A Long Rainy Season: Haiku and Tanka

First published in Woodnotes #23, Winter 1994, pages 52–53.

A Long Rainy Season: Haiku and Tanka, edited and translated by Leza Lowitz, Miyuki Aoyama, and Akemi Tomioka. Stone Bridge Press, 1994, 200 pages, paperback, 5½ by 7¼ inches. $12.00 in bookstores. In 1993, Stone Bridge Press published Hiroaki Sato’s one-line translations of Ozaki Hōsai’s haiku, Right under the big sky, I don’t wear a hat. The first volume in the same press’s Contemporary Japanese Women’s Poetry series, A Long Rainy Season builds on this success and contributes admirably to the body of haiku and tanka translations now available in English. With 59 poems by seven haiku poets, and 98 poems by eight tanka poets, the book tastefully offers just two haiku or one tanka per page in large type, with understated line drawings by Robert Kushner sprinkled throughout. Leza Lowitz writes a poignant introduction that places Japanese women’s poetry in its literary, political, historical, and sociological contexts, and also reviews the poetic forms of haiku and tanka. She explains that the original objective of the book “was to introduce the most important living women poets of Japan to Western readers,” but admits that the book is, of necessity, not definitive. Yet it still provides a warm and inviting selection of poetry from such poets as Nobuko Katsura, Teiko Inahata, Kōkō Katō, Ei Akitsu, Yuko Kawano, Machi Tawara, and others. As a sampling, here is the book’s title poem, by Nobuko Katsura:

The nuisance

of breasts—

a long rainy season