woman running along the trail–bright pink knit hat

how often have i sat by this stream?–water flowing by

birds rummaging through leaf litter–slim pickings

hearing horse hooves, i look up–a car leaving the gas station

**colored leaves flutter to the ground– distant jet plane sound

What Does it Say About Me?

All ten episodes – and still i don’t know your name.

… a micro poem i wrote this morning as i was walking and thinking about Maid, the Netflix limited series… we watched the last episode last night…

… the female protagonist character, center of every episode… i couldn’t remember her name…

… hmmm…

Issa and the Meaning of Animals: A Buddhist Poet’s Perspective, David G. Lanoue

  •  The deeper truth of his not purely whimsical poem is that frogs, just as much as humans, are fully part of this universe and, in their way, might appreciate its wonders.1
  • … i read this and think… hmmm… making just a little too much of a claim to animal sentience… but then, but then… i wonder if animals, when their basic needs have been met, take moments just to enjoy the good feeling of having needs met coupled perhaps with an idyllic evening, or afternoon, or morning?… my immediate thought is that they have more to fear from their surroundings than i and most of the humans I know do… can they ever let their guard down?… can they ever experience a moment of vulnerability?, of bliss?… my dogs do, i am pretty sure… wrapped in the security of having their basic needs met and being with humans who love them dearly and protect them, they can afford to have their guards down and perhaps enjoy a pleasant moment in the cosmos…

  1. Lanoue, David G.. Issa and the Meaning of Animals: A Buddhist Poet’s Perspective (p. 137). HaikuGuy.com. Kindle Edition. [return]

Micro Poem

Apples on the ground– Isaac Newton’s time of year!

Issa and the Meaning of Animals: A buddhist Poet’s Perspective

  • i read about butterflies as road trip companions…
  • i learn about Arukigami, the God of Wandering… i learn that Arukigami entices people to leave their homes and walk about… sounds a little aboriginal to me…
  •  The haiku jokingly connects his and the cat’s restless journeys to a god’s influence, when in reality, as he and his readers must know, the force that compels a cat and a poet to wander is quite worldly: the cat seeks food or sex; the poet seeks inspiration for haiku—which, in turn, makes the attainment of food and sex (whether in marriage or in the brothels of which Issa sometimes writes) possible.1
  • i learn about winter seclusion, what Issa and poets before and after him did in the harsh winters… find a hut to hang out in and stay there until spring came around…
  • i learn that fukubiki can be translated as “Lucky the Toad,” and that Lucky is a common stand in name for toad…
  •  People are genetically programmed to be repulsed by the smell of rotten food, to be excited by the smell of good food, and to be attracted to partners whose faces and bodies exhibit symmetry that indicates health and might therefore ensure the passing of one’s genes to the next generation. If our human sense of beauty evolved from such primal impulses, we might come to suspect that nourishing flowers excite and draw butterflies to them because, to butterflies, they are beautiful.2… i think the question and thought needs to be reversed, that humans need to first acknowledge that as conscious as they appear to themselves, they are largely driven by “animal instincts,” which are the same instincts all animals and even plants possess, so a concept of beauty is the world at large attracting the animal to something beneficial…

  1. Lanoue, David G.. Issa and the Meaning of Animals: A Buddhist Poet’s Perspective (p. 114). HaikuGuy.com. Kindle Edition. [return]
  2. Lanoue, David G.. Issa and the Meaning of Animals: A Buddhist Poet’s Perspective (p. 124). HaikuGuy.com. Kindle Edition. [return]

Issa and the Meaning of Animals: A Buddhist Poet’s Perspective, David G. Lanoue

… Chapter 2, Anthropomorphism or Realism?…

… the difference between Basho and Issa…

cawing in the tree

are you a widow, crow?

Milky Way above1

… one of Basho’s most famous crow haikus:

on a bare branch

sits a crow…

autumn evening2

… in the first, poet and crow participate in the universe together and share existential possibilities and kinship… in the second, the poet channels his own loneliness and late stage of life through the crow… for Issa, animals are fellow travelers… for Basho, animals are symbolic of the human condition… of his condition…

… overall, this book has confirmed my sense that Issa is a “down to earth” poet… he keeps his poems grounded through anthropomorphism and a willingness to depict life in it’s every day sense…

… Issa observing the universal condition… every creature must “work” to survivie… food and shelter must be obtained and maintained… children must be conceived and fed and supported… life, for most creatures is work… we are blessed when we are one with the work that sustains our lives…


  1. Issa and the Meaning of Animals, p 99, translation David G. Lanoue [return]
  2. Issa and the Meaning of Animals, p 100, translation, David G. Lanoue [return]

Basho and His Interpreters, Selected Hokku with Commentary, Makoto Ueda

… a book i ordered a couple of weeks ago… i have decided to set The Analysis of Matter aside given that i will be traveling and won’t be able to concentrate as effectively as i would otherwise… i will read this book instead as i think it will be more digestible in short spurts… also, the spiritual dimensions of haiku may be helpful at this moment…

… the haiku as a stand alone poetic form grew out of renga, a form of linked verse composed by a group of poets gathered… the guest of honor initiates the sequence and each poet takes a turn composing subsequent phrases in the sequence… renga have been known to get as long as ten thousand verses but more usually were one hundred or less…

… i find myself a bit tired for concentration even on haiku…

The Essential Haiku, End Notes

… today, the book is finished… the last notes discuss the origins of the haiku form and the difficulties of translating them… i am surprised that Robert Hass is not fluent in Japanese but rather, learned what he needed to learn to translate the poems, initially for his own pleasure/study, later for publication… he says he set himself the task of translating one haiku a day, which involved looking up the characters of both the Japanese and Chinese languages and deciphering what they meant or implied…

… at the very end, there is a list of elements of Haiku that make them difficult to render in English:

  • syntax… The swiftness of the syntax is one of the fascinating things about these poems, and I don’t think itv can be rendered.1
  • Rhythm… exists in the structuring of the lines, where there are shifts and changes in direction, which have the effect of taking a 5-7-5 structure and rendering it as 5-4-3-5 or 5-3-4-5…
  • Chinese Characters… Japanese is written in a combination of phonetic signs for individual syllable sounds and ideograms based on Chinese characters, or kanji2
  • Pivot Words… words that suddenly change the meaning, or the expectation of meaning, of a sentence, as you read it, a kind of grammatical double exposure.3
  • Seasonal Worlds… known as Kigo… as Mark Morris observes, “translation cannot convey the feeling of at-homeness, of being inserted in the cycle of a natural and ritual calendar that kigo communicate to the haikai reader.”4

… the earlier traditions of haikai and hokku, which birthed the haiku form, are compared to the call and response improvisation of jazz bands of the 1920’s…


  1. Robert Hass, The Essential Haiku, p 310 [return]
  2. Ibid, p 311 [return]
  3. Ibid, p 312 [return]
  4. Ibid, p 314 [return]

The Essential Haiku, End Notes

… today starts the notes on Issa’s poems…

… in today’s notes, i learn that…

  • the Buddhism Issa’s family practiced is that of the Jodo-shin-shu sect which has become Mahayanna Buddhism in present day Japan… it is the most important school of Buddhism in Japan and is considered mainline, middle class… it accounts for some aspects of Issa’s sensibilities…1
  • Robert Bly believes didactic intent is not in the realm of haiku, that is, haiku should not seek to teach… what then, should haiku do?… observe?… and really, if it observes well, doesn’t an astute student learn from it?… doesn’t it teach?… it feels like an odd and splitting hairs sort of distinction…
  • scarecrows are an autumn kigo, which are words or phrases with seasonal reference, in haiku, a cultural code for the seasons… i found this extensive list of kigo in Wikipedia…
  • The World of Dew is direct reference to Buddhist teaching about the ephemeral nature of things… in Mahayana formulation, it is this: All conditioned things are like a dream, a phantom, a drop of dew, a lightning flash. This is how to observe them.2
  • that women turning into serpents figure in No and Kabuki plays…3

… i have finished the notes related to Issa and a section of Basho on how to make poems… it is interesting to me that Hass spends much more note space on Basho than either of the other two poets… because of the stature of his poetry?… or, are Buson and Issa generally a little more accessible to the western mind?…


  1. Robert Haas, The Essential Haiku, pp 284-85 [return]
  2. Robert Haas, The Essential Haiku, p 289 [return]
  3. Ibid, p 292 [return]

The Essential Haiku, End Notes

… more notes on Buson…

… i learn that:

  • the mountain cuckoo lives in deep forest, is often heard, seldom seen… the tradition is that nobody knows much about it, so secretive is it
  • a deer crying three times = fall

… i am finished with the notes on Buson… next is Issa, then i move on to other reading material…

The Essential Haiku, End Notes

… i was telling my brother and sister yesterday that i have found reading this book of Haiku has had a daily centering effect on me… in light of all the family trauma and drama going on right now, this has been useful…

… more notes on the poems of Buson…

… i learn that in Buson’s time, there was an annual doll festival held in the spring… this poem talks about it…

the lights are going out

in the doll shops—

spring rain.

… i wonder about the translation not relying on cultural knowledge of doll festivals happening in the Spring in Buson’s time, and so reiterating that it is spring in the third line… i suppose it is so obscure that western audiences need the help?…

… Bats flitting here and there: Hass relates this poem to The Young Housewife, a poem by William Carlos Williams… i look up the poem, find it slightly confusing, but understand the connection… a poem of longing, less clearly so in the case of Buson…

… i learn about a particular willow tree that has long poetic tradition, visited and written about by Saigyo, Basho, Buson… i am reminded of the catalpa tree in the graveyard… from there, i remember a comment on my photos utility poles and wires at the last Salon, comparing them unfavorably to R. Crumb’s drawings of the same subject… i look them up and find this short video slide show set to the music of Joni Mitchel’s The Big Yellow Taxi… i respect the person who made the comment, but, i don’t think they were right…

… hmm… from the haiku of Buson to the drawings of R. Crumb and music of Joni Mitchel…

The Essential Haiku, End Notes

… i’ve moved on to the notes on Buson’s haiku…

… Buson seems a more down to earth poet as i have observed earlier…

… i learn that erotic themes are not generally pursued in traditional haiku, Basho certainly doesn’t… Buson, perhaps, indirectly…

… i learn that leeks are a winter vegetable… i am growing leeks in my planter tanks… i look up when to harvest them… soon…

The Essential Haiku, Notes

… continuing with my reading of the end notes of the book…

… i learn that the Japanese have a word, tani-watari, for the sound a Bush Warbler makes when flying from one valley to another…

… i learn about a book, The Karma of Words, written by William LeFleur, and order an inexpensive used copy… the subtitle is, Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan…

… this poem is discussed…

still alive

and frozen in one lump—

the sea slugs

… i am reminded that i received my copy of Rise Ye Sea Slugs!, by Robin D. Gill, which turned out to be nothing like what i thought it would be… i wish i could retrace my steps in purchasing the book because it’s a pretty humorous mistake and difference… what i thought i had purchased was a book that offered multiple translations of Japanese haiku, by well known poets, in an effort to get at the difficult to translate subtleties of the poems… what i received was a book of haiku, with large amounts of explanatory text of various kinds, solely on the subject of sea slugs!… oh my… i’ve read snippets and am intrigued… when i am done with TEH, i will start in on the sea slugs… the note that Haas provides on the above poem tells me that the sea slug is usually a humorous reference in Japanese poetry… indeed…

… i learn that Night Herons are associated with the uncanny by the Japanese…

… on the recommendation of Haas, i also purchase a previously owned copy of Basho and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary… i think i am officially diving down a rabbit hole, Japanese haiku… it’s an indirect way to get at Buddhism also… that i am finding it compelling at this moment likely has to do with my dad’s impending death… i have found it helpful…

The Essential Haiku

… still making my way through the notes, which are numerous and informative…

… a note about the Basho poem More than ever I want to see… what Basho wants to see is the face of a god that is so hideous he will only appear at night, at dawn… hmmm… how would one ever know if not Japanese?… or have some good notes to learn from…

… Spring going… a departure poem that opens up The Narrow Road to the North… it speaks of birds weeping and tears in the eyes of fish, which the note tells us is about his departure from friends to journey to the north… context is important…

… in another note i learn about the book Basho’s Ghost, by Sam Hamill… i look to see if it is available, only a collectible one, paperback, for $200… there are two others starting at $796… umm… i will have to see if the Public Library has it, hopefully under lock and key…

… i will stop today, with the note on A Wild Sea…

A wild sea—

and flowing out towards Sado Island,

the Milky Way.1

… Robert Haas fears his translation doesn’t capture the grandeur of the poem commentators point to… he also tells me that at the time of Basho, the island was a penal colony where, according to Wikipedia, losers of political conflicts and dissidents were exiled… interestingly, i think one gets the grandeur of the wild sea and the Milky Way… the Island, it turns out, is fairly large, currently supporting a population of a little over 55,000, though in 1960, the population peaked at just over 113,000… the island has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years…


  1. Basho, translated by Robert Haas, from, The Essential Haiku, p 42. [return]

The Essential Haiku, Notes

… in the very first note i read this morning, an academic article is referenced, Basho—The Man and The Plant, by Donald H. Shively… i look up the article and it is only available through JSTOR, i look for it elsewhere but can’t find it any other way… at this point i discover that i can register for JSTOR and read up to 100 articles a month for free… um, i am not an academic, so the prospect that i might exceed the limit in any given month is unlikely… what a find!…

… and, on to the article, the plant is appreciated in China and, to a lesser extent, in Japan, as a symbol of ephemerality, as the leaves of the plant are easily damaged by the wind and the plant withers and dies in the winter in these places… Basho’s students took to calling him Master Banana Plant, because of the specimen he kept in his garden… Basho like this and adopted it as his poets name… a poem by Saigyo, one of Basho’s favorite poets, talks about the banana plant in this way:

When the wind blows

at random go

the banana leaves;

Since it is thus laid waste, is this a world

on which a human being either can rely?

… ephemerality of plan and human life… very buddhist…

Many of the traditions about the banana plant in Earlier Japanese literature are brought together in a Yokyoku of the fifteenth century entitled Basho. This No play is based on a theme suggested by the Lotus sutra, that even grasses and trees can be reincarnated as Buddhas.1

… this idea immediately leads me to think about the concept of Panpsychism, which postulates consciousness as a fundamental quality of all matter…

… Basho apparently enjoyed the concept of non-functional beauty… that is, beautiful plants, things, that had no apparent use, which left them undisturbed by humans, and therefor, made them a reliable presence… one could ground themselves in and around non-functional beauty… i relate this to my reading on the Greek concept of techne yesterday…

 Techne (Greek: τέχνη, tékhnē, ‘craft, art’; Ancient Greek: tékʰnɛː, Modern Greek: ˈtexni (About this soundlisten)) is a term in philosophy that refers to making or doing. As an activity, technē is concrete, variable, and context-dependent. The term resembles the concept of epistēmē in the implication of knowledge of principles, in that “both words are names for knowledge in the widest sense.” However, the two are distinct.2

… the importance of usefulness or functionality in Western culture which also appreciates the fruit of the banana plant rather than the ephemeral qualities of the plant itself, which has no “concrete” value other than to produce the useful fruit…


  1. Shively, Donald H., Basho—The Man and The Plant [return]
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Techne [return]

The world of robotics…

The world of robotics, is the world of robotics— and yet.

… this is a play on the Robert Haas translation of a famous Issa haiku…

The world of dew, is the world of dew— and yet, and yet.

… dew is symbolic of ephemerality and in this particular Issa poem is thought to be expressing grief over the death of his daughter…

… my “homage” picks up on the idea that things are what they are, neither good or evil in and of themselves… there is nothing inherently evil about robotics… it all hinges on the uses humans find for their creations and, on that score, the historic record is not good…

To Ants…

To ants on the kitchen counter— I am a wrathful god.

The Essential Haiku, End Notes

… a sense of the impossibility of translating Japanese haiku is given in these two paragraphs…

Winter Sun: This is Ueda’s translation, from Basho and His Interpreters, p. 170. The alliteration and assonance in this poem are particularly admired: fuyu no hi ya bajo ni koru kageboshi.1

… and…

A Petal Shower: The phrase used to describe the falling petals is onomatopoeic: horohoro. Some connection between that sound and the sound of the river.2

… in the note to the poem How Admirable!, some sound information on enlightenment, which is…

to see nothing that is not there, and the nothing that is.3

  • squid seller/summer
  • cuckoo/summer
  • peach blossoms/late spring
  • foxes/mischievous, supernatural powers

… the commentary on Hailstones…

Hard things hitting hard things in a hard place. Mountain passes were mysterious places in old Japanese culture, inhabited by boundary gods and placatory shrines, sometimes with the carved figure of a man and a woman coupling.4


  1. Robert Haas, The Essential Haiku, p. 258. [return]
  2. Ibid, p. 258. [return]
  3. Ibid, p. 259. [return]
  4. Ibid, p. 259-60. [return]

Basho On Poetry

… winding down to the end of The Essential Haiku…

The basis of art is change in the universe. What’s still has changeless form. Moving things change, and because we cannot put a stop to time, it continues unarrested. To stop a thing would be to halve a sight or sound in our heart. Cherry blossoms whirl, leaves fall, and the wind flits them both along the ground. We cannot arrest with our eyes or ears what lies in such things. Were we to gain mastery over them, we would find that the life of each thing had vanished without a trace.1

Poetry is a fireplace in summer or a fan in winter.2

… Basho promoting Panpsychism?…

Every form of insentient existence—plants, stones, or utensils—has its individual feelings similar to those of men3

… Learn from the Pine has a lot of wisdom… it comforts me because in general, i follow its proscriptions, not perfectly, not even admirably, but i follow them as best i can…


  1. Basho, Learn from the Pine, via The Essential Haiku [return]
  2. Ibid [return]
  3. Ibid [return]

The Prose of Issa

… excerpts from “A Year of My Life (1819)…

… the interesting part being prose passages after which haiku have been inserted… as if what happened in the prose lead to the poem… or course, it could also be that the poem was written at some time in the past and inserted for it’s relevance to the moment described in the prose… Issa inserted one of his most famous poems after a passage about the death of his daughter…

The world of dew,

is the world of dew,

and yet, and yet—

… the prose in general seems to be a little banal, a little removed emotionally from what it talks about… i wonder if these journal entries seem the same to anyone who reads them?…

The Haiku of Issa

… the last two in the book…

  • insects floating down the river on a branch, still singing…
    • literally, one can imagine a branch breaking off and carrying insects with it… that they would be oblivious to the changed circumstances and still be singing…
    • or, they might apprehend that there is little they can do about the change in circumstance, why not keep singing?…
    • or, they might be pleased to be on a new adventure, and sing with joyous expectation…
    • metaphorically, humanity often finds itself oblivious to the peril it is in… carried along by the years, without really understanding what their lives are about…
  • the poet’s death poem…
    • the stupidity of (being) bathed at the beginning and end of life…
      • i struggle with this one literally and figuratively, why would bathing the newborn or the dead be stupid?…
      • is the poet complaining that life should find a better way to begin and end?…

… i have a new book on haiku coming… this one offers multiple translations of each haiku as a singular haiku can’t get at all the nuances and cultural references of the original… it’s a thick book apparently… may take me a long time to get through it…