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The Gift of Shikishi—New Translations

posted Jan 10, 2020, 9:10 PM by Michael Dylan Welch   [ updated Jan 10, 2020, 9:16 PM ]
A major new addition to the Essays and Translations pages is “Touching the Moon: Twenty-Four Shikishi,” a translation project that, in fits and starts, took more than a dozen years to complete. The project presents shikishi (haiku poem cards, featuring original calligraphy) and new translations of haiku by twenty-four of Japan’s leading 20th century haiku poets. These shikishi were given to the Haiku Society of America in September of 1978 to celebrate the society’s tenth anniversary. I originally began work on this project with William J. Higginson, around 2006 or 2007, but after he died in October of 2008, I asked Emiko Miyashita to help me with the new translations. The finished essay and translations appeared in Frogpond 41:1, Winter 2018, in celebration of the Haiku Society of America’s fiftieth anniversary, and I’ve just now added all this content to this website. The shikishi have been valued at $500,000, based on typical prices for this kind of haiku-related calligraphy by major haiku poets, and because of how prominent the majority of its contributors have been in 20th century Japanese haiku. In 2006 the shikishi were deeded to the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library in Sacramento, and the library exhibited them in 2017 and 2018, using exhibit text that I drafted. I’ve also exhibited reproductions of the shikishi at the 2018 Seabeck Haiku Getaway near Seattle. I invite you to read the essay and the translations, and view all of the shikishi images, plus additional photos. A fascinating sublink is “Photos from the September 1978 Haiku Society of America Meeting,” which presents five photos I received from Cor van den Heuvel of the original event in 1978 when these shikishi were first given to the Haiku Society of America in New York City.