The Haijin’s Tweed Coat

First published in a shorter form in Modern Haiku 21:3, Autumn 1990, and then in chapbook form in 1990 and in a second, expanded edition in 2000 (from my press, Press Here). Most of these verses also appeared in Raw Nervz 5:2, Summer 1998, and Raw Nervz 5:3, Autumn 1998. The book won a Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America in 1991 for best books published in 1990. The last verse was written in 2000, but not included in the second edition of the book. The comments at the end were printed on the back cover of the second edition.

 

Somewhere, perhaps in Kyoto, an old monk stirs. As pre-dawn mists give way to day, a temple bell deepens the morn. With words well-chosen and a laugh for life, the haijin records his day with brush and ink . . .

 

 

temple bell

the haijin’s tweed coat

sprinkled with pine needles

 

 

morning zazen

woodnotes and wind chimes

greet his twitching ears

 

 

plum blossoms ripple

a mayfly moves

from the plover’s shadow

 

 

not quite afternoon

a passing dragonfly

catches his eyes

 

 

an empty sandal

holds a whirring cicada . . .

headlines folded over

 

 

dipping his brush

into the inkstone he writes

a modern haiku

 

 

ant on the acorn—

a wasp still

in the black bough’s shadow

 

 

the sparrow spinning

from the albatross’s glide

lands blithely by the heron’s nest

 

 

summer moon . . .

eating brussels sprouts

by the bonsai

 

 

beyond the red pagoda

a frogpond mirrors

the persimmon tree
 
 
hobo in the temple—
his presence
fills my snapshot
 

Comments on the 1990 chapbook

“Almost an overnight haiku classic, Michael Dylan Welch’s sequence depicting a haijin in which the titles of haiku magazines are named is clever without any hint of contrivance. This sequence should serve as a kind of mini trivial pursuit for haiku poets to see if they can find all the haiku magazines that are included. Welch has gifted us with a sense of fun here, and it is no small task to accomplish this while creating a haiku sequence that possesses a resonance.” —Wally Swist, Modern Haiku

 

The Haijin’s Tweed Coat is very fine . . . with its unique combination of high-quality haiku and clever references to names of haiku magazines.” —Robert Spiess

 

“Michael captures the enthusiasm and the clarity of a true haijin, who is always noticing the small things in nature. This sequence, for me, rings as clear as the sound of a frog jumping into a pond on a crisp day. It’s the best nature sequence I’ve read in years.” —Alexis Rotella

 

“The temple bell resonates in the hominess of tweed, the deceptive simplicity of pine needles. One really does feel the aura of a sly old monk!” —Geraldine C. Little, Frogpond
 

A review from Frogpond

The following brief review was first published in Frogpond 14:1, Spring 1991, page 41.

 

The Haijin’s Tweed Coat has been justly praised for its cleverness in mentioning the names of haiku magazines in haiku that does not seem contrived. This is an interesting feat. More interesting to this reviewer is the assumed persona of an old monk “perhaps in Kyoto” recording his day. While a feature of haiku is usually the immediate experiencing of observed moments, these haiku work well. Surely the writer has observed such moments in his native California and transferred them to Kyoto! There is a universality about them. For instance, “temple bell / the haijin’s tweed coat / sprinkled with pine needles” could be seen almost anywhere in the world. The temple bell resonates in the hominess of tweed, the deceptive simplicity of pine needles. One really does feel the aura of a sly old monk!
—Geraldine C. Little