Posted in Haiku

Janice M. Bostok’s Day Lily

Background

This is what A Hundred Gourds editor Lorin Ford wrote about this pivotal poet:

Janice M. Bostok will go down in history as the haiku pioneer of Australia. Though there was a general interest in all things Eastern in Australian poetry from the 1960’s and a few Australian poets included haiku or haiku-like poems in their published collections, as far as a haiku movement goes Australia was terra nullius. Any sense of a haiku movement in Australia begins with the extraordinary story of the young Janice Bostok, a countrywoman with a flair for correspondence.

As a result of the chance mention of haiku by a pen-pal in the USA and Jan’s query in return, “What is haiku?” a small volume of translated Japanese haiku arrived in the mail and Jan began writing haiku. For over forty years, Jan worked to encourage the writing of haiku and related poetry. She edited and published Australia’s first haiku journal, Tweed, was haiku editor at various times for the journals Hobo, Paper Wasp, Yellow Moon and Stylus and for five years she was South Pacific Editor for the annual Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku. She taught haiku whenever and wherever she could, taking pride in being known as ‘the haiku missionary’ and she judged many haiku competitions. She joined John Bird in his project of the First Australian Haiku Anthology and the creation of HaikuOz.

Jan’s haiku were first published in America, in 1971. Her collection, Walking Into The Sun, was a runner-up in the 1974 Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards. Her haiku were included in Cor van den Heuvel’s 1986 edition of The Haiku Anthology and her work featured in numerous Australian and overseas journals and anthologies. Jan’s poems have been translated into seven languages.

[Source: http://ahundredgourds.com/ahg11/bostok.html%5D

Haiku Commentary

summer dusk
day lily petals fold
into night

Janice’s biographer, Sharon Dean, wrote this about this haiku:

…I was fascinated with the intimate connection between her life and haiku, a connection that would become movingly apparent to me following a 2008 trip to Japan, where I occasionally bought bottles of chilled green tea from vending machines. One day in Kyoto, I was surprised when a machine dispensed to me a bottle featuring one of Jan’s haiku. The poem was printed in Japanese characters, and the accompanying translation read:

summer dusk
day lily petals fold
into night

Aware that the flowers of most day lily species have a relatively brief lifespan – in that they open at sunrise and wither at sunset – I admired the ephemeral quality of the image. Months later, however, on hearing Jan explain that she’d written the haiku in memory of her first child, a son who had died at birth, I gained a greater appreciation for the poignancy of her art. People often told Jan they adored her work because she wrote of experiences they themselves had had, but hadn’t been able to put into words – especially words that spoke so concisely and resonantly, and also with such lingering depth, warmth … and often, humour. [Source: http://ahundredgourds.com/ahg11/bostok.html%5D

To add to Sharon Dean’s commentary, I believe this haiku also allows the reader to put their attention on what is unknown to us, and to consider its suffering. Many times, authors have written that the essence of haiku is compassion, and this haiku is a fine example.

Summer indicates a relaxed, fun time. But like all seasons, summer has its misfortunes as well: the heat often withers plants, causes animals and people to die of heat exhaustion, summer love is often fickle, and unsuspected deaths happen.

The word “dusk” paints the mood of the poem, along with “fold.” Also, the pacing of the lines leaves a solemn mood behind when read out loud. Though the atmosphere of the haiku can easily be said to be of sadness, it can also be said to be of acceptance. The day lily only does what it does—no more, no less. The loss of her son is shown through this lens in this haiku.

In regard to sound, one immediately picks up on the “d” sound in “dusk,” “day, ” and “fold.” The solemness of its sound reflects the mood of the haiku well.

In both a technical and intuitive sense, this haiku calls us to join the poet in her feelings of loss and acceptance of loss.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

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Author:

Meditator, writer, editor, musician.

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