Updated: Apr 24, 2022
hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman & G. Akila
Jenny Ward Angyal lives with her husband and one Abyssinian cat on a small organic farm in Gibsonville, North Carolina, USA. Her tanka, haiku, and related prose forms have appeared widely in journals, and she is the author of two tanka collections, Moonlight on Water and Only the Dance. She currently serves as Global Moderator of Inkstone Poetry Forum and Tanka Editor of Under the Basho.
Sketches from Life
Masaoka Shiki, often credited with reforming and reviving haiku and tanka in the late nineteenth century, sometimes referred to himself as Dassai Sho-oku Shujin (“Otter Bookstore Owner”). He wrote his Dassai Sho-oku Haiwa or Talks on Haiku from the Otter’s Den in a room as littered with books and papers as an otter’s den with fish. The Japanese river otter is still the official animal symbol of Ehime Prefecture, where Shiki was born. Tradition has it that when otters were abundant in the region’s rivers, they used to line up the the fish they caught on the riverbanks—celebrating an ‘otter festival,’ perhaps, or making an offering to the sky.
in a sunlit eddy
the river's endless song
Confined to his “six-foot sickbed” by tuberculosis and morphine, with his materials spread about his pillow like an otter’s horde of fish, Shiki continued to write prolifically until the day he died in 1902. That day, September 19, is still observed as Dassai-ki or “Otter’s Ceremony Anniversary.” He was not quite 35.
on a blank page
this dewdrop world
Once touted as medicine—a supposed treatment for TB—Japanese river otters were also heavily hunted for their dense, velvety fur. And, bit by bit, development and pollution destroyed their habitat and food sources, until, by the end of the century, the otters were extinct.
a streak of bubbles
on the water's surface
the moment vanishes
Jenny Ward Angyal
Although in urban space our lives no longer know how to co-exist with an animal, animals were very much a part of the ancient space we inhabited. Create a haibun that brings an extraordinary animal (not domestic) into the urban landscape and build an imaginative piece that experiments with the speculative.
We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished haibun (within 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in haikuKATHA monthly journal.