Saturday, May 31, 2008

in a cloudbrust

小林 一茶 1819
yu^dachi ya juka sekijo^ no ko yakunin

David‘s English
in a cloudburst
under a tree, looking miserable
a minor official
Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, juka sekijo^, which literally means to sleep or dwell under a tree and on a rock, figuratively denotes "being a monk practicing austerities." Here, he says, Issa uses the phrase to mean "poor," or "petty." It seems to me, however, that the minor official is literally standing under a tree to avoid the rain, a visual image that provides Issa with this opportunity for word-play. My dilemma as a translator, then, is to decide whether I should: (1) mention the literal level of being under a tree and on a rock but lose the figurative meaning of practicing austerities; or (2) translate the figurative meaning (Shinji suggests the middle phrase, "how miserable") but lose the literal image of the official crouching under a tree. My compromise: I keep the tree but lose the rock, adding Shinji's "miserable."
To visit

Sakuo renku 
濡れずに済みて 仏の顔に
nirezu ni sumi te hotoke no kao ni

without getting wet
becomes Buddha face

Saturday, May 24, 2008

plum blossoms

plum blossoms
of the field dropped...
naughty dog

hata no ume shitata[ka] inu ni otosaruru

by Issa, 1813
Originally, I misread the passive voice and imagined that the blossoms had dropped onto the dog: garden plum blossoms coat the dog Shinji Ogawa corrected my syntax and informed me that shitataka inu means "naughty dog." Despite all this, my first translation is a nice haiku in English, I think--though Issa didn't write it!
trans and comment by David Lanoue

Issa has used plum as female or lover.
Auther Akira, Itou sharply pointed out this in his book “ Issa
get into Nagare-yama published by Saniti syobou”
There was Issa’s patron Mr. Akimoto in Nagareyama.
He made Issa stay in his mansion as a guest many times.
At the time a young maid took care Issa. The drama of the haiku had
Of course the dog is Issa himself.

first frost

first frost--
my teeth could crack radishes
up to last year

hatsu shimo ya kuki no hagire mo kyonen made
by Issa, 1806
Jean Cholley notes that this haiku is one of many that laments Issa's loss of his teeth as he grew older; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 236-37. Literally, he misses cracking "stems" (kuki): vagetables like radishes. I substitute "radishes" in my translation to make his meaning clear.
Trans and comment, David Lanoue

Thursday, May 22, 2008

summer robe

小林一茶 1803年
nori kowaki katabira kaburu hirune kana

David’s English
his starched summer
robe his blanket...
by Issa, 1803

Katabira refers to a light summer garment made of hemp. The napper is either wearing the garment or using it as a cover. For my translation, I picked the latter. An alternate version: wearing his starched summer robe... siesta
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1803 aged 43, Issa was a poor poet .
He visited his sponsors around north area for living and
haiku meeting.

in night with sponsor
enjoying haiku together

Saturday, May 17, 2008

blade of grass

小林一茶 1814年
ippon no kusa mo suzukaze yadori keri

David’s English
even on one blade of grass
the cool wind

by Issa, 1814

1814, Age 52
Fourth Month, Issa marries Kiku ("Chrysanthemum": age 28).
It was the happiest time in his life.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


一茶 1803年 41歳
ni ken mae hoshi na kaketari kusa no ame

David’s English
vegetables hung to dry
at two houses...
thatch dripping rain
by Issa, 1803
In the same year Issa writes another version of this haiku, ending with "little houses" (ko ie kana). Literally, the vegetables are hung "in front of two houses" (ni ken mae). In this haiku I assume that kusa no ame ("grass's rain") refers to rain dripping from the thatched roofs, as it seems to in a later poem (1814): sasa no ya ya hiina no kao e kusa no ame thatched house-- on the doll's face dripping rain

sakuo comment
at two houses= at two houses before his friend.
dry vegetable=used for winter food.
thatch dripping rain= spring rain that makes grass grow..
Issa has come at the near of his friend. Even winter remains but spring
surely has come.

sakuo renku
気分は春 友の家近し
kibun wa haru tomo no ie tikashi

in the mood of spring
soon at friend’s house.

Friday, May 09, 2008

persimmon blossoms

kaki no hana ochite zo hito no me ni tomaru

David’s English
persimmon blossoms
only now noticed

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "persimmon blossoms ... only after falling down they are noticed." He adds, "Persimmon blooms in a very modest way; the view of the red-brown flowers is obscured by the summer leaves."

sakuo renku
死後に世に出る 我が俳句かな
sigo ni yo ni deru waga haiku kana

after my death admitted
my haiku in the world

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

beautiful courtesan

David’s English
beautiful courtesan--
new clothes for her hometown's

keisei ya zaisho no mida e kinu kubari
by Issa, 1825


sakuo renku 連句
何時か我子が 産めるよう
ituka wagako ga umeru you

sometime wishing to bear my baby

Monday, May 05, 2008

in honor of the equinox

David’s English
in honor of the equinox
the hedge
turns green

o-higan no giri ni aomishi kakine kana

sakuo renku
mountain covered with snow
no news of cherry blossom

山に雪あり 花の便りなし
yama ni yuki ari hana no tayori nashi

Saturday, May 03, 2008

such intricate

David's English
such intricate
wildflowers bloomed!
in one short night

Issa, 1817
te no konda kusa no hana zoyo mijika yo ni

The flowers bloomed overnight. This haiku refers to a short night of summer. Shinij Ogawa explains, "The phrase, te no konda, means 'complex' or 'intricate.'"
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sakuo comment
Issa 1817,
He had stayed in Edo since October 1816.
He didn’t come back to his home till July 1817.
How did his young wife feel his long absence?

sakuo renku
重ね帯解き 開く花かな
kasane obi toki hiraku hana kana

many sashes undone
the flower blooms