EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH…
German haiku poet, Simone K. Busch, upon the recent publication of her bilingual (English/German) haiku book, “sipping from shadows”.
When did you first encounter haiku, and when did you feel that it was a genre through which you wanted to express yourself?
During my training as a teacher of creative writing in 2005, I had to study haiku. As far as I can remember, this was the first time I read works by the Japanese masters. At this time, the poems didn’t really speak to me. Perhaps the German translations were not so good or it was not yet the time. Some years later when I lived in the USA, the anthology “haiku mind – 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness & Open Your Heart” by Patricia Donegan happened to find me. This book was my longtime companion and I still love it. It is full of excellent traditional and modern haiku from Japanese and non-Japanese authors combined with haibun like prose by Donegan. I was absolutely fascinated at how much truth and beauty one can say with so few words and I started trying to write haiku myself.
How did your four-year stay in Japan affect you as a poet?
This was exactly the question I asked myself before we moved to Tokyo. How will this affect me and my writing? Retrospectively, I feel that experiencing the Japanese seasons gave me more insight into the roots of the genre. It was as if haiku from the ancient masters came to life through personally sensing the scents, sounds and visuals mentioned by them. I was lucky enough to visit some haiku places, like Shiki’s house in Tokyo or spots were Basho was during his journey to the deep north. And though they look quite different now, I could somehow connect with my haiku-loving “ancestors”. My life in Japan also changed the topics of my poems. For example, I studied the meaning of “home” and “homeland” more often than I had before.
Which do you feel personally are your top three haiku in your new book, “sipping from shadows”, and why?
This is a difficult question. Spontaneously I would pick these three:
a butterfly opens
a girl’s mouth
I actually saw this scene in a metro station in Japan and the words came to me immediately. Later, I realized that by using “metro station” my haiku connects with Ezra Pound‘s Imagist poem “In a Station of the Metro. /The apparition of these faces in the crowd; /Petals on a wet black bough” which was discussed as one of the first haiku in the West. I do also like the sound of the “o’s”, because they fit the described action so nicely.
the dreams of warriors
Studies have found that the trauma of war can be passed down from one generation to the next. And even if children did not experience war by themselves they are affected mentally by the trauma of their parents. Surprisingly, they can dream the experiences of their parents, also. This haiku is my answer to Basho’s summer grasses/ all that remains of soldiers’/dreams. We may not see the wounds because summer grass has grown high above them, but they may still exist in their progeny.
our words at the pond
meet and part
To me, this haiku has a strong feeling of impermanence and therefore I like it. I wrote it during Meguro International Haiku Circle’s Haiku Festival in October 2013. We visited a traditional Japanese garden in Tokyo and I watched koi slipping elegantly through the pond’s water. This haiku also won first place at the kukai held during this festival.
Which one of the four big Japanese haiku poets, Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki, do you relate to most and why?
Buson was the extraordinary poet painter among those four and he combined perfectly sumie painting with haiku. I do also love this genre so I think I relate to him the most. But as my paintings are seldom satisfying I switched to photo-haiku. A carefully selected photo may add more depth to a haiku or can even point out an additional meaning, just as a sumie painting can. Today, we do also have a wide range of digital fonts. I enjoy choosing one that fits nicely the mood of words and photo and to afterwards find the perfect space for the haiku within the whole composition.
Since returning to Germany which aspects of Japan do you miss most?
I miss strolling through the carefully created Japanese gardens and I do also miss Japanese food. But most of all I miss sitting in a Japanese garden with a box of fresh sushi on my knees.
What benefits do you get from writing haiku?
Haiku writing somehow forces me to appreciate the present moment without judging. I need to step back a bit from the emotions I have, when a haiku-moment occurs to find the appropriate words. This distance lets me see things more objectively and balanced. Besides the intellectual advantage and the joy of playing with words, writing has additionally always been a kind of self-therapy for me. This applies also to haiku.
Many thanks, Simone, for sparing the time for this interview!
Mainichi International Haiku Competition 2016: Elsie Wall from Edinburgh wins second prize.
The following haiku by Elsie Wall has won second prize in the children’s category of the Mainichi International Haiku Competition 2016:
spice in the air
hot red floor by Elsie Wall (aged 10)
NATIONAL POETRY DAY 2016
To commemorate National Poetry Day 2016, of which the theme is “Messages”, the following renku was composed by Edinburgh Haiku Circle participants John Wall, Miriam Sulhunt and Becky Dwyer.
bathed in moon glow
if only I could decode
hands thrust in pockets
an old message:
A L E
curled around a lamppost
message from winter:
time to leave