Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Alain Kervern, Ban'ya Natsuishi, Jim Kacian and Dimitar Anakiev, Tolmin, Slovenia, 2000, Founding of World Haiku Association

Dimitar Anakiev


I know Ban'ya Natsuishi more then 15 years. He visited me three times and we founded World Haiku Association (WHA), in 2000, in my hometown Tolmin, Slovenia, together with many other poets of the world. For this occasion Ban'ya came to the Balkans with his family and big group of several dozen Japanese poets! Even we didn't succeed in our goal to form INTERNATIONAL and PUBLIC haiku organization based in mutual agreement (which would serve haiku similarly as P.E.N. serves world literature) established WHA was historic event which clearly showed needs of haiku poets of the world (1). The proof is mutual enthusiasm exploded from all sides of the world (2). Today I am proud of being first director of WHA which is nowadays successfully run by Ban'ya Natsuishi and his team. In his poetry collection Hybrid Paradise he wrote a haiku like that:

A haiku reading of the rainy season
can it bring us
a Slovenian transparency?

I remember very well appearance of Ban'ya first collections of 100 haiku in English "A Future Waterfall". Leading American haiku expert of that time, Bill Higginson, in an article published in also leading American haiku magazine, Modern haiku, judged Ban'ya's poems are not haiku. Ban'ya published his answer in Frogpond but general impression is that his poetry was probably better understood In Europe, Balkans and around the world then in North America. Field of so called "International haiku" became a Procrustean bed in which all sorts of dogmatism took place (3) (4). That is a reason more for taking seriously poetry of Ban'ya Natsuishi along with its extraordinary poetic qualities. We need to understand it not only as a poetry but also to understand ideological background and its place in world cultural heritage.

2. Introduction

Ban'ya Natsuishi is an important autor of Gendai haiku. "Gendai" means "modern". But word "modern" in haiku has different meaning than we usually understood with "modernism" in Western art. We were able to see that American paper Modern Haiku took conservative position towards Ban'ya's poetry which is considered "modern" in Japan. American Modern Haiku has pretty pre-modern attitude towards Art of Haiga refusing to accept photo-haiga even photography is one of very typical arts of modernism. Then Basho and Zen cults are widespread among many of authors who publish in American Modern Haiku and they even tend to consider haiku a religious genre (not a form of poetry!). We can see that American "Modern Haiku" has many elements of conservatism and purism, treating haiku poets more as a religious sect then contemporary poets writing on contemporary topics. And What is the situation with Gendai? Let us take a look at four poems by Ban'ya Natsuishi:

My haiku:
a little cedar
nine hundred and ninety-nine years old
* (A Future Waterfall)

A horse of Genghis Khan
a haiku
* (Hybrid Paradise)

The wind
brushing away an old pond
is one of my haiku
* (Black Card)

No love:
a giant tongue of waves
licking everything
* (Black Card)

Japanese cedars on Yakushima island are old more then 5000 years and they are the oldest living beings on the planet Earth. So, it is clear for Ban'ya Natsuishi haiku is something pre-cultural, pre-historic, archaic and elementary. In second haiku he links sense of tribalism and rough power to haiku. In third haiku, we see that one of aspects of his haiku is destroying cultural stereotypes-where "old pond" is a symbol of Basho-Buddhism approach to haiku (symbol of haiku classicism). In fourth haiku Ban'ya mocks idealistic approach of "harmony with nature" - it is not possible to be in harmony with nature, it is unlimited power; you cannot love nature because it is a monster licking everything. In these four haiku we can see very clear and solid ground for an "artistic program" of Ban'ya Natsuishi. He refuses monotheistic Buddhism which, thanks to monotheistic similarities spread in countries tired of Christianity, and embrace original Japanese religion of "8 millions of Gods" - animism. Similar religious foundation we can find in other Gendai authors, such as Tohta Kaneko and Hoshinaga Fumio. So, it seems that Japanese Gendai is also religious movement - not movement of Buddhists but movement of Shinto. "Modernism" in Western sense IS NOT religious movement. Modern human is urban, rational, mostly atheist, socially engaged, individualistic, democratically oriented.
I must say that in Ban'ya case this religious connotation is not predominant. Even he uses regularly "Gods" and "magic stereotypes" (numbers, for example) in building dramaturgy of his poems, he is doing it with some distance. Later I will give example of the distance.
At this point we must decide if we even have modernism in haiku? We have two religious movements which both call own-self "modern" but both are deeply religious, so pre-modern. I discussed with Richard Gilbert, a translator of Kaneko Tohta, a terms he used for Tohta Kaneko work. He uses the term "vanguard" for Kaneko poetry based in paganism. "Vanguard" according to dictionary means " a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas". But in historic line we see poets who are going back. How, then, they can be "vanguard"? Gendai defined as a religious movement is not vanguard but retrograde movement. It can be spectacular, seductive, attractive but cannot be "vanguard" according to common sense.
But there is something progressive in Gendai: it is opposition to mindedness of classicism which pretend to be eternal and only option for haiku. "We cannot breath" said authors of Gendai and they try to breath freely, that is emancipatory intention. They bring pluralism to the concept of haiku. Now the only question is how plural haiku can be? How much open? Is haiku normal literary form as any other? Or it is limited? If Gendai can really bring the coexistence of different ideologies within the concept of haiku, if Gendai can be really modern and not only anti-classical, then we can say that Gendai is historic turning point in the history of haiku. For the taste of real ideological pluralism I will juxtapose my haiku written on the same topic as Ban'ya Natsuisha and Kaneko Tohta. Topics written in capitals:


Stairs of electricity
carrying lives
to their homes
- Ban'ya Natsuishi

Working class
hurries, hurries, hurries
to catch the escalator
- Dimitar Anakiev


Sixty-six years after Japan's defeat
white smoke
from a nuclear reactor
- Ban'ya Natsuishi

After Hiroshima
and Fukushima a tuxedo cat
shits on the hill
- Dimitar Anakiev


pacific ocean
as if brooding eggs
girls on the shоrе
- Kaneko Tohta

It is named Pacific
but its waves on the rocks
call the revolution
- Dimitar Anakiev

All my three haiku I offered here in juxtaposition are written from Marxist viewpoint. So let as compare, by haiku, messages of Shintoism and Marxism to humanity. Is haiku capable of such broad and complex mission? Or haiku means only Narrow Road to provinces of spirit?

- to be continued (Next continuation: Analyze of Ban'ya Natsuishi poetic method-what way Ban'ya compose poems?)



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