English Seasonal Images


English Seasonal Images:
An Almanac of Haiku Season Words Pertinent to England

by David Cobb

reviewed by Charles Trumbull

What follows is not really a review, for what I have in front of me is not really a book—yet. It is, however, an bellwether development for Western haiku. Cobb’s project not only makes an important contribution to haiku stud-ies but addresses some key issues of English-language haiku composition. His thoughtful attention to detail and delightful writing style are extras.

English Seasonal Images is an English saijiki—almanac—in the full sense of the word: it comprises a structured list of season words that have poetical associations as well as haiku that illustrate how these words are used (many so-called saijiki are really kiyose, or lists of season words without the sample haiku). Cobb’s many glosses of the terms are indispensible. The collection is organized traditionally, by season, but with a new wrinkle: instead of the Japanese fifth season, “New Year’s,” Cobb has “winter—post-Christmas” (listed first among the seasons) and “winter—pre-Christmas” (last).

Within seasons, the words are traditionally arrayed, by topic: “The season,” “The heavens,” “The earth,” “Human life,” “Observances,” “Animal,” “Vegetable,” and—another wrinkle—a new catchall category called “Mineral,” which grandly embraces “things” that are neither animal nor vegetable. The 14-page “Calendar of Topics” is followed by 76 pages of Almanac and Ex-amples. Clearly Cobb compiled the Calendar independently and probably before he populated the Almanac with examples.
In fact a large number of Cobb’s topics are as yet undocumented with haiku, which makes it clear that this is a work in progress. (Other English-language season-word collections typically fit the topics to the haiku at hand, a problematical practice.) Cobb’s haiku examples are all from poets living in England (only), who are identified by county of residence.

Cobb’s project also performs an important service by showing how season words can link contemporary haiku to English literary and cutural traditions. In some cases, it even seems that he is helping conserve endangered aspects of English lore. Two examples of Cobb’s explanations illustrate these points:

mist and fog [autumn; the season] Thanks to Keats’s Ode to Autumn (season of mists …) many will associate mist and fog with autumn, but it isn’t conclusively so unless something else in the context assists.… (63)

bowls, bowling green [summer; human life] Surely the epitome of leisure and taking one’s time and ease, as exemplified by the favourite English myth that Sir Francis Drake would not cut short his game of bowls to tackle the Armada. (50)

source : modern haiku 2005


Haiku Edited by David Cobb,
pub: The British Museum Press

This book is essentially a gift book. It has a short essay about haiku, then the bulk of the book is haiku and illustrations from the museum’s collection. Each haiku is given as calligraphy, a romaji version and an English version. The haiku in the book are arranged into the four seasons. There are also notes on the authors and suggestions for further reading and Internet links such as The British Haiku Society. (which is unfortunately an out of date link)

It’s nice little book to dip into. The poems are short enough to explore reading in Japanese and figuring out the kanji. Maybe you could even try writing haiku in Japanese. You might not produce great poetry but it’s an interesting thing to try.
source : www.shiawase.co.uk




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