Cathy Sadowski

Raymond Roseliep and Yoshiko Yoshino:
A Comparison and Contrast of Their Work

Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2000

Cathy Sadowski

Raymond Roseliep and Yoshiko Yoshino:
A Comparison and Contrast of Their Work

In response to the events that occurred at the Global Haiku festival and the work completed in class, I have decided to write about two poets: one American and one from Japan. The work from the American, Raymond Roseliep, can be found in Global Haiku: Twenty-five Poets World-wide. Yoshiko Yoshino lives in Matsuyama, Japan. The haiku of hers that I have chosen are featured in Budding Sakura. I have chosen these the work of these two poets to compare and contrast for many reasons, which will be discussed with the haiku interpretations. I have tried to pair them up according to similar themes and imagery.

with sunglasses
cutting off the world
self-reliant me

—Yoshiki Yoshino

down the drain
some of me

—Raymond Roseliep

What I like about these two haiku is how personal they are. Yoshino’s "sunglasses" shows how much confidence she possesses in herself. As she "cuts off the world" she knows she can rely on her own intuitions and abilities. It gives a positive image about women having high self-esteem. Since I have heard rumors that women in Japan are not treated as women in the United States and in other nations it is incredible to see that one Japanese woman in confident and in control of her life.

Roseliep’s "bathwater" also concerns the self, but it is a little disconcerting. On one hand, the part of him that fell down the drain could be hair or blood, but it could be something nonphysical. When I am upset or angry I like to sit in the bathtub and let all the frustration flow out of my skin and into the water. Maybe Roseliep took a bath to release his tension and that was what drained along with the water.

Although I enjoyed reading both, I prefer Yoshino’s haiku to Roseliep’s because her haiku is very upbeat and self-affirming. As one of the many women who are unsure of themselves, hearing one from another country gives me hope that one day all women will have the confidence to rely on themselves. Roseliep’s haiku internalizes as well, but I do not believe that it is of the same quality that Yoshino’s is. It feels more depressing even though the writer’s original meaning may not be so.

long long night
don’t care if my husband’s home
or if he isn’t . . .

—Yoshiki Yoshino

holding the shape
of our night

—Raymond Roseliep

These two are both sensual in nature, although Roseliep’s could be interpreted as the result from a sexual event. Yoshino’s "long long night" is extremely humorous! One has to wonder what exactly she will do to pass the time. The way she phrases the haiku leads me to believe that she is going to cause some mischief despite the opinion of her husband. I like the playfulness of this haiku; it shows Yoshino’s free spirit. This haiku flows better than Roseliep’s. When I read his out loud it sounded choppy; although I am sure many haiku are written for such an auditory effect, I prefer haiku that flow more evenly. I suppose that Yoshino’s use of contractions in aid in creating such fluid readability, and this is why I enjoyed this haiku more than Roseliep’s.

However, I do like the imagery in Roseliep’s haiku. I imagine the indentation in the grass where the two lovers spent their night. I honestly believe that this cannot only be interpreted as a sexual interlude. One possibility is that the couple was watching a meteor shower or stargazing and decided to lie in the grass so their vision would not be impeded. Still, the words Roseliep uses do indicate that the entire night was not spent watching the sky.

my heart
being gazed into
by a spring orchid

—Yoshiki Yoshino

campfire extinguished
the woman washing dishes
in a pan of stars

—Raymond Roseliep

Both of these are full of colorful images. Yoshino brings a spring orchid to life, and it looks into her soul. It is a beautiful way to personify an object like this. There are many that believe plants feel and think the same way humans and animals do, and this haiku strengthens that theory. The orchid, then, must believe that Yoshino has a beautiful soul, otherwise, why would it bother to look inside her heart.

Unfortunately, this is one of the few of Yoshino’s haiku that failed to win me over. Again, this haiku focuses more on internal processes, which I find fascinating, but the imagery is not to the caliber of Roseliep’s. I love how the reflection of the heavens is condensed to a "pan of stars" that a woman is washing dishes in. I also like how the stars are the only lights left after the campfire has been extinguished. Although it is not philosophical or focused on internal thoughts, I like the connection with nature the woman has. It reminds me of all the times I went camping with my family and friends.

love completed
fireflies take off lights
one by one

—Yoshiki Yoshino

the firefly you caught
the church you make
with your hands

—Raymond Roseliep

I placed these two together because both contain imagery about fireflies. Yoshino’s haiku alludes to sexual imagery like Roseliep’s "grass," but instead of humans there are fireflies. We do not enter the moment as the insects are procreating but after the act’s completion. I like how she uses the word "love" instead the biological term for it; although I cannot believe fireflies could possibly love each other, that word does give the act a romantic touch. How Yoshino was able to discover the breeding area for these insects must have been due to the rhythmic pulses of light they give off. I honestly would not want to see fireflies reproduce, but obviously to Yoshino the act must have been a beautiful sight. To watch them slowly leave such an exhausting task is incredible. I image the aerial dancing of the male fireflies, weaving and bobbing and searching for another female on the ground to copulate with.

Roseliep’s haiku reminds me of a little rhyme I learned as a child. The words went along with hand motions that created a church, its steeple, and everyone sitting inside of it. I do not remember what the hand position was for the church but a firefly caught inside would make a pretty "candle" that lights up the church. It is a sweet haiku that brings us back to our childhoods, but I still believe that Yoshino’s haiku is superior to Roseliep’s. Her haiku is not as "wordy" as Roseliep’s; I tend to favor poetry that is not overflowing with images that only need one or two words to describe. If I were to edit Roseliep’s haiku I would take out the two words "you caught" because it is obvious that the child has caught a firefly in his/her hands. I have also taken out "you make" and replaced it with "made" because the repetition of "you" creates an eddy in the word flow. This lets the haiku flow more smoothly. The revision looks like this:

the firefly
lights up the church
made of your hands

I chose to replace "with your hands" with "of your hands" because it makes the church seem to be part of the hands instead of the hands being an accessory.

I have found that Yoshino’s haiku, for the most part, to be superior to Roseliep’s poetry because of the imagery created by her word usage, strong themes and punctuation. Although Roseliep’s haiku was excellent it could not compare with the grace and simplicity Yoshino’s possessed. What is good about his haiku, as evidenced by "campfire extinguished" is how he connects man and nature together with beautiful images. Yoshino accomplished this in her haiku as well, but I feel it was turned more to her interior thoughts about the moment.

—Cathy Sadowski


©2001 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors