On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho
A few days ago, I picked up the book shown to the right of this text. Given my fondness for haiku, how could I not? Basho was the pen name, if you will, of Matsuo Kinsaku who is known as the first great haiku poet. He lived in Japan in the latter half of the 1600s and is credited with, almost alone, reinvigorating the haiku form.
To quote the man on the subject of the lightness that belongs in haiku, "In my view a good poem is one in which the form of the verse, and the joining of its two parts, seem light as a shallow river flowing over its sandy bed."
And his work is light, often quiet, sometimes fanciful. Always beautiful. I don't read Japanese - although haiku is one poetry form that could drive me to learn.
The works are translated by Lucien Stryk and, in English, the translator has chosen not to concern himself with syllable count. This seems right to me. The intent is to convey the sense and beauty of the original poem - unlikely to be possible while tying oneself to English's syllable structure. No more than one could translate a sonnet, trying to maintain its specific rhyming structure, from English to Japanese and still have a poem.
Many of the works struck me, but the following just tickled my funny bone:
No hat, and cold
rain falling –
I come from Ireland. It rains there, a lot. I can hear the exasperation in the final word.
The title of the book comes from the following:
Girl cat, so
thin on love
The notes inform the reader that "Left-over barley and rice are still the staple diet of Japanese dogs and cats."
I feel for the poor girl cat.