Online internet courses by Call of the Page

Are you interested in a Call of the Page course? We run courses on haiku (beginner and intermediate, and advanced). We also run workshops and courses on tanka; tanka stories/prose; haibun; shahai; and other genres.

Please email if you would like to know more about these and our other courses.

Call of the Page (Alan & Karen)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The G-force of Blue | Touching Base with Gendai haiku by Alan Summers

The G-force of Blue | Touching Base with Gendai haiku

現代 (hiragana げんだい, romaji gendai) : the present day, modern times, today

“Through the horrors, persecutions and travails of war, the postwar gendai movement arose [ ] — creatively mixing ancient with contemporary aesthetics, language and philosophy.”

What is gendai haiku to a non-Japanese person?  It didn’t arise out of the horrors of war in Britain (or America), though we can still suffer persecution, closed minds, fear, a cultural awakening to gross misconduct by our pillars of society, and blunt opportunistic profiteering.

“Such questions as how a nature poetics might deal with urban contexts, species extinction, globalization, mechanized war — and, questions of the relevance of haiku (if not poetry) to modernity are implicitly addressed by [ ] poets [ ]: Hoshinaga's indigenous mytho-animistic conception of kotodama shinkô, Tsubouchi's linguistic concept of katokoto, and Hasegawa's 'world of mind,' [which] hopefully offer new avenues of insight for haiku, ecocriticism, and literature as a whole.”

Both above quotes from Gendai Haiku Project Précis: Aims by Richard Gilbert, Ph.D
Faculty of Letters, Kumamoto University, Japan

The Gendai approach, I feel, is a companion to consider, alongside the more familiar haiku we find comfort in, along with occasional senryu.

"Kiyoko Uda has been at the forefront of haiku's growing popularity among younger poets for the past several decades. She recently became president of the Modern Haiku Association--the most avant-garde of Japan's major haiku organizations.”

William J. Higginson, author, The Haiku Handbook, The Haiku Seasons, Haiku World.

Kiyoko Uda says of gendai haiku:
“It should be our method that we create haiku which match the times. This is not a new idea and was prevalent in the old days; even Sanki Saito wrote about it before the association existed.

Sanki believed: ‘To the difficult question 'what is new?’

I will answer: the new means how the emotions of today's society and people are expressed to fit the times. The haiku must be innovative in any time. So we should begin and continue to express the emotions of the people of this time and generation."

Kiyoko Uda, President, Modern Haiku Association, Tokyo, JAPAN
(Gendai Haiku, S.21.10) English Translation: Akiko Takazawa

teki noka kazu dake no nogiku o mochi kaeru

bringing back
wild chrysanthemum – only
the number of enemies

Uda Kiyoko (宇多 喜代子)
Richard Gilbert and Itô Yûki (trans.) 2007

The Chrysanthemum Throne is the name given to the position of the Japanese Emperor; in Imperial Japan, small arms were required to be stamped with the Imperial Chrysanthemum, as they were considered the personal property of the Emperor; the chrysanthemum is the seasonal flower of September; the formal surrender of Japan in WWII (2 September 1945); and September was regularly a key month throughout World War Two for Japan.

Many pre-Gendai haiku poets of the New Rising Haiku movement (shinkô haiku undô), were tortured, sometimes to death, as they didn’t support the growing Japanese corporate powers wanting to force their country into the Second World War. Who are the enemies now, for all of us, in time of war, both domestic and foreign? Even our internal workings can be in conflict with what we do and cause in our external lives.

Pharmakós the name you scratch inside
Alan Summers, Does Fish-God Know (Yet To Be Named Press 2012)

This allusive one-line haiku touches on a senior military officer’s poem after witnessing the 911 Pentagon attack. His poem is now part of the joint renga and art project led by writers and artists such as Bob Holman and Jeff Koons.

mugi yo shi wa ki isshoku to omoikomu

wheat –
realizing death as one color

Uda Kiyoko (宇多 喜代子)
Richard Gilbert and Itô Yûki (trans.) October 29, 2007

corn chaff realising oil as one colour
Alan Summers, Does Fish-God Know (YTBN Press 2012)

Gendai haiku in Japan is written by perhaps just over a third of the haiku writing population, and covers a wide variety of subjects, and often includes kigo.  Surreal gendai haiku is a parallel genre or sub-genre as many gendai haiku are raw unforgiving social realism covering modern/contemporary topics. Tohta Kaneko, influenced by Issa, combines the nature of Issa with the nature of his ongoing contemporary society of post-war Japan.

“Mr. Kaneko believed that Issa obtained the greatest degree of sensitivity to life, what Mr. Kaneko calls “raw perceptions of living beings.” ( ikimono kankaku).”
Part I: The Romance of Primitivism: Tohta Kaneko’s Ikimonofûei, Notes from the Gean 13: June 2012; VIEWS, Jack Galmitz  pub.Cyberwit ISBN 978-81-8253-314-1 (2012)

Shinishi hone wa umi ni sutsubeshi takuan kamu

Kaneko Tohta 金子兜太

dead bones into the sea I chew pickled radish

English version Alan Summers

This haiku is about the horrific aftermath of WWII Japan suffering atomic attack radiation in some parts, and food shortages and extreme poverty across Japan. Pickled radish is very loud when chewed, like bones being crunched, and human bones were disposed of in the sea.  Hunger, and no choice but to dispose of so many bodies, became an unforgiving duet of death and informed much of Kaneko’s post-war work.

Where are our dreams, where do they go in war? While everything changes nothing changes, and the gendai practitioners are keen to capture this disparity in our supposed civilisations utilising any contemporary phenomenon in their path.

Where in fact does religion end and science take over, should it, will it?

end of matins
I decode into genomes
into petals
Alan Summers, Does Fish-God Know (YTBN Press 2012)

Gendai haiku isn’t just about the horrors of war, that may never leave some of us, or of all the cruel social issues that abound in this world: But should we be allowed to overlook how we’ve dragged the excesses of the 20th Century into this new opportunity of the 21st Century?


ume sai te niwajû ni aozame ga kite iru

Kaneko Tohta 金子兜太

plum blossom
blue sharks also visit
this family garden

English version Alan Summers

Blue sharks are also Requiem Sharks, and a Requiem is known as Mass for the dead, while the Latin also means "rest", so perhaps the sharks are blossom viewing? The plum blossom is associated with the start of spring, because they are some of the first blossoms to open during the year: In the Tokyo area, they typically flower in February and March. Dhugal Lindsay suggests the blue sharks are playful suggestions of a weak new spring sun.  Perhaps then, blue sharks are neologistic seasonal words adding humour to potential kigo, that many Japanese writers try out every year.

“While, given the clear seasonal reference, it is not difficult to grasp the sense-impression of biting cold from the Daliesque image of blue sharks in the garden [. . .] demanding a      [. . .] bold imaginative leap on the part of the reader. Like much of the best surrealist art, it manages to be at once powerfully disturbing and humorous.” Philip Rowland (“Surreal Haiku?” Roadrunner 9.3)

As humans, we often enjoy nature within a park or on a ramble, or within a natural history documentary, if we are not the actual film crew, but really many of us are unnerved by the raw stuff invading our own personal and private spaces e.g.

Hirst's butterflies disturbing the exhibits people
Alan Summers, Roadrunner 12.3 (2013)

I observed people at Damien Hirst’s exhibit at the Tate Modern become intimidated by butterflies around them.  Despite flying/floating slowly and delicately around a constrained space of light, beautiful, harmless and fragile, the butterflies had people spooked, visibly uncomfortable. Was the whole purpose to make the audience an unintentional art installation, their uneasiness on display?  Are we too removed from nature in its real state,  in an over mechanised, gadgetized cushioned world, rarely admitting to conditions elsewhere that are contrary to a 21st Century experience?

Gendai haiku is evolving in the West, and will inform and complement, not compete or threaten the currently accepted haiku genre format.   We carry many memories, and I wonder if we still carry too much of our lizard brain? The human Lizard-Brain has been evolving for around 285 million years, and is similar in power and concept to the total brain capacity of a modern lizard.   Gendai haiku is perhaps another way around the lizard brain still in us, and its approaches may in time be a welcome travelling companion, alongside more familiar haiku practices.

chestnut moon shifting in my memory ghost floors
Alan Summers, Roadrunner 12.3 (2013)

The G-force of Blue | Touching Base with Gendai haiku was originally published in Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts Vol.1, No.1 February 2013 and forms part of the Amazement & Intensity Course/Project by Alan Summers.

This article is also in memory of Shimada Seihô (1882-1944) who died from his torture treatment.

Information about my own book of gendai style haiku is available:


Thursday, July 25, 2013

With Words Online Haiku & Tanka Poetry Courses September & October, and a place available on the August course

There's one week to go before the early bird rate (US$70/£45) closes on the With Words online tanka course starting 1st September 2013, and there's plenty of time to book with the early bird rate for the online haiku course starting 1st October 2013.

There's also a place available on the online haiku course starting 1st August (US$85/£55).

If you'd like more information, please email

Thank you!

Karen & Alan, With Words

"Thank you for your feed back. You make things seem so clear ...  So enjoyed reading the others' work too."  
Margaret Beverland (permission given)

"I have enjoyed the course tremendously and know that I will return to Alan's notes frequently as I continue to write tanka."  
Jan Harris (permission given)

Tanka are five line poems well-grounded in concrete images yet infused with lyric intensity, with an intimacy from direct expression of emotion tempered with implication. They contain ingredients of suggestion colored by shade and tone, setting off a nuance more potent than direct statement. Almost any subject, explicitly expressing your direct thoughts and feelings can be contained in this short form poetry. 

Haiku (plural and singular spelling) are the shortest of all short verses, that can elicit an emotional reaction in each reader far greater than the sum of its physical count of words.  This is often obtained by making the haiku verse a two part poem, and where the gap forms, that part of the poem’s structure creates a non-verbal extra part to the poem. 

Alan Summers
Descriptions from Decoding Tanka & Writing Poetry: the haiku way

Alan's Biography can be read at:

Amazement of the Ordinary: Life through a haiku lens by Alan Summers:


Saturday, July 06, 2013

Alan Summers : events, readings, online poetry courses including haiku online workshops and tanka online workshops

I'm a Japan Times award-winning writer with over 20 years experience in haiku and tanka poetry, and I enjoy working with people around the world who are intrigued by these two short verse genres.

Alan Summers, Director and Lead Tutor, With Words
International Online Haiku Courses:

International Online Haiku and Tanka Courses:

For futher information about dates later in the year for online courses and workshops, both one-to-one and small groups please don't hesitate to send an email to Karen at:

Live and Local (UK)
I also do occasional writing group presentations (talks; readings; workshops) and live events.  For further information drop Karen a line at:

Alan Summers speaking about haiku at a TEDx event: