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For me, haiku and haiga have been a path that has led to inkbrush painting. Not that I’m any good, mind you, but I love my class and after several years have learned is that what truly fascinates me is landscape painting . As Basho said “Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine.” Conversely, if you want to learn landscape, go to the rocks.
The planning for this issue began, as it often does, with a search for old master haiku that reflect a chosen theme. Best-known must be this of Basho’s. It’s from Oku no Hosomichi, the Narrow Road to the Deep North, which describes his late afternoon climb to Ryushakuji, a temple perched on a summit of “massive rocks thrown together and covered with age-old pines and oaks. The stony ground itself bore the color of eternity, paved with velvety moss.” The haibun concludes:
So when is a rock not just a rock but an allusion to poetry? Does that go for stones too? I'm wary of parsing to finely because the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but a dictionary search tells me that rocks are rough things while stones tend to be smoothed and shaped, whether by nature or human action. There's also the mindful writing project that refers to short form poems as "small stones".
Thinking what to call this issue, I found that Buson wrote several often dark poems about rocks or stones. Issa, Shiki and Santoka did also, none a particularly good fit. I came upon "Viewing Stones" from quite a different source: it relates to Suiseki (水石), rocks with expressive natural shape, color or texture that may resemble animals or landscapes. "These stones are objects of great beauty," enthused a website devoted to this art, "sophisticated tools for inner reflection that stir in all who see them an appreciation for the awesome power of the universe. A suiseki has the capacity to represent, on a few centimeters, the whole earth and cosmos."
None of the rocks I collected back in high school rises to the level of suiseki, though I still pick up interesting rocks when I'm out on a walk. Do you? Many thanks to our resident staff, and all the authors and artists who have lent small stones for viewing in our issue. Without you, Haigaonline would not be possible.