spring mountains
I have  become lost
                            – Hisajo

lost 1  (digital image – Suzanne Miller)

For this week’s prompt let the life and work of Hisajo inspire your creative explorations of haiku and related forms.   

Please post a link to your response in the comment thread.     Including the  tag      #ontheroadprompts  can help others find your work easily.

picture Also I have created this logo for you to include in your posts if you want. 

Since posting a list of links to recent “On the Road Prompts” earlier this week  two more wonderful posts have been created in response to last week’s prompt –
https://whippetwisdom.com/2017/08/16/haibun-song-of-love/
https://morselsandscraps3.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/under-full-moon-a-memoir/

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The  haiku  of Sugita Hisajo used in this post were found on the sources listed below
https://sites.google.com/site/worldhaikureview2/whr-archives/waves-of-moonlight
http://www.big.or.jp/~loupe/links/ehisto/ehisajo.shtml
https://au-east.erc.monash.edu.au/fpfiles/7682449/monash_160294.pdf
https://books.google.com.au/books?isbn=1317466977
http://poetrywriting.org/Sketchbook4-4JulyAug09/Sketchbook_4-4_JulyAugust_2009_Eiko_Yachimoto_Chapter_5_Haiku_of_Hisajo_in_Taisho_period.htmhttp://poetrywriting.org/Sketchbook3-11Nov08/Sketchbook_3-11_November_2008_Eiko_Yachimoto.htm

*   Nora is a character in the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House (1879).    This play was controversial when it was first published because it criticized 19th century marriage norms..