Rachel Enomoto

Rachel Enomoto
Rachel Enomoto
Burnaby, British Columbia

double cherry blossoms
I breathe in
the entire sky

Congratulations on having your haiku selected as the top winner in the Vancouver category in the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s 2016 Haiku Invitational contest. How did you first learn about haiku, and how much writing of haiku or other poetry have you done?

I was born and raised in Japan, and learned about haiku as a part of Japanese classes in elementary school. From an early age, even outside of classrooms, children in Japan are generally familiar with haiku-like configuration of words through lyrics, slogans, proverbs, and so on, which often consist phrases of 5 to 7 morae [the sound units that make up haiku, not to be confused with syllables]. I have always enjoyed all sort of literature, particularly essays and novels by female authors throughout my life. However, when it comes to creating them, I have very limited experience.

What was the inspiration for your winning poem?

Cherry blossoms are a feast to everyone’s eyes, and they also bring a sense of hope for a new horizon to the people in Japan, because their school year starts in April, coinciding with the cherry blossom season. I especially treasure the memories of such blossoms during my university years. My alma mater has a long cherry-tree-lined road, and every spring the campus becomes the most beautiful place on earth with the arrays of blooming trees. Students and people in the community all take delight with the blossoms. Even in Canada, these senses of bliss and renewed energy, which are deeply embedded and perpetual, contrary to the ephemerality of blossoms, pop out when I see cherry blossoms. My winning haiku was based on my experience at Burrard Train Station in Vancouver. The cherry blossoms surrounding the station house drew a crowd taking photos of them. In the middle of busy downtown, I couldn’t stop myself from making a deep inhalation under the blossoms.

Describe the moment when you first learned you had won.

Very surprised. I didn’t tell anyone for a while in case it was some kind of error. I thought my haiku was too simple. Then, I received congratulatory emails from my friends, and finally I told my family about winning.

Do you have favourite books or websites relating to haiku that others might benefit from in order to learn haiku as a literary art and to share one’s haiku?

I enjoy the weekly “Haiku Masters” program on NHK, a Japanese TV station. Non-Japanese speakers may enjoy visiting the Chiyo-Jo Haiku Museum website. The museum’s exhibition hall, located near Kanazawa in Japan, is rather small, but it has a good number of English-language web pages. Just by a few clicks, you can read the extensive information of Chiyo-Jo, Japan’s most well-known female haijin [haiku poet].

Please tell us more about yourself.

I am a certified translator and enjoy the process of searching for “right-fitting words.” It’s fascinating, like looking for the exact piece in a jigsaw puzzle. My interests include hiking, exercising, traveling, volunteering, and foreign movies. I hope to walk some parts of Bashō’s Narrow Road to the Deep North in the near future.

How does where you live and what you enjoy doing affect the way you write haiku?

I am grateful that Metro Vancouver, where I have lived most of my adult life, offers four seasons, abundant nature, urban life styles, and multicultural communities—these are all inspirational. Among these elements, I find how people live or interact with each other to be the most interesting, especially as I can see both differences and similarities between the cultures of Japan and North America. My love of walking helps me see people and their surroundings up close, giving me long-lasting impressions for writing. However, writing haiku influenced my way of viewing my surroundings, rather than where I live or what I do affecting my haiku. A haiku-writer’s hat makes me mindful and I enjoy paying closer attention to what I see or how I feel, then I endeavour to translate my impressions into fitting words.