HCSHR 4:24—Naho Sugita, Goldfish’s Sigh


HCSHR 4:24—Naho Sugita, Goldfishs Sigh, translated by Yasuhiro Kamimura. Red Moon Press, 2021. 978-1-947271-76-0, 94 pages. 15$US. www.redmoonpress.com

Review by Pearl Pirie

For those who wish to see how haiku is done in Japan, Red Moon Press brings this translation of a contemporary young writer. Naho, a unisex name, speaks to student days, uncertainty of love, certainty of parents and sister as one moves from youth to adulthood.

The book gathers up poems from the poet’s first two Japanese collections and presents these in two chapters within which there is a cycle of seasons. Sugita is a soundy” poet in Japanese and was concerned about what could make the leap to English. To my ear, the leaps land soundly.

The haiku are gentle and subtle vignettes in this Japanese/English bilingual edition. Unlike the mandate for English haiku to have two parts and to not be a sentence, the opening poem is

on the writing desk
wondering where to place
a single plum flower

It is a haiku moment in the sense that there is a pause, a sense of karumi [lightness] in the beauty of ordinary things. It acts as an entry point of nervously settling oneself to share more.

my father has passed away–
flower heads of onion

in his field                                            (p. 19)

This has a universal feel. The mood is elaborated on by what is not taken care of, that which used to be fathers domain. Its that tangled time after a death when what was his, is still at present, called his. The suggestion of gone-to-seed brings a sense of lost opportunities of all the relationship could have been.

Im at risk of narrating my way though the whole book, which would be too long and also deprive you of your own direct experience and interpretation.

Here is a particular favourite

washing my hair
after doing something
irreparable                                           (p. 48)

I know Im a sucker for surprise twists, but beyond the surprise theres the practicality. Even if Nana is dying, cows have to be fed, Even if wars rage, dinner still needs to be made. In the face of great explosions, theres something for the hands to do, useless against the problem, but giving use to the hands.

It is a book of noticings.”

encountered a firefly
on the way home
from a funeral                                      (p. 111)

The order of reveal makes the poem. The magic of a firefly is great, and it gets depth from the context. It would seem to suggest a small hope, or could if one were romantic but the physical world is enough without commentary by the poet, only pointing to this and this. The sense of impermanence (mujo) is throughout. everyone/in the gondola/is a leaf peeper” (p. 65). The poems are youthful but are not wrung with angst, even when there is loss.

mackerel clouds
flow from
your town                                            (p. 147)

Is it not kisetsu, a keen awareness of season, and sabi, of separation, that longing that compels lovers to look on the same star when apart?

The poems are quiet but that is not the same as suppressed or unemotional.

It is an enjoyable collection to read.

Pearl Pirie
September 2021


return to Haiku Canada              return to Book Reviews Home Page HCShoHyōRan


Popular posts from this blog