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Volume 34.2
Summer 2003

book review

Kiyoko's Sky: The Haiku of Kiyoku Tokutomi
by Kiyoko Tokutomi

translated by
Faye Aoyagi & Patricia Machmiller


Reviewed by Emiko Miyashita

Kiyoko’s Sky: The Haiku of Kiyoko Tokutomi, translated by Patricia J. Machmiller and Fay Aoyagi (Decatur, Ill.: Brooks Books, 2002). 128 pages; 5.5" x 8.5", perfectbound. ISBN: 1-929820-04-6. $16.00 or ¥2,000 from the publisher at 3720 N. Woodridge Drive, Decatur, Ill., 62526.

Kiyoko Tokutomi (1923–2002) passed away in her home among the redwoods on Christmas morning, just as she closed a book she was reading. In 1975 in San Jose, Calif., Kiyoko and her husband, Kiyoshi (1923–1987), had established the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society for the promotion of English-language haiku in order to introduce the traditional Japanese haiku culture based upon the use of kigo (season words). It is easy to list a few key books that have contributed to the foundations haiku in English—Haiku by R.H. Blyth, The Haiku Handbook by William J. Higginson, and others—but influential teachers of haiku in America are rare. Kiyoko was unique in the way she taught the writing of haiku and guided appreciation of the art. Her methods included kukai (haiku meetings) and ginkô (haiku outings, followed by a kukai) that were the main activities of the Society … and she did this for twenty-seven years! Currently the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society claims about 100 members in the United States and abroad.

Kiyoko’s Sky features Kiyoko’s Japanese-language haiku written from 1992 through 2000 and published in Kari (“Hunting”), a journal in Japan. Kiyoko was a dojin (senior member) of the Kari Haiku Group led by Shugyô Takaha. Also included are ten English-language haiku by Kiyoko written in 2000–01. The haiku were selected and translated by Patricia J. Machmiller, Kiyoko’s primary disciple, and Fay Aoyagi, who writes haiku in both Japanese and English.

The seeds of classical-form haiku that Kiyoko and Kiyoshi Tokutomi planted a quarter-century ago have taken root, and, thanks to her affectionate stewardship, are flourishing. Kiyoko’s haiku in Japanese are plain and straightforward. She writes about her family, about her mother across the Pacific, and about her life in the California redwood forest she loved so much.

Here is a sampling of Kiyoko’s simple yet beautiful haiku.

furusato no umi no koishiki sakuragai

How I love it
the sea of my hometown . . .
cherry petal shell

iejyû ni rajio hibikase haruurei

Filling the whole house
the blast of the radio—
spring melancholy

haha no sumu atari ni takaku kumo no mine

Where my mother lives
standing there
towering cumulus

akasugi o sukku to tatete yama warau

With its redwoods
springing to their height
the mountain laughs

mago egaku mikkî mausu haru tachinu

My grandchild drawing
Mickey Mouse
beginning of spring




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