A Hidden Pond:
Anthology of Modern Haiku

First published in Woodnotes #31, Autumn 1997, pages 49–50.

A Hidden Pond: Anthology of Modern Haiku, edited by Kōko Katō, and translated by Kōko Katō and David Burleigh. Kadokawa Shoten, 1997, 252 pages, hardback, 5¼ by 7½ inches. For price, please write to the editor at 1-36-7 Ishida cho, Mizuho-ku, Nagoya, Japan 467 [also available from Brooks Books]. A Hidden Pond may well prove to be a historic collection of poetry, for it presents a sorely needed sampling of modern Japanese haiku. Whereas haiku translations of historic Japanese masters have been readily available for decades, anthologies of haiku by living Japanese writers are rare indeed—especially in durable, professionally printed, hardback publications such as this. The book’s title, A Hidden Pond, emphasizes the hidden nature of much modern Japanese haiku to the English-speaking world. But with this important publication, the particular pond of contemporary haiku in Japan—or at least this particular selection—comes clearly into Western light. In this lovely book, 219 poems appear at one poem per page in kanji, romaji, and English translation, along with brief glosses on each poem—and often about the poet also (a pleasing personal touch). Adding resonance and a sense of the book’s historical significance are a foreword by Akito Arima (president of the Haiku International Association), Kazuo Satō (director of the Museum of Haiku Literature), and an introduction by Kōko Katō. Quoting any one poem would do disservice to those fine poems not quoted, so instead, this enlightening comment from the editor regarding form: “I also think that having a framework of seventeen syllables is a helpful thing in composition; though what is meant by syllables in Japanese and other languages is not the same exactly, I believe that some sort of framework may be useful for people who compose in English too. The effect it has upon the content is an interesting one, rather like the dohyō or ring where sumo wrestlers engage.” If A Hidden Pond has any shortcomings, one is minor: a lack of an alphabetical index of poets (this would have been a helpful addition). The second shortcoming is that this book is too short. Indeed, A Hidden Pond will whet your appetite for more modern Japanese haiku. I trust and hope that similar volumes will follow.

[In 2022, the same editor and translators published a similar and equally rewarding contemporary haiku anthology, The Earth Afloat, also from Kadokawa Shoten.]