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December 30, 2011

Poetry Friday--Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

This is my third year participating in a nengajyou, a Japanese style New Year's card exchange. I wrote about my first two experiences here and here. This year I sent cards to multiple recipients in 12 states, D.C., India, Romania, United Kingdom, Ireland, Trinidad & Tobago, and Canada!

The past two years I have used photos of my cat and my son's rabbit* to illustrate the card. The animals were in keeping with the symbols of the zodiac, in Japanese known as Juni Shi: 2010 was the year of the Tiger, 2011 was the year of the Rabbit. As 2012 will be the year of the Dragon, it wasn't possible to find a dragon around the house! I went to the Library of Congress for my illustration, a star map created in 1825, which shows the Dragon constellation, Draco, and Ursa Minor.

The haiku uses a kigo, that is, a seasonal word that provides an imagistic shortcut to the reader. A haiku poet uses a kigo as a way of saving words, which is important in a poem that is typically about 11 or 12 syllables long. [For those wishing to learn more about kigo, please visit the World Kigo Database. It is not easy to navigate if you're looking for something specific, it is better to browse.]

"First" indicates the New Year, as in "first dawn" or "first bath." "First wish" serves not only as the first wish (on a star) of the year, but also as a wish for the entire year ahead. I probably could have left out the word "winter," but, it is an indication that for us in the northern hemisphere that New Year's comes in the winter. This would have been important if any of my cards were sent, say, to Australia or South Africa.

2013 will be the year of the Snake. I found a delightful old photo on the Library of Congress site, so come back next year at this time. For now, you should head on over to The Drift Record, where Julie will round out 2011's great poetry offerings!

Here's wishing everyone a year of health and happiness--and the world a year of justice and peace. Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu (Happy New Year)!

*Sad news, Miles the rabbit, passed away, so I guess 2011 wasn't his luckiest year!


  1. It's a lovely found image, & I enjoyed hearing about the kigo. I looked a little at the site, & realize this might take some further study. It's quite complicated! Thank you for sharing & for that 'first wish'. Happy New Year!

  2. Ahh...winter skies...lucidity...first wishes.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Thank you for sharing this link back; its truly lovely exchanging new year cards with you

    much love...