Uda Kiyoko - "Women & Postwar Gendai Haiku": From Invisibility to Leadership

Uda Kiyoko - "Haiku and the Land 1": Toward the Future — A Haiku Ecology

Uda Kiyoko - "Haiku and the Land 2": Ecology, Haiku & The Taste of Existence
Personal History

Uda Kiyoko (b. 1935 – ) was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture and began writing haiku at the age of 19. She became a member of Shirin, and in 1970 joined Soen [Grass Park], led by the haiku poet Katsura Nobuko (b. 1914-2004). From 1976 to 1985 she acted as an editor of the Gendai Haiku Journal with Tsubouchi Nenten. In 1985 she became the editor of Soen. Uda-sensei was a founder of the Osaka Study Group on Haiku History, and is the current President of the Modern Haiku Association (Gendai haiku Kyôkai), Chairperson of "NHK Haiku World," and a judge on the Yomiuri Newspaper Haiku Column selection committee.


Haiku: Rira no ki [Lilac tree], 1970; Natsu no hi [Summer days], 1982; Hanto [Peninsula], 1988; Z [Elephant], 2001; etc. Essays: Tsubakuro no Hibi [Days of swallows]. 1994; Hitoba no tegami kara [Wartime memories from a stack of letters], 1995; Watashi no saiji nto [My notes on seasonal-agricultural events], 2002; Satoyama saijiki [Saijiki essays on satoyama], 2004; Ko-kigo to asobu [Ancient kigo, playfully], 2007; etc. Editor: Katayama Tshi sh [The collected haiku of Katayama Tshi], 1984; Josei haijin no keihu [Genealogy of woman haiku poets], 2002; etc. Co-editor: Josry haiku shsei [The collected works of woman poets], 1999; Gendai haiku dai jiten [The Encyclopedia of gendai haiku], 2005; etc.


The 2002 Modern Haiku Association Prize; The 35th (2001) Dakotsu Prize; The Japan Medal of Honor, Purple Ribbon, 2002 (Shiju h sh).


Online materials: author attribution

Richard Gilbert, “Cross-cultural Studies in Gendai Haiku: Uda Kiyoko” Gendai Haiku Online Archive (2007), Kumamoto University, Japan <gendai-haiku.com>.  

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Uda Kiyoko

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Selected haiku

Kakimori Museum
Hanging scroll

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Uda Kiyoko-sensei, President of the Modern Haiku Association, was awarded the Japan Medal of Honor in 2002, and is among the most notable of gendai haiku leaders, and more comprehensively, literary society in Japan. She has also been active for many years as an international representative, particularly on the Asian continent, initiating cultural and artistic exchange.


“The essence of what I have contemplated, spending time around satoyama [a celebrated local rural commons, evolved from centuries of agricultural use], seems to be simple: the hope that people would be able to eat self-provided seasonal foods; the hope that people would be able to swim in rivers with drinkable water; the hope that people would be able to feed their children without emergency food provisions (as those provided by LARA), due to the devastations of war.”
      Uda Kiyoko. Satoyama saijiki: Tanbo no mawari de [Satoyama saijiki: Rice-field environs]. Tokyo: NHK Publications, 2004, p. 175. [LARA: ‘Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia’ provided food to starving children in postwar Japan.]

Haiku and the Land 1 — Uda-sensei discusses an important aspect of her experience and philosophy, which concerns the roots of human civilization in agrarian society, and the integration of humanity with land, season, cycles of time, and the wider ecosystem (flora, fauna, and so on). In this segment, Uda also indicates the problem of treating “place” in an affected, or as she puts it, in a “special” way, and hints that for gendai haiku to remain vibrant it will likely need to move in even more expansive directions, which incorporate the natural world and ecosystem in more essential ways.

Haiku and the Land 2 — “At this point in time, I'm dealing with the problematics of the environment as a major theme in my haiku. I feel that we live in the world as if living at the bottom of a vast pot of water [mizugame]. However, there is but a little bit left at the bottom of this pot... Environmental issues... This is my preoccupation... So I compose haiku on this theme, as the haiku form is an excellent means for expressing such concerns” (from the interview transcript).