Greetings, Poetry Lovers!
Thank you for continuing on this Poetry Month dewdrop journey with Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), courtesy of the work of author, poet, and professor David G. Lanoue. (Not sure what I'm talking about? Here are links to my intro post for April 2 and last week's post for April 9 .)
We'll be delving into Issa's dewdrop symbolism more deeply next week, and in the final post for this year's "bonus" Friday in April the week after that. But now that you've gotten a taste of these glorious dewdrops – shining gems of transience that they are – I thought you might enjoy a little break for humor here in the middle.
As you might recall, Issa's life was full of tragedy and hardship and loss. His respectful sensitivity to small, vulnerable creatures, disenfranchised people, and even to drifting plants and tiny dewdrops has made his work endearing to generation after generation of readers. BUT, Issa embraced and expressed not just the melancholy or poignant moments of life; his poetry offers up plenty of gladness and humor - often ironic - as well.
The poem pictured above could have been penned this year, right? Especially in light of the pandemic.
just don't get it...
Of this haiku, David writes:
Young people don't understand the Buddhist lesson of impermanence that the dewdrops teach. In Issa's time as in our time, they assume that they'll live forever. Maybe that's a good thing?
Here are a few more of David's dewdrop haiku translations that I hope bring a smile:
hiki no kao tsuyu no keshiki ni nari mo seyo
face of a toad--
adopt the mood
In Issa's poetic vision the faces of toads always appear grumpy. Here, he encourages the scowling toad to adopt the (calm? peaceful?) attitude of the dewdrops.
And another address to a wee creature:
shira tsuyu no tama fumika[ku] na kirigirisu
the dewdrop pearls!
A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.
And, speaking of insects:
asa tsuyu ya mushi [ni] moraute tsura arau
washing my face
adding a bug
Issa uses the dew (from grass, presumably) to wash his face. He ends up with a visitor. Issa is the most humorous of the great masters of haiku, but his humor often seems to evoke a deeper level of meaning--as (I believe) it does here.
And last but not least today:
baka tsuru ni tsuyu mo kamau-na kamau-na yo
the foolish vine!
Issa imagines that the "foolish" vine is thinking that the droplets on its leaves signify rain (hence badly-needed moisture for its roots), but instead they are only tantalizing dewdrops that will soon evaporate.
All haiku translations and comments ©David G. Lanoue. Rights reserved.
Many thanks to David for permission to share!
AND: Wishing everyone a **HAPPY International Haiku Poetry Day** tomorrow, Saturday, April 17! :0)
Be sure to visit the always-fabulous Jama's Alphabet Soup for this week's Roundup. Are you following the Kidlit 2021 Progressive Poem? If, like me, you've gotten behind – no worries! You can jump in any time and get caught up. Margaret has a list of all the links here.