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May 2006 Issue VI:2

Southwestern Haijin Spotlight

Keiko Imaoka

Keiko died in April 2002, and as I sit here four years later preparing the latest issue of Roadrunner, I thought it would be a fitting time to revisit her amazing work in this issue's Southwestern Haijin Spotlight. Though she wasn't active on the Shiki Mailing List when I originally started posting my work there, her influence was still very strong. This is where I was introduced to her work, and it still moves me today. Keiko lived for a time here in Tucson and many of her haiku have specific references to this place. I feel a sense of agelessness and beauty living in the desert and she captured that so powerfully and effortlessly in her haiku.

Many people remember her seminal essay Forms in English Haiku, but those I've talked to who met or corresponded with Keiko speak of a profound and lasting connection that she made with those in her life.

I wanted to write something more about her life, but I could find very little biographical information. I'm told she was born in Japan and immigrated to the United States. She lived in Tucson, AZ as well as in Albuquerque, NM. She was an artist and a poet.

Here I present a small selection of her haiku, perhaps someday we can collect all her work and give it proper treatment.

the moon is late

a sunbaked path no shadow comes to meet me
hideri-michi kage-mo ai-ni konai

  el norte
monsoon clouds
over the canyon
new moon
falling and not falling
in love
  scorched sand
shimmering shadow
of a butterfly
lost on a trail unknown bird's call  
  faded memories
a lacewing
brushes my cheek
omoide-wa ase kagerou-ga hoo kasume
clay in hand
I let go
of words

For more information about Keiko Imaoka please visit the following web sites. Special thanks to Karma Tenzing Wangchuck, Yu Chang, Bill Higginson, Charlie Trumbull, Jane Reichhold, and the Shiki Archives.




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