Greetings, Poetry Lovers - Here's to the last Poetry Friday of Poetry Month, a bonus fifth one this year! :0) I hope the full moon has smiled on you this week.
Thank you for deliving into dewdrops over here this month with recently translated Issa haiku from Dr. David G. Lanoue, author, poet, professor, musician, former Haiku Society of America president, and Issa scholar. And many thanks to David for allowing me to share these gems. Learn more about David here, and more about Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) here , as well as through David's many wonderful books!
During pandemic lockdown, David decided to add to his 10,000-plus Issa haiku translation archive by translating several hundred more poems, on various themes. One of these themes was dewdrops, and I fell in love with these haiku and wanted to share them, with David's kind permission. Remember, you can search David's translations of Issa haiku on a variety of topics using the online tool here, and you can follow along on Twitter here to read a different Issa poem each day.
The first post in my Poetry Month blog series was an introduction to David, Issa, and dewdrops; the second focused on 'pearls' of dewdrop haiku; the third on humorous Issa dewdrop haiku; and the fourth on more dewdrop poems with some cicadas thrown in, in light of Brood X. For today's post, I wanted to share a few of the translations with a decidedly spiritual bent, as Issa's poems about "this dewdrop world" are inextricably connected to his devotion to Pure Land Buddhism.
For a much deeper discussion of these matters, you can read David's 2008 article in The Eastern Buddhist, "The Haiku Mind," on JSTOR. [Lanoue, David G. "The Haiku Mind: Issa and Pure Land Buddhism." The Eastern Buddhist, vol. 39, no. 2, 2008, pp. 159–176. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44362411.] In it, he describes Issa's perspectives on Paradise, which also describe his poetry: "Amida Buddha's Paradise is revealed when one opens one's heart to nature - looking, listening, and deeply appreciatating."
Here are some treasures from David's archives, with his commentary following the poems:
asa tsuyu ni jôdo mairi no keiko kana
in morning dew
shira tsuyu no teren itsuwari naki yo kana
the silver dewdrops
The shimmering dewdrops are telling the truth about life (from a Buddhist perspective): nothing abides.
tsuyu no mi wa onaji narabi zo hotoke-tachi
life of dewdrops--
just the same
as the Buddhas
Dewdrops experience (in Issa's imagination) the brevity of life--a key insight of Buddhism.
oku tsuyu ya ware wa kusaki ni itsu naran
when might I become
grass...or a tree?
Issa is referring to reincarnation. The way the dewdrops make trees and grass sparkle, he wouldn't mind being reborn as one of them.
In a presentation on Issa's dewdrop haiku last fall, David noted that:
--Awareness of the dewdrop nature of life is part of the DNA of haiku.
--Issa explored this theme of transience (Japanese: 無常 mujô).
--No haiku poet in history has ever devoted more attention to this theme. ...
tsuyu harari harari daiji no ukiyo kana
drip-drip, this floating world's
The "Great Thing" (daiji) in Pure Land Buddhism is Amida Buddha's vow to make enlightenment possible for all beings who trust in his "Other Power." Here, Issa is using the expression "floating world" (ukiyo) in its old Buddhist sense of the world being temporary and imperfect.
**All translations © 1991-2021 by David G. Lanoue, rights reserved.**
In correspondence with me about these haiku, David added:
"The dewdrop haiku, I believe, represent Issa's most important image--at the core of his philosophy."
MUCH appreciation to David for his generosity in allowing me to share his work here this month. It's a dewdrop world, as Issa said - and we will soon enough move on like dew ourselves - but poetry offers such meaning and beauty along the way, doesn't it?
Thank you for joining me on this Poetry Month dewdropping journey.
To cap off April's Poetry Friday celebrations, Matt has the Roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme. Thanks, Matt!
[Note: We will be busy with a family wedding this weekend; thank you for your comments, which I always delight in reading, though I might not be able to respond right away today/romorrow. In fact, we have several family celebrations in May, so I will likely take a mini-Poetry-Friday-break or two this month to catch up on custom artsyletters orders and ready my shop for re-opening in person in June. But let the poetry continue, long past Poetry Month! I'll be in and out and back soon. :0) ]