Moments in the History of Haiku Authors' Affirmation

By Dutu, Olga | Journal of Research in Gender Studies, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Moments in the History of Haiku Authors' Affirmation


Dutu, Olga, Journal of Research in Gender Studies


The Haiku poem is a kind of classical poetry, composed by strict rules: it has 17 syllables divided into three lines (5, 7, 5 syllables), the obligatory presence of a word called kigo showing the season, directly or alluded, usually located in the first line, and the use of a word caesura (kireji).

The current form of this poem dates from the sixteenth century, when it separated from the classic tanka poem composed of 31 syllables.

Its true shining and strengthening in its authentic form comes to life only after Matsuo Bashô (1644-1694) begins to write haiku poems and establishes their final classical form. He unleashed the sensitivity of human beings by turning towards themselves, orienting them towards meditation in solitude towards the essential elements of nature, solidarity between animate beings and the grandeur of nature, everything expressed in a discreet, laconic, and measured way, letting pass towards the reader only those few essential elements, which allow the recreation of the poet's feeling. Here is a famous haiku by Bashô:

A frog jumps

in the old pondwater's

splash

Ryu Yotsuya remarked: "More than anything, Bashô's literature is characterized by the fact that, the more he describes people's deeds, the more he highlights the fragility of the human being, and this makes us aware of the splendor of the power of nature."1 Matsuo Bashô had many disciples, but the famous ones known under the global name of jittetsu are: Yosa Buson (1716-1783), Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) etc.

Women's condition in the feudal Japanese society explains their shy presence as haiku authors; Bashô's disciples - Chiagetsu Kawai (1640 - 1718) and Chivo-ni (1703-1775), who do not appear in Ryu Yotsuya's famous history.

Women's emancipation in the 20th century explains the great number of remarkable authoresses of haiku, first of all in Japan. Therefore, among the first ten haijini and their poetry there is a poetess; Hisajo Sugita (18901946).2 She published many of her works in the famous review Hototogisu (Cuckoo), whose director, Kyoshi Takahama, intended to promote haiku written by women. He introduced the box "Kitchen songs," where he published haiku written by women. The excellent poets Hanojo Hasegawa (1887-1969) and Midorijo Abe (1886-1980) made themselves noticed, in this context; and they had the chance to impose themselves after the Second World War.

One of the characteristics of the poets grouped around the Hototogisu review is the technique to create lyrical tension by combining the distant image with that of the foreground one. In the following haiku composed by Hisajo Sugita:

Cold autumn air,

come to hortensias.

Shinano country

Shinano, the old name of the Nagano prefecture, indicates a vast and distant image, that evokes history, and the first plan hortensias are now in blossom. "These two elements share their rights, in the same way as two characters would do in a drama."3 1965 is considered in Japan to be the year in which women decided to dedicate themselves to haiku poem.

A recent bilingual Japanese and French anthology offers the readers the work of over 40 classic and contemporary poetesses who are brilliant in haiku art. The feminine voices, reunited in this volume, offer this poem a new richness, engraving it an exceptional sensitivity.4

In chronological order according to the year of birth, the first poet in this anthology is Chigetsu Kawai (1640-1718), and the last one, Ayaka Sato (1985), all of them being involved in haiku societies and associations, reviews and having received significant awards for the poems published in reviews and personal volumes or in anthologies.

Although there have been expressed numerous opinions regarding the translation, copying, adaptation of the haiku poem in another language, due to its belonging to Japanese culture through its own essence,5 in the 50's and 60's the interest of the Anglo-American culture for this lyric species materialized in several important studies which became classic today: R. …

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