Love Haiku: Masajo Suzuki's Lifetime of Love

translated by Emiko Miyashita & Lee Gurga

Masajo Suzuki. Love Haiku: Masajo Suzuki's Lifetime of Love © August, 2000. Perfect Bound, (5.5" X 8.5") 112 pages.
ISBN: 1-929820-00-3 / $15 USA / ¥1600 Japan

Brooks Books is pleased to offer this selection of a contemporary haiku writer's lifetime work in haiku. Please join us in the celebration of Love Haiku: Masajo Suzuki's Lifetime of Love edited and translated by Lee Gurga and Emiko Miyashita, a translation team which combines the talents of two of our leading contemporary haiku poets in the United States and Japan.

This book includes the best love haiku by Masajo, published in a dual-language edition with notes from the author as well as from the translators.

               firefly light:
               I step off the path
               of woman's virtue

Masajo Suzuki followed her own path. She is not just a love poet in the sense of writing about her lover, but a love poet in the larger sense of loving life and living it fully.

ISBN: 1-929820-00-3
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About the Author

"I have been in love at all the times." So says Masajo Suzuki, premier love haiku poet of contemporary Japanese haiku. Masajo (whose real name is Masa Suzuki) was born in 1906 as the third daughter of the owner of a seaside resort hotel, Yoshidaya, at Kamogawa. Masajo met her destined love, YM (1913-1977), in 1936. Their love continued for forty years until his death in 1977.

YM and haiku both came into Masajo's life in the same period. Haiku enabled Masajo to open up a world in which she could be free and creative. She began studying haiku under the guidance of her late sister's master, Hakusuirô Ôba in 1936. She subsequently joined the Shuntô (Light of Spring Night) haiku group and studied under the guidance of Mantarô Kubota until his death in 1963.

When asked about influence on her haiku, Masajo said, "The influence of arts and artists on me has not been small, but what has most influenced my haiku? Love! It has been the source all of my artistic activities."

Her fourth book, Yûboraru (Evening Fireflies), won the 16th Haijinkyôkai Prize in 1976; and in 1995 she won the Yomiuri Literature Prize for her sixth book, Miyakodori (Black-headed Gull). In 1998, her seventh book, Shimokuren (Purple Magnolia), won the Dakotsu Prize, which is considered the highest award in the haiku world.

Masajo's favorite haikuFrom the Introduction

Masajo is a poet who has lived life devoted to her art, writing about her everyday life, whether a sensual haiku about lying with her lover in the grass:

firefly finds his love
they settle into grass
together

or a mundane haiku about her pub's dinner:

steamed in sake—
small clams open their shells
the night's coldness

(from the Imachizuki collection). All her haiku are imbued with passion, a passionate sense for living. She herself said she lived for haiku, her lover and her pub-these three aspects of her life embody her strong spirit to feast on loving life.

winter mist—
memories of embracing
and being embraced

Masajo became one of Japan's best known haiku love poets of modern times because she wasn't afraid to be herself and follow her own path. She courageously took her intensely lived experiences--be they longing for love or just cooking a seasonal dish--and put them into the haiku form, compressing these moments into one breath, a love sigh on paper. We can almost hear her voice through these translations, as if Masajo herself is whispering them for the first time to her lover, or just reciting them alone to the silent night air, while sipping sake in her pub on a winter night in Tokyo. —Patricia Donegan, from the introduction

Comments from previous reviews and editors:

"Although Masajo writes with exquisite objective imagery it is dyed in her feelings, as if she is writing on white paper that has been soaked in hues of red."

—Patricia Donegan, from the introduction


"Writing exquisitely, Masajo Suzuki fuses her seasonal perceptions with deeply honest haiku that capture the enduring poignancy of a great love. These poems get under the skin. In careful and sensitive translations, Lee Gurga and Emiko Miyashita bring the full range of emotion and sensuality in Masajo's lifework across the distance and into our hearts."

—Penny Harter, co-author, The Haiku Handbook

Other sources of Masajo Suzuki's haiku include:

Aoki Seiichirô, Suzuki Masajo Dokuhon, Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1996

Hoshiya Toyomi, Itsumademo Masajo, Tokyo: KSS Shuppan, 1998

Kuroda Momoko, Haiku to Deau, Tokyo: Shôgakkan, 1997

Masaki Yûko, Okite Tatte Fuku wo Kirukoto, Tokyo: Shin'yasôshosha, 1999

Suzuki Masajo, Unami, Tokyo: Yûshorin, 1961

Suzuki Masajo, Miyakodori, Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1994

Suzuki Masajo, Oinarisan no Roji, Tokyo: Fujimishobô, 1994

Suzuki Masajo, Masajo Saijiki, Tokyo: PHP Kenkyûjo, 1998

Suzuki Masajo, Hito Kanashimasu Koi wo Shite, Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1998

Suzuki Masajo, Shimokuren, Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1998

"Inspired by a love story we heard at the Haiku North America conference at Evanston, Illinois in the summer of 1999, we began translating Masajo's haiku. This book contains 150 love haiku selected from the 2,576 haiku in her seven haiku books published between 1955 and 1998. We hope they will touch your hearts as they have touched ours."

Lee Gurga & Emiko Miyashita
Lincoln, IL (USA) & Kawasaki, Japan

About the Translators:

Lee Gurga was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Past president of the Haiku Society of America and currently associate editor of Modern Haiku, his haiku have won the top prize in haiku contests in the United States, Canada, and Japan. His books of English-language haiku, In and Out of Fog and Fresh Scent, both received the first prize in the Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards. He was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Poetry Fellowship in 1998 for his work in haiku. He is currently a small town dentist in the farming community of Lincoln, Illinois, where he lives with his wife Jan and sons Ben, A.J., and Alex.

 

Emiko Miyashita was born in Japan in 1954. She met Dr. Akito Arima, her future haiku master, on the Hikawamaru, a ship crossing the Pacific, in 1959. Her father, Dr. Kazumori Minami, and Dr. Arima were both Fulbright grant lecturers heading to Urbana and Chicago respectively. She graduated from Doshisha University in Kyoto in 1978. She is a Dojin (leading member) of the Ten'i (Heaven's Work) haiku group, a member of the Haiku International Association and the Haiku Society of America.