Sunday Poem

This week’s “poem” is actually several, since haiku are so short. These are taken from Lips Too Chilled, a selection of the work of Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) taken from the anthology On Love and Barley, which was translated by Lucien Stryk and published in 1985 by Penguin. Basho is thought to be the originator of this meticulous and pristine form. A haiku simply has three lines of 7, 5 and 7 syllables, although the translation into English often means this structure is lost. However, the vivid tableaux of life in 17th century Japan are not.

1.

Year by year,

the monkey’s mask

reveals the monkey.

2.

Waterfall garlands –

tell

that to revellers.

3.

Cormorant fishing:

how stirring,

how saddening.

4.

Skylark sings all

day, and day

not long enough.

5.

Moonlit plum tree –

wait,

spring will come.

6.

Come, see real

flowers

of this painful world.

7.

Birth or art –

song of rice planters,

chorus from nowhere.

8.

From moon-wreathed

bamboo grove,

cuckoo song.

9.

Violets –

how precious on

a mountain path.

10.

Wake, butterfly –

it’s late, we’ve miles

to go together.

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