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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 27thJune 2024. Tito (Stephen Gill), featured poet

hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman & Vidya Shankar

A Thursday Feature.

poet of the month: Stephen Henry Gill (haigō: Tito)

27 June 2024


This month we have the pleasure of featuring Tito (Stephen Gill).


Stephen was born in Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. He began writing haiku and haibun in 1972. He studied in Kyoto between 1974-75 and graduated from London University in Japanese Language & Literature in 1979. 


Stephen spent much of the early 80s in Tokyo; in the late 80s, he worked as a radio script writer for BBC and thereafter created 21 programmes mostly about Japan, all featuring haiku/haibun. His ‘Insect Musicians’ won the Sony Prize for Best Documentary in 1989. In the 1990s he edited ‘Rediscovering Basho’ (Global Oriental) and served on the British Haiku Society Committee as national events officer. In 1995, he moved to Kyoto, working at Ritsumeikan and later Ryukoku Universities. 


Most recently, Stephen has been lecturing on Haiku in English Literature and other topics at Kyoto University and lives in the now-rural ancient capital, Asuka, in Nara prefecture. He founded the Hailstone Haiku Circle, Kansai, in 2000 and launched the Circle’s website, Icebox, in 2008. With Nobuyuki Yuasa in 2012, he founded the Genjuan International Haibun Contest. 


His books include ‘1 Poet on Mt. Ogura, 100 Poems in a Day’ (haiku & tanka collection) and ‘100 Poets on Mt. Ogura, 1 Poem Each’ (bilingual haiku & tanka anthology, HSA Kanterman Prize for Best Anthology, 2011). The list also includes ‘Stone Birthdays’ (in Japanese, illus. for children), ‘Enhaiklopedia’, ‘Meltdown’, ‘Persimmon’ (Eng. haiku anthologies), ‘From the Cottage of Visions’ (Eng. haibun anthologies).   



Tito (Stephen Gill)

Scottish Journey


Wind is to me something that ruffles up the collars of our shirts, that moves the waters as they need moving. Of those of us who do not live there, who is there who goes to Scotland for sedation? We go, do we not, like Basho went to Michinoku, to be tattered and torn and purged and washed, and perhaps even to be baptized. That summer-cum-winter when I went with Kaz, a tent and a car, a hole was blown in me, a hole through which light, smoke and rainwater can, now and forever, inexorably seep.


Windy summer morning –

at the bus-stop

a woman with a lit cigarette

in either hand


(Edinburgh)


The tent is packed:

rainbow on mountains,

and now the wind

blows milk from my spoon!


(Loch Morlich, Glen More)


Across the steely loch

the full weight

of the cloudy sky

pressing down on Ben Hiant


(Tobermory to Kilchoan ferry)


The boar-inscribed stone,

the rainwater footprint;

and round this ragged rock

the howling wind


(Dunadd, nr. Kilmartin)


Back from Scotland –

at the end of the motorway

the arch of a rainbow

through which we know we have passed


(M1, nr. Watford)


(written Scotland/England, 7/93; pub. in ‘Atoms of Delight, an Anthology of Scottish Haiku & Short Poems’, Morning Star Publications, UK, 2000)


 SP: Over the years, how has haibun writing changed or evolved in English? How does it compare with what Japanese writers are doing in this form? 


Tito: The ubiquity today of the form of one short paragraph with one terminal haiku has begun to look somewhat facile. Yes, there are many examples in Japanese literature of this style and it does have merits for editors wishing for variety and attempting to get as many people in as possible. It suits the new short attention span age we live in. But how about the travelogue with intermittent haiku or the story with a haiku 'tail' of four or five haiku at the end? Beginning with a haiku also seems to be going out of fashion. There are so many ways of weaving poetry with prose. I am always pleased to see innovation. For example, recent attempts to write a haibun as a long poem, with haiku stanzas embedded as three shorter lines of a different tense or tone. Another example might be the lighter end of the newish trend for 'environmentalistic' haibun. I fully agree that haibun resonance can indeed be used as a vehicle through which to make an oblique statement of alarm, provided it is implied and not fully explained. As for haibun in Japan, you must understand that today there is practically none at all! Japanese poets don't even use the term. Japanese haiku journals do sometimes include so-called 'essays', which may or may not include haiku, but almost never do they set the haiku up in a true haibun way, as part of a whimsical anecdote or more fully fledged story. Yuasa, Miyazaki, Takazawa and I could all translate, so we made a big effort to have Japanese versions of the winning pieces in our publications, or have them excerpted in translation elsewhere. Miyazaki even produced one anthology entirely in Japanese. One or two organisations affiliated with us tried their own Japanese haibun contests, and I have been a judge of one of those, but to be honest the foreign writers are today much better at the art, which was largely lost in Japan during the Meiji era. We haibun judges had been hoping to start a revival of haibun practice in Japan, but so far we have failed ... and now we're all getting old! Revival will eventually come though, as haibun is such a nifty and enjoyable form.


Prompt: Imagine yourself as a conservationist or activist focused on saving a disappearing artefact, tradition, object, value, or living thing. Or write about something going out of fashion. Or attempt the perspective of the person who is witnessing loss. 




Haibun outside this prompt is welcome too.


Important: Since we're swamped with submissions, and our editors are only human, mistakes can happen. Please, please, remember to put your name, followed by your country, below each poem, even after revisions. It helps our editors; they won't have to type it in, saving them from potential typos. Thanks a ton!


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PLEASE NOTE:

1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt. Please put your name and country of residence under your poem, it makes the editors' work easier. Thanks.

2. Share your best-polished pieces.

3. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written.

Let it simmer for a while.

4. When poets give suggestions and if you agree to them - post your final edited version on top of your original version.

5. Don't forget to give feedback on others' poems.


We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished haibun (within 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly journal.

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114 Comments


Thank you, Linda, for your kind words about 'taking off and singing'. I do firmly believe that haiku is a form of poetry after all!

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Kalyanee
Kalyanee
Jul 04

04.07.2024

#1

(Hope it's not too late to post here)


Crossroads


"No Ma'am, I tried. When my self-written presentations were rejected twice I took help of ChatGpt. And it was accepted immediately!" Replies a student to my squinted eyed questions on authenticity of one's write-up. Perplexed, I can only say, "All right!" Perplexed — as I'm the same person who goads to churn out the best of human abilities and at the same time, expect one to stay authentic to the core. I'm the same person who appreciates the 'wow' factor in all works. I label the others, who cannot produce the eighth, ninth wonders of the world, as 'average' or 'below average'.


Alice —

a new wonderland

of man…


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mona bedi
mona bedi
Jul 02

Post #1

3.7.24


Hiraeth


It’s vacation time and I am struck by wanderlust. Persuading my husband is a task as he is the kind of person who is content with home -work - home routine. After a long argument we pack our bags for a road journey to the hills.


clear blue sky

the f r e e s p a n

of an eagle’s wings


The cityscape gradually gives way to scenic green fields. We talk about work, children and life in general. Very soon the landscape becomes monotonous as does the conversation. Throwback to the times when the children were unmarried and we would travel as a rowdy excited group to a destination the youngsters were new to.


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mona bedi
mona bedi
Jul 03
Replying to

Thanks dear.

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#2 6-30-24


Safekeeper


When all who have known me have gone, who will keep the memories of me alive? Will my children's children's children have heard stories about me, although they will never have met me? Will I be kept alive through their storytelling? Will I live on through my poetry, still read in the years after I'm gone? Will my paintings live on in the homes of those who were born after I died? Or will I be the face in the photograph someone asks one day, "Anyone know who this is?" as everyone present shakes their head. In honor of this phenomenon, I will try to be a better keeper of the memories of those who have gone…


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Replying to

I love this Jennifer. I often wonder who will remember me when I'm gone as I have no children. Such a rich and beautiful haibun.

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Poem 1 - 30/05/24

Experimental poem:


Making my Bed in Places


the wind pushing me


down on Ganga Ghat

somewhere a cow mooing

in distress


suitcases packed in Rishikesh


this wind through the flat

i must leave soon

to catch my flight


on the suspension bridge


the weight of traffic

swaying the Ganga

the weight of my departure


back in the capital


the sky falling

into pollution

noise & traffic


at home in the garden


the sweet taste

of wet earth everywhere

monsoons


Rupa Anand, New Delhi, India

Feedback welcome

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Replying to

Dear Rupa, I love that you are experimenting with haibun. The poetry form is versatile, hence most experimentation work.


About your experiment, it will be good if you can distinguish the prose parts and the poetry parts either by use of italics or indentation.


I also agree with what Alfred has to say wrt the suitcases and Lorraine says about the wind.

About your ku:


I might rewrite the first one as:


Ganga Ghat

somewhere a cow moos

in distress


As for your other four ku, the concrete images are not very clear.

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