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]