Tag Archives: Issa

LEARN FROM THE SCARECROW: ISSA’S HARVEST MOON

An autumn hokku by Issa: Standing unaffected Beneath a Harvest Moon – The scarecrow. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet that nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.  We admire and ooh! and ah! over the large, bright … Continue reading

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AUTUMN AND THE MORNING GLORY

Today I would like to talk about morning glory hokku. Why?  Because I happened to pass a blooming morning glory vine this morning, as you can see from the above photo.  Also, in old Japanese hokku, the morning glory was … Continue reading

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A LEADING DOG: DETERMINING QUALITY IN HOKKU

Context makes a huge difference in hokku, even if one uses the same subject. Let’s talk about dogs. Issa wrote two hokku — one a summer hokku, one autumn — in which a dog is leading someone somewhere.  But one … Continue reading

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HOW TO READ A HOKKU: ONE MAN, ONE FLY, ONE ROOM

People often forget that in learning hokku, one does not just learn how to write them, but also how to read them. The same principles that apply to writing apply also to reading, and both are important.  If one does … Continue reading

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ALAS, THAT SPRING SHOULD VANISH WITH THE ROSE

Issa wrote a hokku for the end of spring: Sough, sough – Spring departs; The grass of the fields. If you do not like the respectable old word sough for the rustling, sighing sound of the wind through the grasses, you … Continue reading

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THE ROAD GOES EVER ON: AUTUMN AND JOURNEYING

I have always had the feeling, when autumn has arrived, that it is time to begin reading Tolkien’s works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  And that in spite of the fact that the first book in the … Continue reading

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM KOBAYASHI ISSA

Issa wrote: Withered pampas grass; “Now once there was an old witch….” That verse does not come off quite the same in English, because of the term “pampas grass” that we must use for what Issa knew as susuki — … Continue reading

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ENTERING AUTUMN

Here is a timely repeat of an earlier posting: Summer is ending, autumn is beginning. I have already mentioned the transitional verse by Kyoroku that leads us into the season: August; First on the ears of millet – The autumn … Continue reading

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CAT DANCING

Issa wrote: Harusame ya neko ni odori wo oshieru ko Spring rain ya cat with dance wo teaches child Spring rain; The little girl teaches the cat To dance.  The little girl, unable to go out and play, has inflicted herself on the cat, … Continue reading

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AVOIDING HOKKU AND HAIKU AS “RELIGIOUS” FUNDAMENTALISM

Every now and then, I like to clarify my approach to the hokku — that is, to teaching the writing of new hokku — for readers who may be novices here. As many of you know, I have been teaching … Continue reading

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MORE ON THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HOKKU

A reader has asked me to clarify a few points in this list (borrowed from R. H. Blyth) of the characteristics of hokku.  Though he asked about only three, perhaps it might be helpful to give some explanation of all, … Continue reading

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AUTUMN SCARECROWS

Autumn has begun. Autumn is the declining of the life energies in Nature.  We see it in the withering of grasses and plants, in the yellowing and coloring and, eventually, the falling of the leaves.  In America our “native” name … Continue reading

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SNAILS, LOCKS, AND BRUSHWOOD GATES

In Japan, Issa’s hokku have always been remarkably popular.  And they are popular in the West as well — at least the better known verses, among which one finds this: The brushwood gate; Instead of a lock, A snail. But … Continue reading

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THE ONE-FOOT WATERFALL

Issa wrote: The one-foot waterfall Also makes sounds; The evening cool. This is Issa’s version of “The morning glory that lives but a day differs not at heart from the giant pine that lives for a thousand years.”  A one-foot … Continue reading

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SUBJECTIVE HOKKU, OBJECTIVE HOKKU

We earlier saw that there are basically two different kinds of hokku — subjective hokku and objective hokku.  Subjective hokku are those in which the writer adds his own view or interpretation, his “thinking.”  Objective hokku are those that simply … Continue reading

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ONE BIG, LAZY CAT IS ALL OF SUMMER

Issa wrote this summer hokku: The big cat – Flopped down on the fan Asleep. It is rather typical Issa, with his connection to animals and his kind of humor. The point of the verse is that it is summer, … Continue reading

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FROM BELOW THE BRIDGE

Issa, whom we do not often use as a model, wrote this summer hokku: From below The bridge I creep across – A cuckoo! Though Issa says merely “bridge,” we can tell from his timid creeping across it that it is … Continue reading

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NO MODERN HAIKU, THANK YOU!

R. H. Blyth recognized even in his day that the hokku had fallen on hard times.  He speaks with favor of Bashō, of Buson, of Issa, and even speaks of the “objective dryness yet pregnancy of Shiki” (who began haiku … Continue reading

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FROG WORLD

Issa wrote: Waga kado e    shiranande hairu    kawazu kana My       gate   e unknowing coming-in  frog     kana Entering My gate unaware – A frog. Six words. The whole point of the verse lies … Continue reading

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THE LARK ASCENDING: MORE WORK WITH MODELS

There is not just a single way to translate a hokku from one language to another.  Structurally, and in vocabulary, Japanese and English are very different.  And English has considerable freedom in how one says a thing.  This is very … Continue reading

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ISSA’S SIX PATHS

I have spoken before about the pervasive influence of Mahayana Buddhist spirituality — influenced by Daoism and a dash of Animism (via Shintō) — in old hokku.  Usually I just call it the “spirituality” of hokku, and some call it … Continue reading

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INEVITABLE CHERRY BLOSSOMS

In old hokku cherry blossoms were so prominent that they were often not even called cherry blossoms in writing.  Just the word hana – “blossoms” — by itself came to mean cherry blossoms. Conversely, the word cherry (sakura) used to … Continue reading

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EYES GROW WEARY

In the last posting, we looked at a verse by Issa, who tends to bring emotion into his hokku. Today we will look at something more objective on the same “spring” topic, “the long day.”  As we saw in Issa’s … Continue reading

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THE LENGTHENING OF DAYS

One of the most obvious characteristics of the coming and advance of spring is the lengthening of the days.  The sun rises earlier and lingers later.  To those who live close to Nature this is a matter of great significance. … Continue reading

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PLAYING WITH WATER

Continuing with hokku of very early spring, we find this by Issa: Monzen ya     tsue de tsukurishi    yuki-ge-gawa gate-front ya stick with made      snow-melt-river Like many hokku, this is written in the original (transliterated here) … Continue reading

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MORNING FROST AND MELTING SNOW

Is is unfortunate that Onitsura had no students to carry on his approach to hokku, which was really quite good.  But Bashō was the one with all the followers, so he is the one remembered, though Onitsura was writing in … Continue reading

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Shiki and Spring

There are two ways of looking at Masaoka Shiki, the fellow who nearly destroyed hokku through his revisionism. Historically speaking, Shiki is the originator of the “haiku” as the term is understood today.  All modern writers of haiku, no matter … Continue reading

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POPPING COALS AND PAINTED PINES

I have already said that Issa’s hokku reflect a scarred and sad childhood.  That is why he tended to project his emotions onto other creatures and things: Asabare ni   pachipachi sumi no   kigen kana Morning-clear at pop-pop charcoal … Continue reading

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ALONE AND COLD

In the last posting, we saw a hokku into which Bashō put too much overt emotion, which spoiled it.  How should emotion be expressed in hokku?  Indirectly, as in this verse by Issa: Hitōri to    chōmen ni tsuku   … Continue reading

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ENTERING AUTUMN

Summer is ending, autumn is beginning. I have already mentioned the transitional verse by Kyoroku that leads us into the season: August;First on the ears of millet –The autumn wind. There is a related hokku by Chora: It blew first … Continue reading

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BEGINNING TO LEARN CONTENT IN HOKKU

The outer form of hokku is quickly described; the content of hokku takes more time, because it has so many aspects. First, the basics. The content of hokku is always Nature and the place of humans within and as a … Continue reading

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