Kobayashi Issa: Dancing Haiku


Heartfelt thanks to Iliyana Stoyanova for the invitation, trust and freedom to create an opportunity for haiku sharing for the 2023 Winter Gathering. What emerged was the artistic joy of sharing Kobayashi Issa’s: Dancing Haiku as inspiration for participants to write their own dancing haiku. Wonderful thanks to Andrew Shimield for not only helping to resolve technical issues as they arose but also for his artistic advice and sharing the reading of Issa’s 24 haiku with spirit. Participants responded by writing deeply moving and memorable haiku; one from each attendee is included following the workshop description. A list of the books read for the presentation is also included.

The Kobayashi Issa: Dancing Haiku offering took its inspiration from Issa’s haiku of the dance of life. Amidst the life-long losses Issa experienced and the challenges of living on the edge, most of Issa’s haiku are ‘joyful celebrations of the universe and being alive in it’ (Lanoue, 2016, p. 127). Issa appreciates the dances in nature and invites us to do the same. ‘Animals also dance in Issa’s poetry. Butterflies and people share the music of the world and, consciously or not, dance to it’ (Lanoue, 2014, pgs. 145, 148).

the kitten dances
round and round…
falling leaves

butterfly dance—
someone plays samisen
in the little village

The Winter Gathering opened with two movements from Qigong, a form of Chinese energy healing as a celebration of being alive and to help us attune to the movement in Issa’s haiku. A slideshow summarizing Issa’s life and contributions to haiku was presented followed by Andrew and Maryam reading a selection of Issa’s haiku focused on the movements of the seasons. In response, participants wrote their own Issa and movement inspired haiku. These were shared in the chat feature and read aloud with the invitation to include a symbolic gesture/s as a means of extending the communication.

‘What matters, Issa implies, is to embrace the present moment… and sing’ (Lanoue, 2014, p. 145).

as long as you’re singing
go ahead, dance!

The Dancing Haiku of Issa closed with a song and optional movement improvisation.

Participant Dancing Haiku from the 2023 Winter Gathering ~ Kobayashi Issa: Dancing Haiku ~

back and forth…
waves washing away
Grandad’s sandcastle
   David Bingham

autumn storm the churning waves pick up stones
   Karen Harvey

sparkling the water droplets
sparrow bath
   susan spooner

the squirrel chases falling autumn leaves tiny tornado
   Jenny Shepherd

seaside the kids bury Dad again
   Andrew Shimield

surprised the old guard dog goes into a spin
   Frank Williams

A paw sweeps round
needle claws
flies flee
   Chris Southam

Scottish dance
around crossed swords
dainty footwork
   Sue Richards

buddleia invites butterflies to the ball
   Joan Gibson

autumn rain
joining a busker
under the church eaves
   Iliyana Stoyanova

the clang and clatter
of a quiet winter’s night—
the heating is on
   Daniel Gustafsson

the tethered dog
wags its tail at passers-by—
local supermarket
   Mary Gunn

secluded house the overture of rooks at dusk
   Julie Mellor

wind over sea sand grains in my hair
   Caroline Elliot

flooded fields
piebalds cautious steps
on the edges
   Julie Williamson

butterflies awhirl
a pas de deux
through my window
   Diana Webb

in the ballroom
at the Cinderella hour
she lifts her hand
towards the stars
   A  A Marcoff

birthday balloon
number nine
dancing in the telephone wire
   Susan Lee Kerr

tai chi channeling my inner heron
   Nick T

Issa 2

Write-up by Maryam Mermey



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They do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The British Haiku Society.

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