The Scorpion Prize for Best Haiku/Senryu of ISSUE VII:2
stuck in the mud reeds full of spaces for nymphs and me
marlene mountain, most likely the first person to begin writing monolinear haiku in English consistently, has created over the decades a world of immediacy hard to produce in haiku conceived in trilinear form. The haiku selected here could have been easily conceived and cast in three parts: stuck in the mud / reeds full of spaces / for nymphs and me. But done that way, it would have lost the urgency of experience, as well as, shall I say because we are here on the subject of breaking up something into lines or not, the viscosity between words.
This raises the sticky question, my hobby horse: Did not those who decided to translate Japanese haiku as a three-line poem make a mistake – or, to put it positively, create a new genre? Why is it that even those Japanese haiku writers who are perfectly aware that most haiku written in non-Japanese languages are in three lines refuse to follow suit, some even feeling that the form has been misunderstood—even though, I must hasten to add, many are gracious enough to see that the matter may be different outside their country, in other languages?
Here, for example, is a haiku by the bureaucrat-world-traveler-cum-haiku writer 西村我尼吾 (Nishimura Gania; Gania, as you may have guessed, is a haiku name; the name his parents gave him is a more mundane Hidetoshi, 英俊):
Hana ni neru kami mo kaina mo takan nari
Asleep in flowers both hair and arms are hypersensitive
I have picked this partly randomly, from the haiku books I have received recently, but partly because, to be honest, I work, like Nishimura, for a government office. Now, as in most translations I do, I can’t recreate the alliterative effect here of kami, kaina, and takan, but suppose Gania had broken this up in three parts?
hana ni neru
kami mo kaina mo
Sorry, I’ve brought in a personal animus in selecting marlene’s haiku as best.