Friday, July 30, 2010

Buson, Chiyojo, Meisetsu, Moritake:
1 Maxim & 5 Haiku

Two Crows by Buson

Ran across this quote while reading The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Hass, in preparation for the November Haiku session I'll be doing

"Use the commonplace to escape the commonplace"

Capturing the spiritual aspect of haiku, haiku as a way, can be tricky when dealing with a Western audience new to haiku. This particular quote may or may not work for my purposes, but it sure does work for this blog. There is at once a Tao/Zen quality to the quote, probing to the core of the Mystery. A beauty.


As promised in a previous post, here are a few more haiku from One Hundred Famous Haiku, selected and translated by Daniel Buchanan. An older book which largely adheres to the 5-7-5 form in English, there were a number of standout haiku well worth sharing.

Bearing no flowers
I am free to toss madly
Like the willow tree.

This is a most uncharacteristic haiku, especially a classic haiku, on a couple of levels. First, the use of a simile, with the word "like" and, second, flowing directly from that, a deep expression of personal emotions. It might be more correctly called a senryu, but in any case its strong appeal is precisely because of its uncharacteristic qualities. One of the great Japanese woman practitioners of the haiku form, this powerful emotional work is remembered long after it is read.

Butterflies follow
Lovingly the flower-wreath
Placed on the coffin.

The translator Buchanan explains in a note that the word "shitau" in the original, which has been translated as "follow / Lovingly" has also the alternate meaning of "yearn for" or "love dearly." Thus the comparison in this ku is implicit compared to Chiyojo's above; the mourner/mourners, too, are like the butterflies, following longingly.

The morning-glory
Today reveals most clearly
My own life cycle.

Again perhaps more senryu than haiku, Moritake speaks to the essence of what the nature element and haiku are all about. To make a distinction between nature and human beings, as though people were not part of nature, is in my estimation a significant error. Looking to nature, Moritake sees himself (and us) in the grand scheme of things.

What might the morning-glory reveal tomorrow?


Sometimes, all it takes is one line; from Lilliput Review, #142, January 2005, a "companion" poem from one of last week's featured poets:

poetry is the dew of silence
Jean Michel Guillaumond

if someone asks
answer: it's a dewdrop
translated by David G. Lanoue 


PS  There are always 100's of poems to peruse at the Lilliput archive.


womanimal said...

Some lovely meditations on craft and being here.

"Use the commonplace to escape the commonplace" is my new (much-needed) mantra.

Charles Gramlich said...

"Poetry is the dew of silence." Love that. May have to give it some thought, though

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

né, thanks, glad you liked this one ...

Charles, there is so much in those few words that raises the whole to poem itself (in comparison to the commonplace statement which, though in its way just as powerful, yet remains prose)

Theresa Williams said...

Enjoyed this post a lot. I was just reading the Hass book yesterday and looking more closely at Buson. Have been playing with a haibun about the experience:

Sitting outside on a summer evening, I spend time with Buson. At the edge of the field, two red butterflies.

hard to make them out
through the blur
of reading glasses

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Hey, Theresa

Glad we dovetailed - Buson has been an acquired taste but the Hass renditions have opened the door. Thanks, too, for the haibun. Significant, I think, that after reading Buson the ku is so (not) visual.

Theresa Williams said...

Isn't that the truth! I laughed out loud at the irony of a person studying haiku and, as a resuly, being unable to see the world clearly. But that is exactly the way it was. How silly we humans are. :-)

PS: been enjoying this blog for some time. The highlight of many days.

Theresa Williams said...

And about Buson, so true. I always gravitate to Basho or Issa. I thought it was time to give Buson some of my time. Yesterday was enlightening (just not about the butterflies) :-)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Theresa, well, thanks very much for your kind words and I'm glad you enjoy the posts. I'm going to go in search of some Lucien Styrk translations of Buson, if such a thing exists. He seems to whittle away everything that is the least bit extraneous and get to the core (of not knowing).