Monday, November 4, 2013

From ‘The Classic Tradition of Haiku. An Anthology’ Edited by Faubion Bowers

Westerners have described haiku (pronounced evenly hi-koo) as epigrams, snapshots or telegrams. Sir George Sansom …. Defined them as “little drops of poetic essence.” Harold Henderson ….dubbed them “meditations …. Starting points for trains of thought.”

In all their brevity, haiku do tell a story and paint a vivid picture, leaving it up to the reader or listener to draw the meanings out and complete them in the mind’s eye. Many poets embellished their writing with shorthand, brush-stroke drwaings. Each haiku also contains a hidden dualism: the near and the far, foreground and background, then and now, past and present, high and low, sound and silence, and temporality and eternity.
Haiku lovers look for specific words and images to help reveal the deeper layers of meaning that expand the scope of each poem.

In no other country [as in Japan] is poetry more deeply respected, or so pleasantly ubiquitous.

Socho (1448 - 1532)

Even at the time
When my father lay dying
I still kept farting.
-          Tr. By Donald Keene

Arakida Moritake (1472-1549)
A fallen blossom
returning to the bough, I thought -
But no, a butterfly
-          Tr. by Steven D. Carter

Matsunaga Teitoku (1571-1653)

For all alike
the cause of noontime napping
is the summer moon
-          Tr. by Earl Miner

…The idea is that the full moon is so beautiful that people of refinement stay up all night staring at it and composing poems. The next day, they sleep

Yamaguchi Sodo (1642-1716)

In my hut this spring,
There is nothing -
There is everything
-          Tr. by Reginald Horace Blyth

…A celebration of poverty, the joy of spring unencumbered by possessions (other than those of barest necessity)

Ichikawa Danjuro I (1660-1704)

Is it a foster child clinging to me?
The cricket in my bedding
-          Tr. by Laurence Kominz

…The great Kabuki artist was alone, performing in Kyoto. He was accustomed to his three children crawling in under his futon (quilts), but he had sent them back to Edo with his pregnant wife. Now, in his loneliness, he imagines himself a wet nurse to a cricket, an autumn insect of sadness.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

Old pond – frogs jumped in – sound of water
-          Tr. by Lafcadio Hearn

Basho’s most quoted hokku, considered the apogee for manifesting “eternity in tranquility.” Zen adepts take it to be symbolic of “instant wisdom” (satori)

frog pond …
a leaf falls in
without a sound
-          Tr. by Bernard Lionel Einbond

sleeping at noon
the body of the blue heron
poised in nobility
-          Tr. by Earl Miner

Quietness: seeping into the rocks, the cicada’s voice
-          Tr. by Hiroaki Sato

The roadside thistle, eager
To see the travelers pass,
Was eaten by the passing ass!
-          Tr. by Curtis Hidden Page

….Considered to be one of Basho’s pastoral masterpieces. Some interpret it as a moral, like the proverb “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”

How reluctantly the bee emerges from
The depths of pistils of a peony!
-          Tr. by Asataro Miyamori

Ill on a journey
All about the dreary fields
Fly my broken dreams
-          Tr. by Edward G. Seidensticker

Mukai Kyorai (1651-1704)

A sabre! what has such to do
On one who comes to view the flowers?
-          Tr. by Basil Hall Chamberlain

Kawai Otokuni

O, insect! – think you that
Karma can be exhausted by song?
-          Tr. by Lafcadio Hearn

Kaga no Chiyo (1703-1775)

All round the rope a morning-glory clings
How can I break its beauty’s dainty spell?
I beg for water from a neighbour’s well.
-          Tr. by Clara M. Walsh

the frog observes
the clouds
-          Tr. by Patricia Donega and Yoshie Ishibashi

dawn’s separation
to dolls
-          Tr. by Patricia Donega and Yoshie Ishibashi

Dolls never know the loneliness of early morning when a womans’s lover has left after a night of love.

I wonder in what fields today
He chases dragonflies in play
My little boy who ran away.
-          Tr. by Curtis Hidden Page

..This haiku, one of the most moving in literature, was written by Chiyo after her only child died at the age of nine.

I’ve seen the moon
I sign my letter to the world
“Respectfully yours.”
-          Tr. by Faubion Bowers

…Chiyo’s deathbed verse….

Yosa Buson (1716-1783)

struck by a
raindrop, snail
closes up
-          Tr. by Janine Beichman

On the great temple bell
stopped from flight and sleeping
the small butterfly
-          Tr. by Earl Miner

hunter out before dawn
a dog scolds him on the far side of the fence
-          Tr. by Mark Morris

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)

Oh, wont some orphan sparrow come and play with me.
-          Tr. by Max Bickerton

Come with me,
Lets play together, swallow
Without a mother
-          Tr. by Donald Keene

….Issa’s mother died when he was two…. He claimed he wrote this masterpiece of pathos at age 6. He used the word “sparrow,” however a picture Issa later drew to illustrate the poem shows a swallow.

Hey! Don’t swat:
the fly wrings his hands
on bended knees
-          Tr. by Faubion Bowers

Ah, the sad expression in the eyes of that caged bird -
envying the butterfly!
-          Tr. by Lafcadio Hearn

Under cherry-flowers
None are utter strangers.
-          Tr. by Asataro Miyamori

The nightingale sings in the same voice ever,
Even before his Lordship
-          Tr. by Asataro Miyamori

Get ready, get ready to die, the cherries say
-          Tr. by Hiroaki Sato

Falling cherry petals say
Hurry, hurry
Thy preparedness for death
-          Tr. by Ian Mutsu

Life’s brief moment on earth is like the cherry blossom’s short, three-day loveliness.

Ours is a world of suffering.
Even if cherry-flowers bloom
-          Tr. by Asataro Miyamori

The world of dew
Is a world of dew, and yet
And yet …
-          Tr. by Donald Keene

Issa’s most famous haiku. Written a month afte the death of his daughter in 1816.

Ichikawa Danjuro V (1741-1806)

Where are the rain-laden clouds bound
Borne on the wintry wind?
-          Tr. by Laurence Kominz

…His farewell poem, composed on his deathbed.

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902)

I’ve turned by back
On Buddha
How cool the moon!
-          Tr. by Alex Kerr

…Written while staying in a temple guest room with an altar on the wall. He turns from it to gaze at the moonlight outside. Is he choosing beauty over religion?

Men are disgusting.
They argue over
The price of orchids
-          Tr. by Alex Kerr

Coming out to close the gate I end up listening to frogs
-          Tr. by Hiroaki Sato

I’m trying to sleep -
go easy
when you swat flies
-          Tr. by Burton Watson

No comments: