Avant-Garde Haiku by Natsuishi Ban’ya


Falling flowers or falling snow
A column stands rigidly
Like a splinter – an irritant

Gazing up at falling snow
As if ascending to heaven

Afternoon of the opening wound
Like a raging wildfire

It’s always around this time
I have to let go
The one in the emptiness

Natsuishi Ban’ya’s roost
Has a vividly colored sky

Heaven is a solid
The ants on the mountaintops
Are completely destroyed

The giant of fog
Lays down
In the East

Left behind
The thousand year-old cedar
Coddled by storm

I call to the nothing
Of the pure white arabesque

Pushed down the stairs
I become a rainbow

Evening shower –
Horses bits lined up
Death takes off running

A wind comes from the future
Blowing the waterfall apart

Keeping the waterfall there
For a thousand-year absence

The tail of a lightning bolt
Enters the Japan Sea

The moonlight carries
An infinite “if”
To the doorway

The sea slims down
Even the beach slims down
This big man

Lapis lazuli rolls
From bird to bird
Plumeria

The man turning the north star
In Cappadocia

Oh acorn!
The real Western world
Is a desert

Now in his fifties, Natsuishi Ban’ya has been a controversial figure throughout his career. The perennial bad boy of Japanese haiku, Ban’ya has been the major avant-garde practitioner of the form for the past thirty years, gaining influence as much from French Modernism, Dadaism, Surrealism and concrete poetry as the difficult modern Japanese haikuists he usually mentions as his predecessors (including Takayanagi Jushin and Katoh Ikuya, also translated by myself). Ban’ya and his wife, Kamakura Sayumi, also a haikuist, publish a multilingual magazine. Ban’ya also leads the World Haiku Association, which has a multilingual website, and is active in organizing haiku and poetry events internationally.

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