Monday, March 2, 2009

Robert Hass: the Issa Translations

Sunday was the birthday of poet and translator Robert Hass. I can't think of any better way of celebrating it at Issa's Untidy Hut than to present a selection of my favorite Issa haiku as translated by Hass. Enjoy.

----New Year's Day—
everything is in blossom!
----I feel about average.

----The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
----with children.

----Don't worry spiders
I keep house

----Climb Mount Fuji,
O snail,
----but slowly, slowly.

----Mosquito at my ear—
does it think
----I'm deaf?

----Children imitating cormorants
are even more wonderful
----than cormorants.

A quiet life:

----Under my house
an inchworm
----measuring the joists.

----What a strange thing!
to be alive
----beneath cherry blossoms.

----Moon, plum blossoms,
this, that,
----and the day goes.

----O flea! whatever you do,
don't jump;
----that way is the river.

----In this world
we walk on the roof of hell,
----gazing at flowers.

----Don't kill that fly!
Look—it's wringing its hands,
----wring its feet.

----I'm going out,
flies, so relax,
----make love.

through the telescope:
----ten cents worth of fog.

Approaching my village:
----Don't know about the people,
but all the scarecrows
----are crooked.

----Even with insects—
some can sing,
----some can't.

----If the time were good,
asked one more of you to join me,

----All the time I pray to Buddha
I keep on
----killing mosquitoes.

----The moon and the flowers,
forty-nine years,
----walking around, wasting time.

----One human being,
one fly,
----in a large room.

----What good luck!
Bitten by
----this year's mosquitoes too.

----Visiting the graves,
the old dog
----leads the way.

----This stupid world—
skinny mosquitoes, skinny fleas,
----skinny children.

----Writing shit about new snow
for the rich
----is not art.

----Mother I never knew,
every time I see the ocean,
----every time—

----Insect on a bough,
floating down river,
----still singing.

His death poem:

----A bath when you're born,
a bath when you die,
----how stupid.

There are other poems by Issa, some classics, that are not here, primarily because the translations of these poems are the ones I feel are the best. Here is the full set of translations of Issa by Hass in pdf form, so you can check for yourself. In addition, if you haven't seen/heard Hass read Issa's haiku, it is a revelation and it is right here.




Anonymous said...

One of the "most-fun-books" e v e r:
The Essential HAIKU


dig this... I didn;t realize Hass did this "thing" (edited it AND did the translations...
I thought that I was doing it...magic 'stuff', huh?

time past
for me to
his work


Greg Schwartz said...

nice selection. Hass is a great translator, even though his translations aren't always the most concise. he manages to bring out Issa's playfulness and humor. that crooked scarecrows one is one of my favorites.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ed, without you, indeed, it wouldn't be done.

Greg, the scarecrow one is different and very good, indeed. I've read it a number of different ways and I like Hass's version best.