No Haiku Today

Newburgh Poet Laureate Hide Oshiro dead at 101

No haiku today;

Hide Oshiro is dead.

Even flowers weep.


There’ll be no more daily haiku flowering inNewburgh; Hide Oshiro is dead.

In the mid- 1920s, Tokyo High School student Oshiro was deeply moved by a haiku — a Japanese form of poetry containing three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. In the poem, 17th-century poet Matsuo Basho described coming across the subtle beauty of a wildflower during a walk in the mountains.

“I wanted to make this kind of haiku just once in my life,” 101-year-old Oshiro told Kyodo News in a recent interview.

“Nothing else; just one haiku.”

Hide (pronounced “HEE-day”) Oshiro, the 101-year-old poet laureate of Newburgh, died late Sunday morning at Elant Nursing Home in Fishkill. He had written one haiku every morning of his life since he was a teenager. In addition to the haiku, he also produced drawings, paintings, calligraphy, sketches and scrolls. In November, he donated his life’s work, totaling several volumes of poetry and about 750 other pieces of art, to Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont.

In February, the college held an opening reception for the exhibit, at which Oshiro, frail but cheerful, regaled attendees with stories of his life and his wishes for young artists and writers.

In presenting the work to the college on Nov. 3, “He said that the product is only important in how it uncovers for the viewer the process,” Goddard President Barbara Vacarr told Kyodo News, Japan’s largest news agency. “Most artists focus on the product of their work. What Hide talked about was the process, or development, of the work.”

Born in 1910 in what was then the U.S. territory of Hawaii to Japanese parents who had come to work in the pineapple plantations, Oshiro was sent to Japan at the age of 3 to live with his grandparents and receive a Japanese education. Oshiro learned etching, woodcuts, sculpture and brushwork in high school and at Sophia University.

In Japan he was exposed to Shinto, Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity. His knowledge of such varied religions and philosophies profoundly influenced the convergence of East and West in his creative process.

He returned to Hawai in the 1930s, to teach Japanese at a school on Oahu. He recently recalled the Sunday morning in December 1941 when a group of students came running to him saying, “Japan attacked Hawaii!”

At first, he told Kyodo News, he did not believe it, but soon realized that the bombs falling and fires erupting on the school fields were real.

“I couldn’t think about anything, only darkness and doom,” he said, adding that the 2001 film “Pearl Harbor,” with all of its Hollywood “imagination,” did not come close to the horror of the actual event.

Along with other Americans of Japanese descent at that time, Oshiro spent several months in an internment camp. Despite that, he joined the U.S. army and worked for six years as an army translator and Japanese language instructor. He then left to pursue art at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Eventually he settled in New York City, studied at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and set up his own studio in Greenwich Village.

In New York, Oshiro met his French wife, Catherine Bullier; they married in 1969 and settled inNewburgh. He has said he was attracted to the small upstate city because of its vital arts community. While Oshiro never exhibited his art, his wife collected his work all along the way.

Asked to comment about his work, Oshiro was quoted in the Kyodo News as replying, “Our minds can conceive any form, from a galaxy to an atom, from the blue sky to a minnow.”

“It really strikes me how much of the process was preserved,” Goddard Library Assistant Dustin Byerly told Kyodo News. “I think we owe that to his wife — her handwriting is on everything.”

Oshiro’s lifelong dream has been that his work be housed in an educational institution so that future generations of students could learn from it. Carol Curri of Newburgh, an artist and Goddard College graduate, organized the donation to her alma mater.

“It’s not art, it’s just an expression of yourself,” he told the Kyodo News Agency at the event inVermont. “The mind is fantastic; it doesn’t want to be oppressed. Let it be free.”

In Newburgh, Oshiro continued to write a haiku every morning until very recently, when ill health hobbled him. He inspired others, such as the members of the Hudson River Poets, who meet one Thursday evening a month at the Newburgh Free Library, a few blocks from Oshiro’s Grand Street apartment. He was a longtime member of the HRP, reading his own work at the meetings and enjoying the work and company of other poets.

“All who had the honor of knowing him will miss his wisdom and sense of humor,” said Lou O’Neill, a fellow member of the HRP.

Oshiro celebrated his last birthday on December 30 at home, surrounded by friends and fellow artists.

He leaves behind his wife of 43 years, Catherine Bullier Oshiro; his son, Sachiya Oshiro; daughters Akiko Kato and Noriko Honda; seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren; a nephew, Shinichi Matsumura; and two great-nieces, Gabrielle Oshiro and Yoko Matsumura.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to your favorite charity.

Services, to be held at the Hudson Valley Christian Church,100 Grand St., are being planned. A pot-luck memorial celebration of Hide’s life and work will be held at the Falcon, 1348 Rte 9W in Malborough, at a time to be announced.

Yay for Newburgh’s Water Department!

All Newburghers recently got in the mail a lovely letter from the city’s water department, informing us of a problem that occurred in January, telling WHY it was a problem, how it happened, and what they did to ensure it won’t happen again. This is exactly the kind of forthright communication that all municipalities should imitate! Here is the letter, verbatim:

Important Information about your Drinking Water

City of Newburgh Water did not meet treatment requirements

Our water system recently violated a drinking water standard. Although this was not an emergency, as our customers, you have a right to know what happened, what you should do, and what we did to correct this situation.

We routinely monitor your water for turbidity (cloudiness). This tells us whether we are effectively filtering the water. The city exceeded the monthly filter effluent standard (13% of readings >0.3 NTU. No more than 5% of readings should exceed 0.3NTU), for the month of January 2012.

This violation is also being reported to the NYS Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

What should I do?

You do not need to boil your water or take other actions. WE do not know of any contamination, and none of our testing has shown disease-causing organisms in the drinking water. People with severely compromised immune systems, infants and some elderly may be at increased risk. These people should seek advice from their health-care providers about drinking water. Guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hot Line, 800-426-4791.

What does this mean?

Turbidity has no health effects. However, it can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth. Turbidity may indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms. These include bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause symptoms like nausea, cramps, diarrhea and headaches. These symptoms are not caused only by organisms in drinking water. If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you may want to seek medical advice.

What happened? What was done?

A problem occurred when the sewer main from the water treatment plant became blocked with debris to the point that it affected the normal backwashing of the filters causing our filter effluent turbidity to rise. We addressed the problem immediately by contracting with McVac Environmental Services to pump out our backwash tanks. The serew line that leaves the plant is a dedicated main until it connects to the main trunk line for the city and is about 2 miles long, with limited access for cleanout. Once we found the blockage, and to permanently prevent this from re-occurring, we cut a section of the sewer main out and put in another access point to be able to maintain the sewer main on a regular basis. The plant is in compliance and our turbidity levels are back to normal.

For more information, contact Jeffry Wynans, superintendent of water for the City of Newburgh, at 845-565-3356.

Please share this information with all the people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools and businesses).

*******[End of Letter]********

Now, if only they’d tell us what “NTU” means!! Still, i thought that was pretty damn good for a letter from a city. If it was the school board, they’d still be huddling in executive session, trying to figure out a way to keep everyone from knowing what had happened, and how to lie about it when it finally came out in the press.

Yay, City!!

Trying Not to Speak Ill of a Dead Monkee

We’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, which is why it had to be hard to discuss the musical abilities of The Monkees’ Davey Jones in the stories about him that have appeared since he died yesterday.

Most people these days are lucky to have never heard them, and possibly to never have heard OF them, so i need to say that the Monkees were a synthetic “singing group” of the mid-60s who neither sang nor played musical instruments, but who as actors, were able to fake both of these activities well enough to star in a wildly popular eponymous TV show that ran until everybody got the joke (two seasons).

In the show, they played a Beatles-type singing group. They sported Beatles haircuts, and Jones, G-d rest his soul, all five feet of him, had an adorable, authentic British accent. I think i caught part of one episode of “The Monkees,”  and this is the best way i can describe it: Imagine an MTV-style music video made of the Dave Clark Five’s pop song, “Catch Me if You Can.” Or imagine extracting from “A Hard Day’s Night” nothing but the scenes of the Beatles trying to escape the crush of adoring fans.

But they had three HUGELY popular hits: “Daydream Believer,” “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville.” To me, they all sounded about the same.

They were very bouncy and they appealed to young girls, who bought lots of Monkees merchandise and studied photos of them and tried to figure out who would be their favorite, and which one they might have the best chance of improving. Davey Jones, i think, was the usual choice.

Anyway, i greatly admire the restrained and gentle way the New York Times today referred to the “talents” of the group. Here are two paragraphs from the obit:

“While the four did much of their own singing, they were relatively unbusy playing.”


“The group’s critical reception was not unsurpassed. In a 1967 article about one of the Monkees’ relatively rare live concerts, at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, The New York Times said: “Frequently during the performance, a sound that resembled the lowing of a sick cow hovered over the stadium. This turned out to be one of those horns often heard at Shea Stadium during baseball games. It didn’t seem to hurt the musical evening.”

Well done, NYT!