To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Outsider Poems, a Mini-Anthology in Progress (38): Kobayashi Issa, 14 Haiku

please note. a list of postings after january 12, 2012 can be found here

Translation from Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

           Shiohama o hogo ni shite tobu chidori kana
Crumpling the briny shore into waste paper plovers fly

            Sendō yo shōben muyō nami no tsuki
Boatman, don’t piss into the moon in the waves

             Tada hitotsu mimi giwa ni ka no hakaze kana
A single mosquito stirs up a wind near my ear

            Tsukare u no miokuru sora ya hototogisu
A tired cormorant watches a cuckoo pass in the sky

             Otabisho o wagamono gao ya katatsumuri
At the Imperial Inn a snail acts as if it was all his

            Kyō miete sune o momu nari harugasumi
Kyoto in sight, I knead my shins in spring haze

            Asayake ga yorokobashii ka katatsuburi
Snail, are you delighted with the daybreak glow?

             Seiten ni ubugoe ageru suzume kana
A sparrow cries its birth cry into the azure sky

             Yū Fuji ni shiri o narabete naku kawazu
Against evening Fuji, asses side by side, frogs croak

             Shōben no taki wo mishōzo naku kawazu
I’ll show a cascade of piss to you, croaking frog

             Yayo shirami haehae haru no yuku kata e
Look here, lice, crawl, crawl to where spring’s going

            Kabashira no ana kara miyuru Miyako kana
Through a hole in a mosquito column I see the City

             Tōrō ga katate agetari tsurigane ni
A praying mantis hangs from a temple bell with one arm

            Inazuma ni tsumuri nadekeri hikigaeru
At the lightning a frog gives himself a pat on the head

             Katatsuburi sorosoro nobore Fuji no yama
Snail, carefully, slowly climb Mount Fuji


Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), remains known as a kind of outsider poet, coming out of a humble & devoutly Buddhist background, bringing that into his work: traditional but often earthy haiku, sometimes (as with Basho before him) mixed with prose.  Writes our contemporary Nanao Sakaki: “Kobayashi Issa was born in Kashiwabara village, Shinano, Japan. His family members were middle class farmers and serious Buddhists of the Pure Land Sect. Most of the time living in Edo (old-time Tokyo), occasionally traveling as a vagabond poet, he lived a rather sad life. Not gifted with genius, but honestly holding his experience deep in his heart, he kept his simplicity and humanity. Very skeptical of authorities, either political or religious, he (after Basho’s revolutionary break-through) opened the democratic trail for common people."
     Note too Sato's alternative presentation of the haiku -- both transcription & translation -- as single lines rather than 3-line stanzas -- making in that sense a different kind of reading/sighting.

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