Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sound of Water: the Closing Section

This final look at Sam Hamill's volume of haiku translations, The Sound of Water, focuses on the section entitled "Other Poets," specifically meaning everyone except Bashō, Buson, and Issa, all of whom we covered in previous posts.

To learn how to die
watch cherry blossoms, observe

Simple, really, yet we need to be reminded time and time again.  It is what makes haiku a way, as in a Way, if you pay attention.

Returning from a funeral
I saw this very moon
high above the moor

There is a bait and switch, which-shell-is-the-moon-under-quality to this poem.  Which moon, did you say?

All of them, of course.

True obedience:
silently the flowers speak
to the inner ear

This poem, particularly this rendition, runs quite deep.  First, true obedience to ... what?  Hamill has captured how silence speaks rather nicely, rather slyly, really.  I've seen another version, by Blyth, I believe, that mentions "the inner ear also."  Though certainly not fair to Hamill, perhaps, like the inner ear, we should be true to the poet, Onitsura.   Perhaps the also is incorrect, but if it is, there is a contrast of two different types of obedience and two different types of hearing. 

Aside from these, there was also Moritake's famed blossom returning to the branch (butterfly!) - for an animated version of that haiku, see this previous post.  I didn't much like Hamill's translation "Those falling blossoms / all return to the branch / when I watch butterflies" and, while looking for another, I stumbled on this poem, which I believe may also be by Moritake

           their moves
learned from falling petals

I really love this poem; I'm gonna see if an old man can learn some moves from falling petals. Here is another version of Moritake's "falling blossom(s)"

A fallen blossom
come back to its branch?
No, a butterfly!

That's much better.  Perhaps, the Hamill translation is of a different poem?  No way to tell, since the original is not included.

To pick a mere 3 poems to highlight of 42 seems mighty stingy, yet there you are.  I went back and read the section a couple of times - there are some lovely images and ideas, perhaps if I was in another mood, but the section ended up being slightly disappointing.  There is another poem familiar to me - perhaps this is an appropriate way to close:

Just when the sermon
has finally dirtied my ears-
the cuckoo

That and everything else being said, though the last section is disappointing, there are so many great renditions in The Sound of Water that it is worth many more times what it's going for ($3 plus bucks) for on used book sights like abebooks.  It can be slipped in a hip or shirt pocket; Issa, Buson, Bashō, and all tend to be pretty good company in the doctor's office, or the woods, or on the bus. 


This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review #127, November 2002.

Morning View From A Rainy Room
there is nothing I
must do a voice
floats warmly
by fine rain
and steam and tea hot
bath I shiver
petal on the path.
Mark Jackley

going outside
plum blossoms dive in...
my lucky tea
translated by David G. Lanoue 

Google translator version: "Department included jumping out of a plum, if"


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Charles Gramlich said...

I have mistaken falling leaves for birds before, or butterflies.

Fred said...

I have a small book titled _Silent Flowers_, a collection of haiku translated by Blyth.

The title suggests the haiku as does _The Sound of Water_.

Blyth's translation:

Silent flowers
Speak also
To that obedient ear within.
-- Onitsura --

Fred said...

The Peter Beilenson translation from _The Little Treasury of Haiku_.

One fallen flower
Returning to the branch...oh no!
A white butterfly

-- Moritake --

I think it would be improved by removing the "oh."

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, it's the quick eye and the quicker flick of the wing ...

Fred, well in one of those amazing bits of synchronicity (or maybe just coincidence), I have "Silent Flowers" on my desk this very moment with the intent to take a look at it in a future blog post. The Onitsura is a beauty. The Beilenson also.

Thanks for sending them along.

Fred said...

Well, concurrence by any other name. . .

Waiting for your posts on _Silent Flowers_.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Fred, it will be sometime in the next couple of weeks ... Don