An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
translated by James Shea & Jim Kacian
4/2 B, L.I.G. Govindpur Colony
Allahabad- 211004
ISBN 978 81 8253 090 4
Rs. 150/-

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The fantastical is everywhere you look if you are in the habit of exercising your imagination. The prolific haiku poet, Sayumi Kamakura, author of numerous haiku collections, gives an example from her own home:

	Rays of sunlight
	from the porch
	rest in the wind
Readers of A CROWN OF ROSES will probably recognise many of the homely themes in this collection, which range from a sponge, the mailbox, a cat, the fountain to a waterwheel and a dead moth. The poems are sub-sectioned in 6 parts:
  1. Reply by Humming
  2. Whirling Blue
  3. A Dream Is a Dream,
  4. Our Voices
  5. La La La the Sea
  6. Eternity Among the Trees.
The poems are published two to a page in the original Japanese, with translations by James Shea and Jim Kacian. James Shea also supplies a revealing insight into Sayumi Kamakura's haiku in his FOREWORD.

Taking leaps of the imagination, turning the everyday into the wonderful and beautiful has been a lifetime's practice for Kamakura, who won the Oki Sango Prize for her poetry in 1988. She also established the haiku magazine Ginyu with her husband, the poet Ban'yu Natsuishi and has been its editor ever since.

One of the most striking things about Kamakura's collection is her talent for giving each word a similar balance:

	The echoing sound
	of the Greek letter 'alpha' 
	the rain stopping
a gift that may be stronger in the original Japanese, but is highlighted in the translations, where words are kept to a minimum and some haiku contain as few as six words:
	Come, May!
	Without soiling
	our world!
Little happens on the surface of these haiku, except for the daily routine of someone who finds magic everywhere:
	of the things I like:
	I like the wind

		All of the poems
		in the dandelions 
		the roots are everything
Kamakura listens to the waterwheel, watches the vast sky, but underneath, memories form and build:
	The moth's dead body:
	consider it as dust
	sent from heaven
The clouds, stamping feet, bending knees, the end of summer and so forth, stand for the plural thisness of the world, all its things, all its tempting and wonderful pleasure. The reader relishes that thisness is a mainspring of Kamakura's imagination, but there's also that other down-to-earth voice from
	Let our voices
	be delightful!
	Mackerel clouds
the persona that is glad of the winter sunset, the evening glow, or the stupidity of frozen ice. It is a great pleasure to witness this tussle of Kamakura's with the things of this world, the uncertainty whether to prefer them over anything transcendent that leads on and beyond to true reverence.

Gently, unflinchingly, the poet shows a life full of wonderment. Around her everything becomes rich with brilliant significance. The blue threads from baby spiders bring a moment of realisation. An astonishing poem about the poet's mother lets loss break through:

	A fallen paulownia leaf
	puts my mother to sleep
	in the afterlife
There are poems about natural elements: the sun, summer heat, sprays of water, trees budding, a rainbow, yellow and red roses, blinding clouds. There are poems about everyday objects: a closet, a new poem, an index finger, cucumber, drinking water. And there are poems of a personal nature:
	Set free the second half
	of my life
	in the winter mist
Several haiku are compassionate, some humorous, and many are serious:
	A cold circle
	called God
	or the sun
The success of Kamakura's haiku is her ability to have her cake and eat it to be conceptually intricate, but at the same time to keep her feet on plain, simple, indeed beautiful ground. Her mind is an intense, subtle, infinitely self-questioning one, and her poetry has evolved into haiku that is richest where it is simplest:
	I cannot get there 
	even though
	I carry these roses
Lyrical, rich with imagery and restrained language, this is a memorable collection, full of passion and energy.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.