The smell of haiku

The power of scent to raise a memory has been scientifically proven, as has the link between scent and emotion, one that perfumiers strive to tap into. This article in The Harvard Gazette explains the science: Smells are handled by the olfactory bulb, the structure in the front of the brain that sends information to the other areas of the body’s central command for further processing. Odours go directly to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory – and the oldest parts of the human brain.

And although we list taste as one of the five senses, science says that everything we taste is by way of being smelled. No sense of smell, no sense of taste.

Here are some haiku I think convey the sense of smell very well, even if they almost all use the word ‘scent’! I hope you’ve enjoyed this four-part look at haiku that engage with the senses beyond sight, I’ve had fun putting it together.

fallen eucalypt …
the scent
cut into stove lengths

Jo McInerney
from naad anunaad: an anthology of contemporary world haiku
(Viswakarma Publications, 2016)

gentle rain
scent of the seedbed turning
a deeper brown

Katrina Shepherd
from Before the Sirocco (NZPS, 2008)

yellow roses
at Uji the fragrance
of roasting tea leaves

Basho, tr Jane Reichhold
from Basho: The complete haiku (Kodansha, 2008)

The translator’s note to the haiku, written in 1691, is that as yamabuki flowers (Kerria japonica) have no fragrance, they must borrow smells from the roasted tea.

Uji was once one of the most important tea-growing areas in Japan. Read more here. It’s interesting to note that although the yamabuki plant is not a rose, its name is often used to mean ‘yellow rose’ in Japanese literature!

migrating geese –
her scent finally gone
from my pillow

Stephen Toft
from another country: haiku poetry from Wales (Gomer, 2011)

in the alleys
orange blossom scent . . .
the rest escapes me

Luci Cardillo
from Autumn Moon 2.2 (2019)

otoko kite heya nuchi suisen no nioi midaru

a man enters
the room, disturbing the scent
of daffodils

Yoshino Yoshiko, tr Makoto Ueda
from Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women
(Columbia University Press, 2003)

two boys giggle
as he enters the bike shop …
onion seller

Alan Summers
from Stepping Stones: a way into haiku (BHS, 2007)

family reunion
bad breath
has a name

Roberta Beach Jacobson
from H Gene Murtha Senryu Contest, 2019

summer breeze
setting aside the book
to smell her hair

Makarios Tabor
from The Heron’s Nest 22.1, 2020

 

The taste of haiku

Finding myself with some time on my hands I thought I would explore haiku that deal with our senses beyond sight. So there will be a themed post once a week for the next four weeks. I’ve had fun finding and selecting these poems, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading them.

Taste and scent are and likely the most difficult senses to weave into a haiku. I catch myself writing ‘the taste of …’  far too often so then must stop and figure out another way of saying exactly that. It’s been fun discovering or re-discovering taste-sense haiku where the authors have found ways of making their poem bold, fresh and vivid.

sweetness
oozing from a fig
indian summer

Harriot West
from The Wonder Code (Girasole Press, 2017)

mononofu no daikon nigaki hanashi kana

warriors
the bitterness of pickles
in the talk

Basho, tr Jane Reichhold
from Basho: The complete haiku (Kodansha, 2008)

The translator’s note for this haiku written in 1693 says Basho has chosen to pair ‘daikon’, a large radish that is often pickled, with ‘nigaki’, meaning ‘bitter’. Both the pickles and the military men’s stories left a bitter taste. She believes the haiku also references the Japanese proverb, ‘the ambitious man eats strong roots’.

shimmering pines
a taste of the mountain
from your cupped hands

Peggy Willis Lyles
from Montage (The Haiku Foundation, 2010)

wood smoke
a little something extra
in the tea

Adelaide B Shaw
from Another Trip Around the Sun (Brooks Books, 2019)

Valentine’s Day –
a cherry tomato
bursts in my mouth

Michael Dylan Welch
from Haikuniverse, Feb 14, 2017

carnival day
candy-floss kiss
on the ghost train

Ron C Moss
from the ‘Freshly Caught’ sequence, Kokako 2 (2004)

im-mi-grant
the way English tastes
on my tongue

Chen-ou Liu
from naad anunaad: an anthology of contemporary world haiku
(Viswakarma Publications, 2016)

no longer friends
the aftertaste
of imported ale

Polona Oblak
from A New Resonance 9 (Red Moon Press)

lovacore market
notes of diesel
in the chilled cherries

Lew Watts
from a hole in the light (Red Moon Press, 2019)

我味の柘榴に這す虱かな
waga aji no zakuro ni hawasu shirami kana

this pomegranate
tastes like me
enjoy it, little louse!

Issa

Translator David Lanoue says: In the prescript to this 1820 haiku, Issa recalls the legend of a mother demon who went about eating children. The Buddha recommended  she switch to a diet of pomegranates, which supposedly taste the same as human flesh. See R. H. Blyth, Haiku (Hokuseido, 1949-1952/1981-1982). In this hard-to-translate haiku, Issa catches one of his lice, and, instead of killing it, places it on his surrogate, the pomegranate.

Catching up, mostly

I’ve been drowning in a sea of paper for the past few weeks – actual paper, emails, newspaper clippings, what-have-you – plus trying to replace photos on this site and my other blog, Sandra’s Garden. I’ve felt guilty, fed-up and anxious in about equal measure.

But here we are, it’s Friday afternoon, I’ve met a couple of deadlines and although the temperature is falling quickly, there has been some nice sunshine today.

To help things along this week I’ve received a copy of Presence 58 from the UK, a copy of the anthology Naad Anunaad from India, and a lovely (and very kind) submission prompt from the editor of a large-ish journal. Still to read the printed matter and enjoying the anticipation.

Also, some of my work has seen the light of day – the results of two competitions I judged in June, plus their associated commentary. The New Zealand Poetry Society International Haiku Contest, and the Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Award were kind enough to invite me to judge their contests but maybe I won’t do two at once again!

I can finally share the news that I received an Honourable Mention in this year’s Robert Spiess Memorial Haiku Award:

summer solstice —
pulling the earth
back round a zinnia

– Sandra Simpson

Plus an Honourable Mention in the AHA Memorial Award:

garden argument —
a hummingbird pokes
its nose in

– Sandra Simpson

I’m not sure if the judge’s report will be published online, so append the comments of Bette Norcross Wappner here:

Typically a garden would be an unlikely place for an argument but this author portrays a real-life occurrence. Is this garden in their backyard or is it in a public garden? Is there just one person in this scene arguing with someone on their cell phone? Perhaps two people have decided to take their argument outdoors unknown to them what might be flying their way! Line two swiftly takes our attention by changing the rhythm from a noisy argument to the silence and stillness of a curious, hovering hummingbird. Is the hummingbird poking its nose into a blossom or a hummingbird feeder? In the last line we can assume the amazing miracle of a tiny bird has stopped the negative energy of an argument. I see two people standing there in a summer garden dumbfounded by the power of mother nature, like the power of our own mother, pointing her finger to stop her children arguing. You may be tempted to associate to that of a nosy neighbour poking their nose into someone’s business, but to the sweet and synchronistic timing of this small creature. Well done!

And I’ve at last caught up with the fact that my Haiku this Photo entry to the NHK Haiku Masters series (Japan) was one of two runners-up!

first date –
we agree to meet
in the open

– Sandra Simpson

This particular episode took place on July 17 at the Yamadera Basho Memorial Museum. For some reason I can’t fathom there is no video available, but the gallery is here.