Book Review: Flying Pope and Endless Helix: Combined Shining Stars of Haiku Poetic Essence

Title: Ban’ya Natsuishi—Endless Felix and Flying Pope: 127 Haiku
Author: Ban’ya Natsuishi, Japan
Genre: Poetry
Format: Paperback
Book Dimension:
Endless Felix
8.3 x 5.4 x 0.3 and Flying Pope 8.8 x 5.4 x 0.3
Number of Pages: 107 Endless Helix and 139 Flying Pope: 127 Haiku
Publication Year: 2007 Endless Helix and 2008 Flying Pope: 127 Haiku
Edition Language: English
ISBN-10:   8182530725 Endless Helix and 8182531063 Flying Pope
ISBN-13:   978-8182530720 Endless Helix and 978-8182531062 Flying Pope
Reviewer: Joseph S.Spence, Sr.


Throughout life one will come across an individual who writes poetry. When fortune strikes, one receives enchantment, encouragement, and enlightenment from a prolific poetic writer. This occurs while reading an awesome book where the realization is evident that crossing paths with such a majestical person is taking place.

Professor Ban’ya Natsuishi, is such a person. Founder, World Haiku Association, author of “Endless Helix,” and “Flying Pope,” he sends excellent messages regarding the essence of haiku poems. His knowledge of haiku reflects the beauty of nature.

Natsuishi, is a prolific writer of haiku poems with melodious articulation. He flies in the right direction and leaves footprints on the sands of time where ever he lands. He reflects poetic knowledge through the volume of poems originally established generations ago in the “Man'yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves).”

Links from “Man'yōshū,” still reveal an evolution in poetry. His vision of poetic evolution, aligns with his books, “Endless Helix and “Flying Pope.” The DNA from these books represents his connection to the “Man'yōshū,” the oldest collection of Japanese poetry from the Nara or early Heian periods, 347 to 759 A.D.  This anthology, which is one of the most revered of Japan's art of poetry, is a reflection of Ban'ya's integrated poetic system. 

During the first part of “Endless Helix,” he uses a series of poems unleashing a menagerie of stimulants, invoking sight, touch, hearing, and tasting with inspiring words.   Likewise, in “Flying Pope,” he unravels an anthology of haiku poems for all to understand.

Natsuishi, reflects on haiku in an uplifting manner. He writes in a scriptural sense in, “Flying Pope.” This volume brings to light an elegant artistry, in terms of his adoption of symbolic imagery for dramatic enunciation. His articulation reflects imaginative poetic language and uses stimulating and uplifting words. He moves the reader to another level, soothing to the mind with loving ability, while linking with “Endless Helix.”

Let’s examine the first haiku in Flying Pope:

forgotten homeland
forgotten prayers
the pope flies

Being that God created the universe of which land is a part, and the Pope is a representative of God, he has a mission to ensure that no land is forgotten.

Likewise, in “Endless Helix,” it begins with the first haiku stating:

the fountain spreads out
concentric circles of
water, winds and words.

In this haiku, Natsuishi addresses God's creation of water, winds, and words upon the earth.

In “Flying Pope,” he follows with another wonderful haiku poem:

flying Pope!
please rain your tears
over Japan

This is symbolic of the Pope’s visit to Japan in 1981, and the words of Cardinal Peter Seiichi Shirayanagi, archbishop emeritus of Tokyo stating, “For us Japanese Catholics, he was like a father.” This reflects on the tears of joy on Japan from the Pope’s blessings.

Likewise, “Endless Helix” addresses the beauty of singing in the following haiku:

an endless helix
sings silently
inside our body

Naturally, the music of the warbler bird is melodious to the soul as God's creation. The Pope’s visit to Japan generates lovely music, such as “Endless Helix” in addressing the body.

The mission of the Pope and his blessings on children are touching. In February 1981, while visiting Japan, he showed his love at a youth meeting with the famous singer, Anges Chang.  He also improvised a pirouette with the children. This reflects vividly on the following haiku:

flying Pope
visible only to children
and a giraffe

Imagine the songs in the hearts of the children being with the Pope on such a wonderful and historic occasion.  This is as admirable as God’s words which states: “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Beautiful sight of the cherry blossoms is a wonderful visualization. It brings images of peace and tranquillity. This is the blossom which creates a smiling face. The following cherry blossom haiku regarding of the Pope brings happiness:

storm of cherry blossoms
the Pope flies
with strained back

With a strained back, the Pope smiles and leaves happiness in many hearts.  One could visualize the imagery of the cherry blossom smiling and melting away a strain in the Pope’s back. It’s like a warm professional massage relieving pressures, or an acupuncturist releasing pressure points.
Every haiku lover should appreciate the humour laced in the Cinderella story of the Pope dropping a shoe as outlined in the following haiku:

the Flying Pope
has dropped a shoe
onto the nightless city

This may bring a parade of females looking to fit the shoe. It should qualify as laughter, joke or humour from the form of a “kokkei” humorous haiku, a general sense of happiness.

“Endless Helix” addresses this dilemma as follows:

the night
is the mother of the day--
a stone with two faces

We should know the story of Cinderella and the faces which came forward during night and day with different images and intentions.  Here, we see sincerity, honesty, and love for others overcoming relationships not based on goodwill.

The Cinderella story continues in the form of another “kokkei haiku” bringing more laughter:

for a while
the Flying Pope
follows Cinderella

Naturally, the Pope is capable of leading his own parade.  Any person could just image the Pope with legions of angels at his beckoning call to carry out his biddings in God’s glory.

This volume allows the reader to experience the pleasures of laughter as the Pope prefers a rice field to a helmet. One would enjoy a bowl of succulently steamed and seasoned rice with a deliciously steamed fish with all the dressings instead of a helmet with a symbol of danger.

While travelling, the Pope takes a look and beholds the vast continent. This likely bring his spirit to enjoy the symbology of God’s creation.  The mere thought of knowing that God created a separation in the existing waters on the surface of the earth, especially when He said, "Let there be a horizon in the middle of the water in order to separate the water." Thereafter, God named what was above the horizon as the sky.  The next haiku is on point in that regard:

to the Flying Pope
the earth:
a great tear drops

What a sight the Pope sees. Flying between the separations, he sees the great tear drop below and the heavens above, thus he gives blessing, thanks, and praises to God.

The Pope values religions around the globe. He reaches out to all people of various faiths and denominations. This shines in the following haiku:

by Arabic letters
the Pope flies on

The Pope shines his light on events bringing about transformations of glory around the world. One is able to see goodness in the Pope while meditating on this haiku:

the Pope
flies to Iraq
his head so enormous

“Endless Helix” not only established the lineage of Japanese anthological evolution from the “Man'yōshū.”  It also established the link between Pope John Paul I, who was called the first Flying Pope, based on his travels, and Pope John Paul II, who was also called the second Flying Pope. They both joined hands around the globe establishing peace in many hearts.

Even after his body absorbed a bullet from an attempted assassination, the Pope extends mercy.  By his vision, he turned darkness into light.  The following haiku is emblematical:

the Pope flies
faster than a bullet

The imagery invoked in this haiku connects with darkness. It stretches the imagination and allows the mind to touch upon new territory. In “Flying Pope” he showed that temporary darkness from a flying bullet is not able to stop him and his mission.

God’s hands were on the Pope to complete His mission.  Meeting his would-be assassin in prison, showed the world the love in his heart, and how to profess forgiveness to others. The supreme hands of omnipresent mercy, transcendental love, and omnipotent majesty, was upon him in the transformation and preservation of his physical body.

Furthermore, the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension are reflected in the Pope. The following haiku speaks directly to the invisible manhole in the palm of his hands:

in the palm of
the Flying Pope
a manhole

Imagine nails holding Christ to the cross, and the tearing expansion of the holes.  One could see through them, while not doubtful as Thomas, one of His disciples.  So is the Pope, absorbing the pain of the world in the palm of his hands.  He endures the agony and suffering of people with the visualization of Stigmata, which is referred to as a manhole.

Swallowed by the wind, the pope has flown upward to heaven.  He was given little, yet provided much for so many. Now he accepts his reward of, rest, and refreshment in the right place, on the right hand of God, as he is released from labour to enlightenment.

The essence of “Endless Helix” states:

even unto my death
cats will sing of love
in Rome

Words in this haiku bring to light an underlying theme. It shows the heart inside Natsuishi regarding this creation, showing that love is everywhere and shall abide everywhere.

This volume of haiku is a “Positive Karma,” for the mind and soul. It evokes good actions in the soul, and brings about a smiling face, a pleasing heart, and a positive self-image. It’s refreshing, and leaves a springing well of flowing water to quench the thirst within the soul.

The second half of Endless Helix, uses dreams to stimulate the mind.  The figurative language of the wind as a metaphor, signifies strength to withstand the elements and test of time. The flowing of water invoking cleansing and rebirth after an arduous journey—signifies peace. 

The quality of the discursive poetic syntax in both volumes of poetry, sends inspiring messages of transformation.  The eloquence of such an imaginative spirit of prolific poetic articulation, is like a caterpillar transforming into new birth from a cocoon into a sparkling butterfly. 

The ending of “Endless Helix,” shows Natsuishi walking against the wind on a New York street.  In essence, it concludes like the “Flying Pope,” traveling through time and space touching on generational lifelines.

Finally, before resting these awesome books with the dawn of the golden rays from the sun, or the rising of a spectacular moon, say to others in excitement, “I really love these books by Ban’ya Natsuishi regarding the “Flying Pope and Endless Helix.” Then leave an awesome review which will take off around the world like an eagle in flight, thus, announcing these Inspiring volumes of haiku poetic articulation written by Ban’ya Natsuishi, the prolific haiku poetic writer, who lifts up the “Flying Pope” through the essence of “Endless Helix.”

Bio Sketch of Professor Ban’ya Natsuishi

Professor Ban’ya Natsuishi is the greatest modern haiku master after classic haiku master Basho Matsuo, Japan. He was born in Aioi City, Hyôgo Prefecture, Japan in 1955. He studied at Tokyo University where he received a master degree in Comparative Literature and Culture in 1981. In 1992 he was appointed Professor at Meiji University where he continues to teach. In 1993 he gave lectures at Jilin University in China. He was invited to haiku meetings in Germany, 1994, and Italy, 1995. During 1996 to 1998, he was a guest research fellow at Paris 7th University. In 1997, and held a “Contemporary Haiku” event in Provence of France. In 1998, with Sayumi Kamakura, he founded the international haiku quarterly, “Ginyu,” and became its publisher and Editor-in-Chief. In 2000, after attending the Global Haiku Festival, he continues to travel around the world promoting, lecturing, and reciting haiku poetry.  His written poetic books are numerous. His awards include the following: 1980 he was recommended as Poet of the Year by Haiku-hyôron. 1981 he won First Prize in a competition sponsored by haiku monthly Haiku-kenkyû. 1984 he won the Shii-no-ki Prize. In 1991 the Modern Haiku Association Prize. In 2002 he won the HekigodôKawahigashi Prize of the 21st Century Ehime Haiku. 2008 he received AZsacra International Poetry Award for Taj Mahal Review, 2013 the Sarah and Moïse Russo-International Prize in Poetry for Taj Mahal Review; and 2015, the Highest Prize of the Mongolian Writers’ Association.


  1. Thank you, my dear friends and editors, for your gracious consideration of publishing of my dual haiku book review in your Bilingual Journal of Literature, Arts, and Culture. I am very inspired by your esteemed thoughts and find it very motivating. My continued submissions will be foremost. Blessings always!

  2. Excellent and great review Ban’ya Natsuishi, "Endless Helix" and "Flying Pope". You quoting some beautiful lines and commenting on the imagery and structure and theme of the poems again bring the books to life. kudos dear reviewer.


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