2020.01.04: „The Haiku Festival in Constanta, Romania” by Yusuke Miyake

1. How I came to participate in the festival and an overview of the festival

I participated in an international haiku festival which was held from 30th August to 3rd September 2019 in Constanta, a resort city located on the coast of the Black Sea in Romania. So I’d like to report about this.

Firstly, let me talk about how I came to join the festival in the first place. Actually, I’ve been engaged not only in writing haiku but also poetry as a whole, such as tanka poems and free verses etc. Ever since a poet named Yasuhiro Yotsumoto invited me to join a group of poets in Turkey, I started making renshi (linked poems) with them and became fascinated with international poetry activities. This was the beginning of my journey. At the beginning of this year, I received an e-mail from Yotsumoto and he asked if I was interested in joining a haiku festival in Eastern Europe, which is a place I’ve never been to. In addition to this, he told me that the place would be a resort located near Mamaia Beach on the coast of the Black Sea. That was why I became greatly interested in it. I imagined how much fun it would be if I could create haiku with poets in Romania and talk about many things. And, of course, how could I resist the temptation of creating haiku while lying on a beach at one of the most popular resorts on the Black Sea?

I translated my haiku into English and French straight away, and asked Yotsumoto to introduce me to Aurica, the festival representative, with my brief background regarding poetry. Then, I received a reply and found out that they accepted me to join them.

However, I actually had no idea about what the festival would be like and what they would be doing at the festival. At that stage, I didn’t even know much about English haiku either. I was wondering how people in Europe compose it.

Well, when I joined and wrote renshi with a group of poets in Turkey, as stated above, there was a female Turkish poet called Pelin. Not only did she like haiku, but she also wrote heaps! Actually, I had an experience where I translated her haiku which was originally written in Turkish (it was already translated into French) into Japanese together with a Turkish interpreter called Esra (this is bit complicated though), and it appeared in a Japanese poem magazine called Beagle.

This was the first time for me to think of haiku written in languages other than Japanese. I translated Pelin’s haiku, which was already translated in French, into Japanese, and Esra translated Pelin’s original haiku, which was written in Turkish, directly into Japanese. We then combined these to make one haiku. Not surprisingly, haiku, which are translated into other languages, don’t have the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. When her haiku was translated into French from Turkish, it transformed into a short three-line poem. I then came up with a simple question, “Would Pelin’s haiku have 5-7-5 syllables in Turkish?” Although I asked Esra about this by e-mail, I couldn’t get a clear answer, so I didn’t pursue it anymore. By the way, there was another point which caught my attention. Many of Pelin’s haiku didn’t include a kigo (season word). Because I didn’t know the fact that Japanese season words are different to Western ones at that time, I may have just missed this out though.

This was one of the reasons why I decided to join the haiku festival. I wanted to find out the answer to my simple question of what the mechanism of Haiku in western countries is. As the festival got closer, I started doing some web research on what we call “Western Haiku.” As it often happens to us, the information on the internet isn’t always correct. You know, I shouldn’t have, but I actually believed the information on the internet which stated that “Western Haiku” was a short three-line poem (the second line is supposed to be longer than first and third lines) and a kigo isn’t always included etc.

As for the conversation with Pelin in Turkey, there was another point that I remember. When Pelin told me that she was creating haiku, I accidentally asked, “Do you study under someone like a mentor of haiku? Are there mentors who teach it in Istanbul?” As I expected, she looked a bit confused and said, “What is a mentor of haiku? What is it all about?” I was somewhat shocked and made a realization. When I asked her the question, I only thought of how haiku groups were in Japan as well as the Japanese mentoring relationship. Yes, of course. When we enjoy literature, we don’t always need someone who teaches us, do we?

If you want to learn this, you can do it by yourself. I actually used to belong to a haiku group and I’m still a member of a group for tanka poem. There are both good and bad points about belonging to groups. I guess that as long as it is a type of organization, we must have not only good points but bad points as well. I really understand the fact about organizations, because I always work for a company to earn my living. In spite of this, why do I have to be bound by an organization when I want to enjoy tanka and haiku? Ever since I realized this, I’ve been trying to spend time away from those groups a little and I’m now giving first priority to things which I am really interested in.

So, now I reflect on the silly question I had asked Pelin. Her answer made me realize that in western countries it is the way of individualism.

Nonetheless, such a situation seemed to be a bit different in Romania. I’ll talk about the details of this later.

(I actually asked Pelin if she could join the festival. Although she was really interested in joining, she couldn’t make it because of various reasons. I felt sorry for this)

Next, let me talk about the festival. First of all, I’d like to talk about the participants. I heard that other than Romanian, there would also be people from Sweden, Tunisia, France and Japan. However, the majority were poets from many places in Romania such as Constanta, Bucharest and Iasi etc. Therefore, discussion and reading sessions were held mostly in Romanian, so Romanian poets who could speak English interpreted it for me in turn.

The venue was a high school of art located in Constanta and all the discussion and judgments regarding haiku was held there. I also made a presentation about the kigo (season words) used in Japanese haiku for about half an hour.

Each poet also recited their own haiku at a park with a Japanese stone lantern. I heard the stone lantern was a gift from Yokohama city in Japan, which was a sister city of Constanta. I knew people would not be able to understand my haiku if I read it in Japanese, so I prepared a video beforehand, in which I visualized my haiku, and played it on a Mac while reciting it.

Apart from these, we also conducted ginko (composing and reciting poems while strolling) while taking a half day excursion to the coast of the Black Sea for two days, on which we visited Balchik in Bulgaria and Enisala in Romania.

Of course, I didn’t forget to make good use of my spare time. I went to Mamaia Beach located near the student dormitory, where I was staying, to lay down and relax (how nice!).

2. Aurica and Taner from Constanta haiku association

Well, before I came to Romania, I often exchanged e-mails with Aurica, a lady I mentioned above. At first I thought she was a person from the executive secretariat of the festival, but she was actually the president of Constanta haiku association. Unlike the impression I received from the e-mails, she was actually a person with strong leadership (I mean for both being a leader of the orgnization and for being a mentor of haiku for members), and leading Romanian haiku poets who had great individuality.

hot summer- vară fierbinte-

my shadow follows me umbra mă urmează

diminishing it. micşorându-se

(Aurica Văceanu)

There was another person who I became good friends with. This was Taner Murat. He was about 60 years old and liked writing poems. He even gave me his collection of poems, but he told me that he didn’t yet know much about haiku. He also mentioned that he would be more suited as a translator rather than a poet. I heard he had done many translations. He was also working as an editor of a science magazine for many years and was hosting events in Constanta as well. Since a long time ago, he always got along well with Aurica and Alexandra, the vice president. He said, “I feel sympathy towards them. That is why, I am helping at the festival.” (Also, on the day I arrived, the vice president, Alexandra Flora, took me around the city with Aurel Lăzăroiu and dropped me off at the student dormitory)

it is growing dark- noaptea se lasă-

wind whisper sounds. Şoapta vântului sună

at our gate la poarta noastră

(Alexandra Flora)

Taner is a descendant of Tatars and his mother tongue was actually Tatar language (His collection of poems was also written in Tatar language), and because the number of people speaking it was declining year after year, he was also worried about the future of the Tatar language. So, his dream was to establish a research center for endangered languages (especially languages in Central Eurasian). This is the most impressive story that I heard during my stay for the haiku festival.

He also told me that it is important to understand Eastern Europe before understanding Western Europe. When I told him that I was in the middle of reading a book about the history of the Balkan Peninsula, he also said, “It is important, but who wrote the book is also important. This is because there are various ways of looking at things.”

He must have outstanding intelligence...This was my impression about him. He hoped that we could do something good for both Central Eurasia and Japan together in the future. Nonetheless, the scale was too big for me to come up with any ideas. I was so glad to hear that, but at the same time, I felt it was beyond my capability.

Well, putting that aside, because Taner guided me around Constanta city and often took me out for meals, I had opportunities to talk to him the most. That is why I had many chances to ask about Constanta haiku association and Romanian haiku etc. Firstly, as far as Taner knew, the association and festival started about 20 years ago and Aurica was always the main person who was leading the members. However, he told me that because of the aging of the members and Aurica herself, the scale of the association was getting smaller. For example, they used to have the festival every year but now it’s only every second year. According to him, this trend wasn’t only seen in the world of haiku, but also the whole world of literature in Romania (This is also a world trend, too). Aurica wanted someone to take over her position soon but she couldn’t find the right person. Hmm, I sympathize deeply with this story.

By the way, I asked Taner about the mechanism of haiku…how people in Romania compose it. Although he said he wasn’t familiar with haiku that much, he knew quite a bit. He must’ve learned a lot under Aurica’s strict (?) haiku coaching. I also found out about Aurica’s belief and thoughts in regards to haiku in his story.

Firstly, I asked him, “When they compose haiku in Romanian, does it have the 5-7-5 syllable pattern?” And he immediately answered, “Yes.” I see...it wasn’t a short three-line poem. And I also asked, “Do they always include a kigo?” And he also immediately answered, “Yes.” I finally found out that it was a fixed format with a kigo. However, I heard that there are different opinions, so some poets in Romania suggest that it doesn’t have to be a fixed format with a kigo. They seem to be discussing this matter and they are yet to reach a conclusion. Nonetheless, I heard that Taner and Aurica had a belief that if they didn’t care or follow such a rule, it would be a lack of respect for Japanese haiku and poetry. I was very impressed with this. This was a story, which I, as a Japanese, had to appreciate. Or should I be proud of?

But, if someone asks me, “When Romanian write haiku, should it always be the fixed format with a kigo?” I think I won’t be able to say “Yes” immediately. When I write haiku I do follow the rule of fixed form with a kigo, but this is something that Romanian poets should decide and I should not say much about it. Like Japanese food, such as sushi and ramen, which are loved all over the world, even if they are not always the same as the original one, I think it is ok to have a different style to Japanese haiku, as long as it is loved and developed among people. Some people may say, “Haiku is not a food!” but of course food is culture, too.

By the way, when I still believed that “Western Haiku” was just a short three-line poem, I wrote a haiku about a seagull I saw on a beach in Constanta the previous morning, and showed it to Taner. It was just a short poem, but still a “haiku” (I made the second line longer, hahaha)

when I approached a seagull,

he fled to the other side of summer,

that is, to the beach where no one is

Taner then looked at my haiku for a little while and said, “You used a metaphor, didn’t you?” I was shocked. For me, my thought was “What is wrong with using a metaphor?” But I soon found out what Taner was trying to tell me.

The point was this. The Constanta haiku association was probably adopting a theory which was close to shaseisetsu, a principle of “sketching from life.” This was advocated by Shiki and Kyoshi in the world of haiku as well as Mokichi from Araragi in the world of tanka. In other words, haiku is the expression of a fact and how to capture a moment. I’m not going to say it is old-fashioned or anything like that. Maybe this is what haiku should be like. I’ve been writing haiku rather close to poems. But I think it is ok if there is a stance where “Haiku is different to a poem!” I was a little surprised because I didn’t expect that at all.

But, Taner continued with his playful smile, “Nonetheless, Aurica started accepting the use of metaphors from a few years ago. She was saying this while referring to beautiful haiku that she found, as well as the words of the poet.”

Romanian haijin (haiku poets) including Aurica were really studying hard and their views on haiku were getting richer and richer. I really admire their attitude towards haiku.

In fact, they were not only studying haiku, but also tanka, renku, haiga and haibun! Their extent of knowledge about Japanese poetry was so impressive. I reflected on myself and even felt a little ashamed.

I also asked Clelia Ifrim (who is engaged in translation of Japanese poetry), who I became friend with afterwards at ginko etc., about Romanian haiku, and she said, “I like haiku which uses a metaphor” without hesitation. So I became sure that there must’ve been many opinions and perspectives. Aside to that, a hyphen and comma are used as kireji (cutting words) and this is counted as a syllable. Hmmm, how profound!

Well, now I’d like to talk about haiku circles in Romania and what I thought about this. As I mentioned in Pelin’s words above, haiku seemed to be something for them to learn individually in Istanbul. Nonetheless, there were a few haiku associations in Romania, for example, Constanta and Bucharest haiku association. I know there are a few others, and they all seemed to be well-structured. I thought this might be playing a role of what we call kessya (formal haiku groups) in Japan. Award systems etc. seemed to be well organized there.

Will it be better if there is something like a circle, or better if we do it by ourselves? Of course, as I said at the beginning, there are merits and demerits for both, and I think it depends on each person’s preference as well. Speaking of circles, when I met Alexandra for the first time, he asked me, “Are you a member of a haiku circle in Japan?” (that is, kessya in Japan) at a relatively early stage. This may be something quite important for Romanian haijin. This is because Aurica also asked me the same question, when I had an interview with her. I guess I am reading too much into things if I say that, unlike Turkey, such phenomenon of being well structured is something unique to Eastern Europe, which used to be in the Communist Bloc...

Well, communist reminds me of an interesting story I heard from Taner. When he took me around the old town in Constanta, there was an old building and he said to me, “This is the oldest building in the city.” It was an English railway company’s office, and our conversation moved onto the history of Constanta, which of course included stories from the communist era. Taner said quietly, “Of course the current era is better, but some of the things were better in the communist era.”

I’ve heard of such nostalgia of the communist era in a news report etc., but when I heard it directly from a person who actually lived in the era, it was powerfully persuasive. Also, when we took our shoes off and walked along Mamaia Beach, he said with deep emotion, “In the communist era, when I was a child, there were only Germans on this beach.” Then, when I asked, “Were they East Germans?” without deep thinking, he answered “No, no. West German!” and I understood what he meant. He continued, “At that time, West Germans came to the beach and enjoyed drinking beer which was cheaper than in West Germany!” while laughing. It is true that prices are still cheaper in Eastern Europe, and the Deutsche Mark would’ve been strong even in the communist era.

Let me talk about the last episode regarding Taner. When we were walking in the old town, we saw a group of girls with a person who seemed to be a teacher. Then, Tanel suddenly put gentle smile on his face and said, “My children!” And, the children also said, “That’s Taner!” and came running toward him with big smiles. Since Taner introduced me to the children and said “This is my guest from Japan,” they happily gave me a high five. Later on, I asked him, “How do you know them?” and found out that they were the children from an orphanage at which Taner was working. I’ve heard about this in a news report so I knew that the increase in the numbers of orphans (so called sewer children), in Bucharest has been a big problem. Taner was addressing this problem and told me many stories about it. I felt great admiration for what he was doing, but at the same time, I came to know about a dark part of this resort in Romania.

3. Introduction of haiku written by people who I became friends with

First of all, I’d like to introduce haiku written by Mihaela Cojocaru. Mihaela was also engaged in various poetry activities such as haiga and photo haiku etc. At the festival venue, she always sat next to me and was kind to me. She was also creating Youtube videos with her son.

summer rain- ploaie de vară-

in the drops of leaves. in stropii de pe frunze

the reflected sky răsfrânt tot cerul

(Mihaela Cojocaru)

Next is Clelia Ifrim, who was very kind to me at ginko. She was intelligent and a very elegant woman. Nonetheless, heated debates took place with Aurica and other members at the judgment session. As I mentioned above, she was engaged in international activities such as translation of Japanese poems etc.

She gave me a collection of her wonderful poems. When we went to Balchik in Bulgaria for ginko, she wrote this haiku for me.

sea water-

its blue color keeps

marks of salt

(Clelia Ifrim)

I’d like to introduce her poem as well.


Between the city and village

There is a distance of Saturday.

Namely,a thousand steps.

The children from the sky go on.

The others,just to the foot of the mountain.

(Clelia Ifrim)

I’d like to continue the introductions, and next is a married couple, Alexandru and Eugenia. This couple was also very kind to me. As we can see in the photo, Alexandru was a sophisticated man who looked nice with a beard. He had an elegant low voice and his reciting was wonderful when we all recited haiku at a park in the city. At a lunch meeting on the last day of ginko, he sang a Romanian song with his beautiful voice. He also always had his Nikon with him and took many photos. He must’ve been writing not only haiku but also poems, and he gave me a wonderful poem collection book. His wife, Eugenia, was a very impressive person as well. She was fluent in English, so when we went on trips for ginko, she translated the explanations of the priest (who was a guide there) from Romanian to English for me, and explained about the ruins and the church.

When we visited a Romanian Orthodox Church at ginko, Eugenia passionately gave me an explanation about the icon, a religious artwork. I saw many people, including Eugenia, who were kissing on the icon of Jesus at the church in Varna, Bulgaria. The priest at the church seemed to be greatly respected by the local people. When I was listening to Eugenia’s stories, I sensed the richness of the religious faith which was deeply rooted in local people’s life. I am used to urban life and do not have any religious faith. When Eugenia asked me, “Don’t you have any religion?” I even felt ashamed about myself. Eugenia told me about two miracles brought by her faith…the miracles happened in regards to the sickness of her father and child. When I heard the story, I was honestly greatly impressed. When she continued her story with a proud look saying that her child has now became a priest, I felt a spiritual awakening about the faith and life in regions of Eastern Europe.

By the way, Eugenia recited this unique poem for me at the festival. The poem on the left side was written by mixing Romanian with English, and for the one on the right, she translated the Romanian part into English. The one on the left is very technical since it is a fixed format with rhythm and rhyme. Especially the part about the bulldog was funny when I was listening to it. I was so glad to have such a wonderful welcome (I think her husband wrote the poem and she read it for me). I received this by e-mail later on, so I’d like to introduce it here.

Alexandru învaţă Engleză. Alex. learns English.

My name is Alexandru, please, . . . . . . . . . . . .

You know me... om serios, so is, ...a serious man,

That ... matematica îmi place, ...I like mathematics,

Să cânt, să... write, nu ai ce-mi face To sing, to write, you have nothing to do with me

But... always, fir-ar să fie! ....Zounds!

I make ..şi o fotografie. ...and also a photo

I thought ... că este de ajuns, ...that is enough

But, dear wife, ce mi-a răspuns: ...what she answered me

It's not enough, iubitul meu, ...my lover

I teach you şi nu este greu, ... and it's not hard

To speak, un pic... şi în engleză, ... a little ... and in English,

But, eu credeam... it is... chineză. ... I thought ... it is ... Chinese.

I have to tell you… un secret, ... a secret

Urma să fiu... little... şiret I was going to be....wily

About me:… un gând aveam, ... I had a thought

To please her... şi... chiar învăţam. ... I was really learning

But breaking news: eu m-am decis ... I decided

To make… un mare compromis: ... a big compromise:

Să spun… the truth, truth… gol gol To tell..., ... stark-naked

Chiar dacă... isn't so... drăg. Even if... ... so cute

I wanted be … un soţ modern, ... a modern husband

But I entered … într-un infern ... into inferno

I wanted wife like… o grecoaică, ... a Greek woman,

But... woken up ... c-o englezoaică. ... an Englishwoman.

It was enough... că i-am stricat ... that I have broken her

What… ea sărmana a visat , ... she poor dreamed,

Şi-am început… to go, go, go (gău) And I started... ... ...

Then, run, run, run… ca un dulău. ... ... like a bulldog

Cuvintele slipping... cuminţi, The Words... quietly

But, when... vorbeam, loveau în dinţi. ... ... when I was talking, they hit my teeth.

Dar ea era chiar… very nice But she was even ....

Şi-mi tot dădea câte-un… advice And he was still giving me one...

And, faithful, ca o preoteasă, ... ... as a priestess

Mă pregătea... always ...acasă, She was preparing me... at home

How… să vorbesc still englezeşte ... to speak still english

Şi fiindcă… sure… ea mă iubeşte, And because ... she loves me

Am încercat, but, nu mi-a mers, I tried ... but didn't work

Ca să… to walk… prin univers So as ... through universe

Şi să… leaving… fără adresă, And to..... ... without address

Like… Don Quixote, într-o piesă, ... Don Quixote, in one piece,

Dar… not too much … am învăţat. But... ... not too much I learned

So, la engleză... am renunţat. ... at English... I gave up

I’m sorry… că v-am supărat ! ... that I upset you

On the left side there is the poetry created by me - in joke - which also has rhythm and rhyme, and on the right side I have translated only the words written in Romanian, which, of course, cannot respect the rhythm and the rhyme. I hope you enjoy.

Alexandru also gave me a haibun. Although I really wanted to introduce it here, I had to omit it because of space limitations. He was a man of many talents, whom I admired. His haiku is also wonderful so I’d like to introduce it here.

walking through the rain… merg prin ploaie…

the last leaf falls cade ultima frunză

over my thought…. peste găndul meu…

(Alexandru Pătrulescu)

There was a village named Corbu near Enisala, where we went for ginko. I’d like to introduce Daniela Varvara who was teaching Japanese literature at a school in the village. When we visited the school, Daniela and her students welcomed us with coffee and sweets.

I think Daniela was the only person who was younger than me among the Romanian haijin who participated in the festival. She must be a promising young poet in the Constanta haiku association. Although Taner was worried about the lack of successors, she could be the one who could lead the association in the future.

When we all had a lunch together at a restaurant on a beautiful beach near Corbu village, a band was playing live music, and after finishing lunch, everyone started dancing to the music (I was also asked to join the dancing and I did). Daniela was dancing gracefully.

a snail and a leaf- un melc şi-o frunză-

only death steals the start. doar moartea fură startul

in the running race. In crosul toamnei

(Daniela Varvara)

In the next room at the student dormitory which I was staying at, there were a parent and child from Bucharest, who also participated in the festival. This was Andana and Mihaela Călinescu.

Mihaela was in his late thirties. He had a big body but looked shy. He told me that he took days off work to drive a car for his mother so they could join the festival from Bucharest. Both the mother and son helped me a lot during my stay. They gave me a lift every day to the festival venue. Mihaela was fluent in English, and somehow became fond of me, so every night he asked me to go out for drinks together. So both of us, middle aged men, headed to the pubs twice, one night in the old town and the other night on the beach.

smile of the summer- surăsul verii-

after rain the rainbow. după ploaie curcubeul

in arc over plaine. In arc peste cămp

(Andana Călinescu)

4. Introduction of Japanese kigo, reciting session at a park, and about renshi, haiku translation and ginko

Aurica asked me to explain kigo in Japanese haiku at the festival. That is to say, the western version of kigo does exist. “What will the kigo be like in western haiku?” my curiosity would never end. However I’m still working on the interview with Aurica, so one day I may be able to talk about it. I made a presentation about Japanese kigo within a limited timeframe during the festival and Alexandra, who I introduced above, did simultaneous interpreting into Romanian for me.

Firstly, I gave a brief history of Japanese literature, and based on this information, I explained how haiku began, how we classify kigo, what categories of kigo there are, and what kigo is used for each season.

Then, when I explained about the categories of kigo, a lady asked me, “Although you explained the category, for example, the season and living, we cannot categorize things like that in the first place, can we?” That question was quite reasonable. Then, a gentleman responded, “No, it’s not. That’s a silly question” and the discussion became a little complicated. However, because the lady asked me if it is written in the Japanese haiku dictionary (which is, Saijiki), I showed her the “17 seasons (dictionary of kigo)” and she eventually agreed with me.

This sort of question was something to be expected. It wasn’t really kind for me to say, “Because it is written in dictionary” and I’ve also learned a lesson from this.

By the way, it is quite difficult to explain about Japanese kigo within a limited time. For example, when I explain about what types of kigo there are, I have to start explaining from traditional Japanese lifestyle. If I do this, I need a lot of time for everyone to gain a deep understanding. Therefore, I had no choice but to explain only limited kigo. When I did this, I realized something and I was quite shocked. Even for Japanese people, especially for modern people, it is difficult to use traditional kigo well, so how can people in Romania use complex kigo, such as “Onbashira Festival”?

Each country has a different history as well as unique customs and annual events. I really feel honored and proud, as a Japanese, that Aurica seeks authentic Japanese literature and wants to create Japanese haiku by following the traditional way as much as possible. Nonetheless, in fact, when Romanians create haiku, they classify kigo with a different method and use western kigo. Of course this is normal and they can pursue “haiku unique to Romania” more and more, or even pursue interesting types of haiku which is mixed with Japanese literature. In the world, there are many masterpieces which were created by blending different cultural styles. I wonder if such opportunities will appear more and more in the future. I just gained this sort of impression.

As I mentioned above, there was an event in which each poet recited their own haiku, tanka or poems in the summer sunset at a park (in front of a stone lantern which was a gift from Constanta’s sister city, maybe Yokohama?).

Everyone recited their own book in Romanian, and members who were good at English came to me in turn and translated them one by one for me.

Well, I was wondering how I should recite my haiku and tanka since the day before. That is to say, the issue of whether to recite my poems in Japanese with the book in one hand, and who would understand it? If I translated it into English or French, I could convey the meaning to some extent, but the 5-7-5 rhythm would be lost.

Then, I came up with an idea. I actually had visualized material for some of my tanka and haiku. So, the idea was to recite them in Japanese while playing the video on a Mac and giving an explanation in English later. In this way, I thought I could convey the meaning easier with the aid of the video. That is how I ended up having a funny style, with which I recited my poems with the book in one hand and Mac in the other.

I prepared spring, summer, autumn, and winter haiku as well as tanka which I wrote by myself. I selected ones which I wrote about the beautiful Japanese cherry blossoms in spring and the leaves changing color in the autumn since these were quite classic. For summer and winter, I chose ones which were a little avant-garde. As for the winter haiku, because my acquaintance Shiroubei, a manga artist, created a funny cartoon for me, this cracked everyone up the most. I was glad to see that Aurica, who was always rigid, was also laughing.

(For the people who are interested, please see these YouTube video URLs)





By the way, some people may say, “Why are you reciting tanka at a haiku festival?” But each person in Romania writes haiku, tanka and poems etc. in a natural manner. There is a strange sectionalism in Japan. For example, haijin should only do haiku, tanka poets do tanka and poets do poetry etc., but this doesn’t exist in Romania (I feel a little ironic about the situation of Japanese poetry though…) Actually, when I joined a gathering of haiku poets a long time ago, I said to a lady, “I’m going to have a poetry gathering, so would you like to come?” and she was very determined and replied to me, “No, I’m not going. If I write tanka poems, my faith for haiku will be disrupted.” I was extremely surprised to hear that. What is the “faith for haiku” which can be disrupted just by writing tanka?

Not to change the subject, but I also rethought about renku (linked haiku). Poets in Romania create many renku. When I was in Japan, I also participated in renku several times. However, this time I actually studied about it again before joining the festival, but I knew nothing about the western version of renku. I found that they continued with three-line, two-line, three-line, two-line…but I still don’t know where they place a kigo and if they use teiza (particular words to be used in fixed positions), and how they add a linked verse, so this is also included in the interview with Aurica which I’m still working on. One day I may be able to explain about this.

In addition to this, I also deeply rethought about the translation of haiku. Almost all of the Romanian haijin who joined the festival gave me books of their own works. I was surprised with the fact that almost all of them are masters who have published their own books, and at the same time, I was very much impressed that most of their haiku were written not only Romanian but also in English and French etc. As we can see from the country name, Romania, they are closely related to “Rome” in the ethnical viewpoint and their language is also similar to Italian (which means, maybe close to Latin as well?). However, Bulgaria which is located right under Romania is more close to Slavic, and they use the Cyrillic alphabet, which seems quite different to Romania though…

Anyway, when it comes to the question of why they present their haiku in other languages, I think it is because they are always aware of Europe as a whole, not just inside Romania. That is to say, they assume that their haiku will be translated into other languages without noticing it. I think that this is a reasonable explanation. By the way, I think that there would be almost no Japanese haijin or poets who think of translation of their own works. This is because they become satisfied with evaluation only inside Japan. It is true that Taner, who was also a translator, said to me, when any fixed format poetry like haiku are translated, duplicating the rhythm is impossible (There may be a chance of coincidence though). In other words, Romanian haijin accept the fact based on the understanding that the rhythm will be lost when being translated into English and French.

In this case, haiku is converted into a “short three-line poem,” which is just like my misunderstanding of western haiku in the first place, but this means that they prioritize the “meaning” of haiku rather than the rhythm. I think this is the point of translation of fixed format poetry like haiku and tanka being difficult. I also think that translation of haiku is the most difficult even though haiku is shorter, because it contains less information. For example, translation of novels also has its own difficulties, but when it comes to the “meaning,” because it can contain more information, the longer the novels are, the more accurate they can be in conveying the meaning, I think.

There was a haijin from Bucharest who stayed overnight with me in the room I was staying in. His career was so long that I would be able to call him a “professional haijin” and he asked me to create renku together. Although I didn’t know much about western renku, I got interested in it and accepted his offer. At that time, I still believed “western haiku is just short poetry,” but anyway I showed him the haiku which I wrote that morning (as I mentioned above, I also showed it to Taner the next morning). Then, he looked at it for a little while and said, “The third line is a bit long.” At first I said to myself “What kind of comment is that? It’s not even about the contents” but when I thought twice about it, English wasn’t the mother language for either of us.

In other words, the length seems to become important for the translated “fixed format poetry” which has lost rhythm. It was very interesting that the comment from this haijin from Bucharest was in contrast to the one of Taner, when both looked at the same haiku which I wrote. Taner commented about the content of the haiku, and the haijin from Bucharest mentioned the format. I wasn’t interested in finding out who was wrong, but these conversations made me think of the significance of haiku translation. However, I made good use of his comment on the first one and made the third one shorter as a whole, and he said, “This one is shorter and better.” The renku wasn’t completed though because he left the festival early. The format still seems important even after the rhythm is lost. For me, there is still much unknown about Western renku. When I have another chance, I’ll be willing to try again.

During the festival, we went on short ginko excursions along the Black Sea for two days. For the first ginko, we headed south from Constanta, entered Bulgaria, visited a church in Varna, looked at the garden of the former Romanian Queen Marie in Balchik and dropped in at the ruins of ancient Rome. For the second ginko, we headed north along the Black Sea from Constanta and visited the old castle in Enisala, Romanian Orthodox Church and the Corbu village.

I have visualized the haiku which I wrote during ginko. If you are interested, please visit the following URL.


5. In the end

My journey started with visiting towns on the Black Sea in Bulgaria before joining the festival. In other words, “the Black Sea” was my theme behind the scenes. I arrived in Sophia, the capital city of Bulgaria, visited towns on the Black Sea, Varna and Burgas, and then came to Constanta in Romania. As for my impressions during traveling Bulgaria and the differences compared to Romania, I’d like to talk about these when I have another chance.

But in any case, unlike Western Europe, I didn’t see many other Asians there, so I was obviously a “foreigner” for the local people except for other people from the festival. But, at the festival in Romania, everyone warmly welcomed me and were really kind to me. Why is that? It’s all because Japanese poetry linked us together. If I really think about it, I could say that this wonderful experience is almost a miracle. This was the first time that I felt glad that I decided to do Japanese poetry. At the same time, I realized that respect for the culture of other countries can lead to true understanding and this is not limited to just the world of poetry. It may sound typical, but on this journey, I experienced truly important feelings and thoughts.

Lastly, the following is a list of appendices

1. Schedule of the festival (My name was spelt incorrectly, but no worries, that’s all right)

2. Original style renku which Clelia created (she also included my haiku)

3. Mutual interview between Aurica and I regarding Japanese and Romanina haiku.