May 11, 2009

Haiku Masters - Matsuo Bashō

I thought of starting a series of tweets with a haiku (and accompanied link) by a leading haiku master on Twitter but I think given the beauty and prolific output of many of the haiku experts, perhaps an occasional blog post with a collection of 17 haikus (5-7-5; get it? ;)) is better to help the reader enjoy a haiku moment from from time to time.

I could wax poetic about haikus a lot but will write - hopefully in simple terse terms - some other time. For now, let us start at pretty much the beginning and let me set you ...

...On the Poet’s Trail

Bashos Trail

Footsteps fall softly
Following the path
Of Japan’s haiku master.

National Geographic article by Howard Norman
Photograph © by Michael Yamashita

Of the hundreds of haikus by haiku master, Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), I have chosen 17 to give us a sampling this morning...
Winter solitude --
in a world of one color
the sound of wind

Early fall --
the sea and the rice field
all one green

Not this human sadness,
but your solitary cry

Even in Kyoto --
hearing the cuckoo's cry
I long for Kyoto

The crane's legs
have gotten shorter
in the spring rain

A solitary
crow on a bare branch-
autumn evening

A flash of lightning:
Into the gloom
Goes the heron's cry.

Nothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die 

A bucket of azaleas
in its shadow
the woman tearing codfish

Wrapping the rice cakes
with one hand
she fingers back her hair

By the old temple
peach blossoms,
a man hulling rice

Spring rain
leaking through the roof,
drippling from the wasp's nest

Now I see her face,
the old woman, abandoned,
the moon her only companion

Many nights on the road
and not dead yet --
the end of autumn

How admirable!
to see lightning and not thing
life is fleeting

Another year gone --
hat in my hand,
sandals on my feet

1st day of spring
I keep thinking about
the end of autumn
Lots more here.

Of course, I should add that a lot is perhaps lost or changed in translation from Japanese to English; not only in terms of syllable-count but also actual depth and serenity.

For example read these 31 translations and a discussion of Basho's most famous haiku:  
Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto
One of the most commonly seen English translation of which is this one but see the link for, like I said, 31 different ways people have translated this one haiku into English!
The old pond;
A frog jumps in —
The sound of the water.
Also another example of differing translations by 3 leading English language haiku specialists of 8 of Basho's haikus.

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