King River Press has coined the term folk ku – 民句 min-ku in Japanese or mín jù in Chinese – to honour the memory of Japan’s Meiji era writer Master Masaoka Shiki (1867 – 1902) and to distinguish between Japanese short form poetry penned from lived experience, opposed to those verses formed from kūsō 空想 – the imagination. Master Shiki is famous for being the founder of stand alone haiku 俳句 (from renga’s 連歌 hokku 発句).
During the 1890s, with a concern that Japanese verse was dying and partly inspired by Western-style Victorian era literature and realist painting, Shiki sought to popularise and simplify haiku 俳句, and later tanka 短歌, by proposing a new style he called ‘sketching from life’ – shasei 寫生, which is the Chinese term for sketch. Shiki had learned Chinese and Confucian classics in his youth and penned hundreds of poems in the language, therefore this could also have influenced these reforms.
Forthcoming: a short biography of Masaoka Shiki with reference links. For now, this is a great read by Charles Trumbull if you would like to understand more about the life of Shiki and shasei and here you can enjoy some of Shiki’s haiku.
The haiku of Tasmanian haijin Lyn Reeves is a perfect example of verses that embody the essence of shasei 寫生 or ‘sketching from life’. Here is a short bio and introduction to her work by fellow award winning haijin Ron Moss. Read a sample from her latest collection here: Field of Stars by Lyn Reeves – Walleah Press 2022. For more Tasmanian style shasei 寫生 or 民句 folk ku, including that of Ron Moss, see this entry from Hobart Watersmeet Haiku Group.
With the growing number of poets, journals and the competition to be published, King River Press feels there is room for a journal that honours Master Shiki and showcases true and sincere experiences using the first principal of haiku 俳句 – shasei 寫生 ‘sketches from life’, capturing the moments of common people and their personal, family and community folk histories. 民句 folk ku journal will be a space where these verses, which hold deep meaning to poets, will be brought together with an assurance of their authenticity.
The goal of King River Press’ 民句 folk ku journal is to fill this gap and also create opportunities to submit special verses connecting nature and human nature and moments dear to you that may be overlooked by other journals. It’s also a humble attempt to show respect and reconnect the writing and publishing of haiku and related forms back to its original source – Japan.
We accept haiku 俳句, senryu 川柳 and tanka 短歌 in freeform and 5-7-5 + 7-7 in English with mother tongue translations for those who write across language and culture. Each verse can be accompanied with a short sentence of description of time, place, event and/or dedication to a loved one. You can see examples of what that might look like here.
Our hope is the verses that find their home in our 民句 folk ku journal will not only resonate with other readers, but become a part of your family folk history collection that will be treasured and passed down through the generations. You can find our submission guidelines here.
Image source: Wikimedia commons 早稲田大学図書館 中村不折 Nakamura Fusetsu (1866－1943)