Greetings, Poetry Lovers! We are continuing the "Issa's Dewdrops" journey over here, every Friday in National Poetry Month. Many thanks to Dr. David G. Lanoue, professor, author, poet, and Issa scholar, among other things, for sharing some recent translations of the poetry of Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), along with his own commentary. David has translated more than 10,000 of Issa's poems in the last 30 years, and several hundred new ones while in quarantine over the last year. Here is David's website, and if you'd like to catch up with the series here, feel free to peruse week one's post here, week two, here, and last week's, here.
"The dewdrop haiku, I believe, represent Issa's most important image--at the core of his philosophy," David says.
We'll look more at a bit of the spiritual component of Issa's dewdrop haiku next week. This week, just enjoy some more of the transient beauty, and David's comments!
natsu yama ya me ni moro-moro no kusa no tsuyu
dewdrops in the grass
all shapes and sizes
A haiku of keen perception with just a hint of a social and religious message.
oku tsuyu ya ono-ono asu no o-yôjin
each by each no worry
Issa is being playfully ironic. Since dewdrops don't last past noon, they never see tomorrow.
And, because many of us are nature lovers, and lots of Poetry Friday regulars live in the following states:
Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia...
I thought we should look to Issa to pay homage to an amazing event that is set to "emerge" in these next couple-few weeks: the Brood X, 17-year cicadas!
Here's a CNN article about them. Billions (with a 'b') will be making themselves known very soon; I'm sure their calls and images will be filling up backyards and news outlets. Watch your step! Seventeen years ago, I had a child in middle school, another in elementary school, a couple of part-time middle school English classes to teach, and a farm-full of animals in North Georgia. What were you up to then?
Maybe these unusual large, loud insects will inspire you to write some haiku about them (traditionally, a popular subject). You can do a search for Issa's cicada haiku at David's archive here. You'll find several dozen, such as these:
ôame ya ôkina tsuki ya matsu no semi
cicada in the pine
A wonderful minimalistic scene.
soyo kaze wa semi no koe yori okoru kana
the soft breeze
from the cicada's voice
Literally, the voice of the cicada is the soft wind's origin, as if its rasping song has stirred the air to gentle movement--one of Issa's more fanciful images.
If you'd like some tips on how to "write like Issa," well, David has a book for that! I'm thrilled to have a poem in it. You can learn more about Write Like Issa just below the search box on David's Issa page, here.
One last cicada haiku for now, because it's also a dewdrop haiku:
tsuyu no yo no tsuyu wo naku nari natsu no semi
in a dewdrop world
singing of dewdrops...
Sakuo Nakamura notes the religious (Buddhist) feeling in this haiku. 'Dewdrop world' suggests fragile life: how all living beings die so quickly. The phrase, "singing at dewdrops," means "singing for a very short time." He adds, "The dewdrop will soon disappear when the sun rises, and yet the summer cicada is alive and singing with pleasure, like a human being. He is not aware of his short life."
Shinji Ogawa notes that tsuyu wo naku means "singing of dewdrops." He adds, "Of course, what the cicadas are singing about depends upon who is hearing it. At least to Issa, the cicadas are singing of the dewdrops, of the fragile life."
All poem translations and commentary ©David G. Lanoue. Rights reserved. (Many thanks to David for his generosity.)
Here's to a continued, wonderful Poetry Month.... I was delighted to share a video on Thursday as part of Michelle Schaub's Poetry Month project at PoetryBoost.com, a different poet featured each day. (My offerings were a few spring-related haiku, shared from my back yard.) My daughter Morgan and her third graders in Georgia have been tuning in all month!
And, I had fun contributing a line to the Kidlit Progressive Poem, which lands at Janice's Salt City Verse today.
Catch more Poetry Month magic at today's Poetry Friday Roundup, graciously hosted by Catherine at Reading to the Core. (She has a gorgeous dewdrop photo at the top of her blog, by the way....)