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Haiku in Spain: Galician

In Galicia, an autonomous community in the northwest of Spain, approximately 2.4 million people speak Galician, a Romance language linked to Portuguese. A few attempts have been made to draw parallels between Japanese haiku and medieval Galician-Portuguese poetry (lírica galaico-portuguesa), notably by Stephen Reckert in Más allá de las neblinas de noviembre (2001) and Luís Alonso Girgado’s introduction to the first edition of Ricardo Martinez-Conde’s A núa lentitude (2001).


As was true elsewhere in Spain, early contact with haiku was through French and English essays and translations. Haiku written in Galician is a relatively recent phenomenon, however, and is still, like the language itself, somewhat marginalized in Spain. Very few Galician-speakers have published their haiku and there are no groups or other regular organized activities in Galicia devoted entirely to haiku.

In 1955 Uxío Novoneyra (1930– ) published Os Eidos: O libro do Courel (Eidos: The Book of the Caurel), which is considered the first work in Galician to show the influence of haiku. Here are three examples from that book:

Chove nas veigas sin que se oia. Unha tras outra
cain as follas dando voltas …

Rain in the meadows that can’t be heard. One after another
the leaves fall, twisting, turning …
Caen as follas …
Sinto unha cousa que se apousa en min e non me toca

The leaves fall …
I sense something landing inside without touching me
Chove pra que eu soñe …

It rains that I may dream …

In 1993, Consuelo García Devesa (1938– ) compiled 77 Haikus, an anthology of classic Japanese haiku in Galician. In the same year, Ricardo Martínez-Conde (1949– ) produced the first book of original haiku entirely in Galician, Orballo nas camelias (Dew on the Camelias), which he followed with A núa lentitude, (The Naked Slowness) in 2001. Novoneyra collaborated in 1995 with poet and photographer Ayako Sugitan to produce a photo chapbook titled Camelio xaponés, (Japanese Camelia) which featured ten poems in Spanish, Japanese, and Galician. The second book of original haiku in Galician was published in 2003 by Helena Villar Janeiro (1940– ), Pálpebra azul (Blue Eyelid).

The influence of Spanish haiku critic and scholar Vicente Haya led to a community of poets in Spain who adhere to Japanese models for haiku composition, considering haiku as a spiritual path. Galician-born poet Mila Villanueva was one of Haya’s disciples. She was keenly interested in the preservation of the Galician language and published several books of haiku, usually multi-language editions in some combination of Galician, Spanish, and Valencian.

While many attempt to follow what they believe is a more authentic Japanese approach to haiku, there are outliers that take more irreverent approaches to the genre, such as Galician nonconformist actor, musician, and poet O Leo (Leonardo Fernández Campos, 1974–  ). In 2007 he published a collection titled Hai cu, a characteristically witty title that might be translated into English as “Ass-Ku” or “There is Butt”.

AUTHOR: Danny Blackwell

ADAPTED FROM: Blackwell, Haiku from Iberia and Beyond.

SOURCES / FURTHER READING (PRINT)

  • Blackwell, Danny, ed. Haiku from Iberia and Beyond. Valencia: Mono Ya Mono Books, 2018.
  • García Devesa, Consuelo. 77 Haikus. A Coruña, Spain: Espiral Maior, 1993. Translations of Japanese haiku into Galician.
  • Marques Samyn, Henrique. “Lirismo e alteridade: uma leitura da trajetória poética de Helena Villar Janeiro” (Lyricism and Otherness: A Reading of Helena Villar Janeiro’s Poetic Trajectory). Boletín Galego de Literatura 44:2 (2010), 33–53.
  • Martinez-Conde, Ricardo. A núa lentitude (The Naked Slowness). Introduction by Luís Alonso Girgado. Santiago de Compostela, Spain: Librería Follas Novas, 1st edition, 2001. Haiku in Galician.
  • Martinez-Conde, Ricardo. Orballo nas camelias (Dew on the Camellias). Santiago de Compostela, Spain: Sotelo Blanco, 1993. Haiku in Galician.
  • Neira Roca, Nieves. “Atravesando a Paisaxe: Poética do espazo n´Os Eidos de Uxío Novoneyra” (Crossing the Landscape: Poetics of Space in Uxío Novoneyra’s Os Eidos). Master’s thesis, University of Santiago de Compostela, 2013.
  • Novoneyra, Uxío, and Ayako Sugitani. Camelio xaponés (Japanese Camellia). Santiago de Campostela: Biblioteca Literaria Compostelana, 1995. In Spanish, Japanese, and Galician.
  • Novoneyra, Uxío. Os Eidos: O libro do Courel (Eidos: The Book of the Caurel). Vigo: Edicións Xerais de Galicia, 2010; Biblioteca de Mesopotamia, 2018. Poems in Galician.
  • O Leo (Leonardo Fernández Campos). Hai cu: pintadas no báter (Ass-Ku: Toilet Graffiti). Vigo, Spain: Edicións Xerais de Galicia, 2007.
  • Queipo, Xaviera. Glosarios (Glossaries). Rutis, Culleredo, Spain: Espiral Maior, 2004.
  • Reckert, Stephen. Más allá de las neblinas de noviembre: Perspectivas sobre la poesía occidental y oriental. (Beyond the Mists of November: Perspectives on Western and Eastern Poetry.). Barcelona: Gredos, 2001.
  • Reckert, Stephen. “Verba volant, scripta manent: metamorphosis de la lyra minima oral en Occidente y en Oriente” (Verba volant, scripta manent: Metamorphosis of Oral ‘Lyra Minima” in the West and the East). Eva Beléned, ed, La literatura popular impresa en España y en la América colonial: formas y temas, géneros, funciones, difusión, historia y teoría (2006), 131–43.
  • Sabido, Vicente. “Manuel Machado: “Phoenix, nuevas canciones”: edición, prólogo y notas” (Manuel Machado: “Phoenix: New Songs”: Edition, Prologue and Notes). Doctoral thesis, Universidad de Granada, 1981.
  • Villanueva, Mila. A la luna de Valencia / A la lluna de València. Madrid: Lastura Ediciones, 2014. In Spanish and Galician.
  • Villanueva, Mila. Bajo la luna de Kislev. Madrid: Lastura Ediciones, 2015.
  • Villanueva, Mila. Na distancia. Pontevedra, Spain: El Taller del Poeta, 2009. In Spanish and Galician.
  • Villar Janeiro, Helena. Pálpebra azul (Blue Eyelid). Allariz: Maruxairas, 2003.

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Updated on May 2, 2024