Notes On Attention Paid

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The Haiku of Issa

In today’s episode…

  • a woman sings the rice planting song in the shade of a thicket…
    • the rice planting song is a very important folk song in Japan and rice growing in general extremely important…
    • what i note about this poem is a woman is being rendered with affection… as representative of tradition?…
    • rice planting occurs late spring, early summer, but there is no indication that rice planting is going on, only that the song is being sung…
  • pampas grass trembles helplessly…
    • this paints an image in my mind for sure… but what is the meaning behind this anthropomorphic rendering of vibratory grass?…
  • an old dog leading the way to the graves…
    • is the dog a dog, or do the Japanese have a similar way of referring to older men as old dogs?… is it an elderly man leading the way?…
    • is this a literal or metaphorical visit to the cemetery…
    • would this be a winter poem with its reference to old age and death?…
  • the daughter lifts a melon to her cheek in a dream…
    • melons are taken quite seriously in contemporary Japan, carefully nurtured plant by plant and with musk melons fetching as much as $27,000 each…
    • i don’t know if this is a recent development…
    • is this a summer poem?…
    • it feels like a flemish painting to me…
  • a mouse lapping at the Sumida River in the spring rains…
    • this seems like a treacherous enterprise for a small mouse to be lapping at a river swollen by spring rains… perhaps the poem is symbolic of the naivety of the young?…
    • the Sumida River is also the subject of a famous Noh play, Sumida-gawa, about a crazy old woman who comes to find her son only to find he died on the banks of the river… the play was first produced in Osaka in 1784 when Issa would have been 21 years old… the play takes place in the spring…
  • the weight of being born a man on an autumn evening…
    • my question is, is man a gender reference or a humankind reference… in Western culture it would be read as a humankind reference, and thus, the weight of being human is knowing we will die…
    • if more specifically a gender reference, then i am less sure about meaning… the responsibilities that older males acquire during their lifetimes?… the weight of that?…