Last month, I did a post for which Scott Watson allowed me to share some of his thoughts on translation, along with 5 of his excellent renderings of the work of Santoka. In response, in order to prompt to continued thought and, perhaps, even talk on the subject, Charlie Trumbull sent along some translations of the same poems from his ongoing Haiku Database project. I asked him for more info on the project and he sent it, kindly granting permission to reprint the overview here:
The Haiku Database Project
while ago I was in the library looking for the text of a certain poem and was grateful for those anthologies that featured a first-line index of the contents. I had the thought that it would be wonderful to have a first-line or subject index of the best English-language haiku. But then, I continued, since haiku are so short, why not a full-text index? And while we’re at it, since we’re effectively talking only about 40 years of English haiku activity, why not a comprehensive, inclusive database?
The Haiku Database in an attempt to do just that: to put into a searchable, sortable, electronic database all important haiku that have appeared in English. I began working on the project in September 1998 and so far (end of June 2010) have captured almost 220,000 haiku. An unscientific guess is that the total number of English haiku published in the journals, anthologies, and individual collections is about twice that number. The Database grows at a rate of more than 20,000 haiku a year.
I began — because it was easy — by copying materials from on-line haiku sites and journals, including Dogwood Blossoms (the first Internet haiku journal), the Shiki Internet Haiku Salon biweekly kukai, Dhugal Lindsay’s Web site (which includes a few issues of Futoh), the wonderful sites constructed by Jane Reichhold, ai li, Elizabeth St Jacques, Randy Brooks, John Hudak, and others. Next, I targeted the major English-language anthologies, and have so far included Cor van den Heuvel’s The Haiku Anthology (all three editions), Bruce Ross’s Haiku Moment, Jim Kacian’s annual Red Moon Anthologies (1996–2008) and the first five volumes in the New Resonance series (1999–2007), the San Francisco, Canadian, Australian, and two New Zealand anthologies, the British Haiku Hundred and Iron Book of Haiku, Zoe Savina’s huge international anthology, and many others.
Journals and individual collections are next. I have finished entering systematically the full runs of a few journals including American Haiku, Haiku West, Haiku Quarterly (Arizona), Woodnotes, Black Bough, South by Southeast, Acorn, Still, and Frogpond, and have begun working on Modern Haiku, Cicada, Dragonfly, Blithe Spirit, and Brussels Sprout. As for Internet sources, the Database includes Reflections, Haiku Light, The Heron’s Nest, Tinywords, Roadrunner, and Simply Haiku as well as much material from the English-language haiku columns in Japanese newspapers such as Mainichi and Asahi.
The Database focuses on haiku in English, but translations into English are also included. The Database now includes the contents of first three volumes of R.H. Blyth’s Haiku, as well as all of his two-volume History of Haiku. All the Peter Pauper haiku books have been extracted, as has the first volume of Toshiharu Oseko’s Bashô’s Haiku and many other translations into English of Japanese haiku. David Lanoue’s astonishing online database of Issa’s work was added at the end of 2007. Important individual collections are being captured as well, including Jane Reichhold’s massive Dictionary of Haiku (both the print and on-line editions; more than 4,800 haiku), Richard Wright’s Haiku: This Other World, and Jack Kerouac’s Book of Haikus.
Criteria for inclusion of a haiku are basically that it should have appeared in print (or in an online journal) in English. A few haiku in other languages are included, some translated, some not; these may form the core of a non-English haiku database some time in the future. Verses included as part of haiga or haibun are included if, in our opinion, they can stand alone as independent haiku. Except for the hokku, verses of renku are generally not included, nor generally are rengay, tanka, cinquains, and the like. In the case of concrete poems and short verses of haiku length, we generally try to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Children’s haiku are included, but gathering them is a low priority.
Data collected for each haiku include the text (including as much of the formatting as possible), the author, publication history, date of composition (or, more commonly, date of first publication), and notes. For haiku translated from languages other than English, notably Japanese, the original text (in the original orthography and in a romanized version, if applicable), the name of the translator, and date of translation are also included. These data permit searches on specific kigo and comparisons of various translations of a haiku by, say, Bashô, even when the English texts are very different. Other fields in the database assist in sorting by season, season words, attributes (e.g., rhyme), etc.
The purpose of The Haiku Database is to make it easier for serious students to locate and study haiku — i.e., it is a finding tool. So far the database has proved useful to poets wishing to check the originality of their own work and in a few cases has helped identify cases of plagiarism in haiku contests. It has been useful for authors writing about haiku, preparing newspaper columns or journal articles, and compiling anthologies to have at hand large selection of examples, together with original publication information.
Clearly, any sort of commercial use or making the database freely available—e.g., on the Web—is out of the question, and I will not publish any raw search data. I would, however, like to make the existence of this resource known and make the search capability available to others in the haiku community. Please let me know if you are looking for a specific haiku or want to know what use has been made of, for example, “pampas grass” or “Christmas” in haiku. Within reason, I’ll be happy to run a search for you.
The poems that follow are in the order of the original post as translated by Scott Watson. I haven't reproduced Scott's renderings again as it isn't a question, in my mind (nor, I believe, Charlie's either), which one is better or worse etc. It is simply a further glimpse into the mind of the original poet, Santoka; more takes on his language, imagery, and thought. It is a way to expand our understanding and further the conversation. As Cid Corman said
ochiba furu oku fukaku Mihotoke o miru
Dead leaves fall, in the depth, I see the Buddha
Hiroaki Sato, Cicada 2:3 (1978)
Deep in the forest
I see a Buddha.
John Stevens, Santôka, Mountain Tasting #223; different format with translator not given, in Simply Haiku [Web] 3:3 (autumn 2005)
kûshû keihô ruirui to shite kaki akashi
The air-raid alarm
John Stevens, Santôka, Mountain Tasting #160; different format with translator not given, in Simply Haiku [Web] 3:3 (autumn 2005)
shinin torimaku hito-bito ni kumo mo naki sora ya
no other translations
ureshii tayori mo kanashii tayori mo haru no yuki furu
Spring snow falls.
John Stevens, Santôka, Mountain Tasting #215
shigururu ya shinu naide iru
Cold winter rain;
I am still alive.
R.H. Blyth, Blyth, History of Haiku II:181
Downpour, dead I’m not
Hiroaki Sato, Cicada 2:1 (1978)
Winter shower I'm still not dead
Hiroaki Sato, Santôka, Grass and Tree Cairn, 7
late autumn rain;
not yet dying
late autumn rain;
yet not dying
Stephen Wolfe, Wolfe, "Wreath of Weeds," 219
Here I am,
Hisashi Miura and James Green, Selected Haiku from Sômokutô
For further info on the Haiku Database Project, you may contact Charles Trumbull at:
trumbullc AT comcast DOT net (all one phrase, with AT standing in for @ and DOT standing in for .)
This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review, #145 and, since this post has been about translation, what can be more fitting than this little tanka, from the seminal 100 Poems by 100 Poets collection (a full translation of which may be found here):
The mountain pheasant's tail
trails long behind
is my loneliness
in the unendingly long night.Kakinomoto-no Hitomaro
translated by Dennis Maloney & Hide Oshiro
the green mountain
a pheasant cries
translated by David G. Lanoue