An Introduction to the Haiku of Satō Ayaka
Translations, Annotations by
Profs. Richard Gilbert, Itō Yūki, David Ostman, Masahiro Hori
Satō Ayaka (1985 – ) Daughter of Satō Eisaku (Professor of Linguistics, Ehime University). While in high school, she was a winner of the second place prize of the fifth Haiku Kōshien (national High School competition). Entered Waseda University and joined the Waseda Haiku Club. In 2005, founded the haiku group Haiku Machine (disbanded in 2012). In 2006, won the Shiba Fukio New Haiku Poet Prize (Jury Encouragement Award). In 2008, published her first haiku collection, Seaweed Specimens [Kaisō hyōhin] and won the Sō Sakon Haiku Haiku Grand Prize. In 2010, was included in the noted anthology Shinsei 21, and founded the “Short-term, Short-form Women’s Haiku Group” Guca (disbanded, 2012). In 2012, joined the haiku group Mirror [Kagami]. In 2014, started her own journal group “Ku +” publishing her second haiku collection You Have Eyes Open Your Eyes [Kimi ni me ga ari mihirakare], and published her first non-haiku poetry collection Please Teach Me New Music [Atarashii ongaku wo oshiete]. In 2017, edited and published the haiku anthology The Milky Way Galaxy Power Plant [Amanogawa Ginga Hatsudensho].
夏の蝶自画像の目は開いてゐる natsu no chō jigazō no me wa aiteiru summer butterfly – its eyes open to a self-portrait
Kigo: 夏の蝶 natsu no chō, summer butterfly; Summer. Meter: 5-7-5.
Note: The key to this haiku is whose jigazō (self-portrait) is being presented here? Hori’s impression is that the eyes in question are actually the pattern on the butterfly’s wings. A good example is the peacock butterfly, commonly found throughout Japan (example: kujyaku chō.
マフラーの匂ひの会話してをりぬ mafurā no nioi no kaiwa shite orinu from a neck scarf the fragrance of chatter — conversing
Kigo: マフラー mafurā, muffler; Winter. Meter: 5-7-5.
Note: For “muffler”: this term would be taken as a car-exhaust muffler, in common English; “muffler + smell” will not indicate a piece of clothing. mafurā no nioi is a pleasant smell or a faint, fine scent. Two friends are talking about ordinary or trivial matters but the conversation makes them warm their hearts like their neck scarves do (Hori).
夕刊に凍蜂の死を包みけり yuukan ni itebachi no shi wo tusutsumi keri in an evening newspaper wrapping up the death of a frozen wasp
Kigo: 凍蜂 itebachi, hornet in winter/frozen wasp; Winter. Meter: 5-7-5.
Note: Itebachi is a common kigo. The bee in winter may be queen bee; it is probably large. Even so, it is dying in its weakness. In big cities, some newspapers put out both morning and evening newspaper editions (Ito).
風はもう冷たくない乾いてもいない kaze wa mō tsumetaku mo nai kawaite mo inai the wind, no longer cold nor dry
Kigo: Winter, or no-/betweenseason (see note below). Meter: 5-6-8.
Note: kaze ga tsumetai (that is, “wind is cold”) suggests a winter kigo. However, kaze wa mō tsumetaku mo nai (that is “the wind is no longer cold) in this haiku means that “it is not winter.” On the other hand, “the wind is not dry” implies that “it is not spring.” This reminds me of the word “twilight,” which Yeats cherished. “Twilight” means “the time when day is just starting to become night.” It seems to me that Ayaka wanted to express a “two-season” phenomenal sense, or in my coinage “twiseason” — expressing “the time when winter is just starting to become spring” (Hori). According to the author, this haiku is written as an elegy or mourning haiku (Ito).
知らない町の吹雪の中は知っている shiranai machi no fubuki no naka wa shitteiru an unknown town that snowstorm – i know its inside
Kigo: 吹雪 fubuki, snowstorm; Winter. Meter: 7-7-5.
Note: This haiku reminds me, as a Canadian, of the aftermath of every snow storm, where the scenery changes into an unrecognizable landscape (Ostman). The author was not born in a snowy town; even so, she was able to write this haiku as she is a book person. She may know of a snowy town only from her reading experiences. To give a personal example, I too was not born in snow country, yet just by reading the famed opening scene of Kawabata Yasunari’s novel The Snow Country a deep impression was made. Probably, Ayaka has her own favorite novels or poems from “snow country” (Ito).
Reference: Book: 柚子の花君に目があり見開かれ
As longterm members of the Kon Nichi Translation Group, Kumamoto University, founded in 2006, these four denizens of Japan with joy, patience and determination, have continued to devote spare months, hours and days co-translating gendaihaiku. Presently, Dr. Itō Yūki, a Yeats scholar, is an assistant professor at Josai University, Saitama; Dr. David Ostman, who researches the role of empathy in intercultural competence, holds a similar position at Kumamoto Gakuen University; Dr. Masahiro Hori, a world-class linguist is a senior professor also at Kumamoto Gakuen University; Dr. Richard Gilbert is professor emeritus, Kumamoto University.
Creative Blooms will appear every other Tuesday. Three poems will be provided with commentary, and an additional three offered for creative interaction by our readership. With every third installment, Gilbert will introduce a largely unknown Japanese poet, translated into English with annotations, for the first time. We look forward to a lively discussion of these fascinating and challenging poems.
Richard Gilbert, professor of English Literature at Kumamoto University in Japan, is the author of Poetry as Consciousness: Haiku Forests, Space of Mind, and an Ethics of Freedom (illustrated by Sabine Miller, Kebunsha Co. Ltd., 2018, ISBN 978-4-86330-189-4), The Disjunctive Dragonfly (Red Moon Press, 2008, rev. 2013), and Poems of Consciousness (Red Moon Press, 2008), among others. He is also director of the Kon Nichi Translation Group, whose most recent book is the tour de force Haiku as Life: A Tohta Kaneko Omnnibus (Red Moon Press, 2019). In January 2020, he announced the creation of Heliosparrow Poetry Journal, an evolution of the Haiku Sanctuary forum.