Friday, July 8, 2016

A Minute Meditation

This will be something new: a brief, irregularly appearing post on something I just read that struck me in some way.  It could be a haiku or only a line or stanza from a longer poem or a short quotation from a work of prose or fiction.  It will be short and brief and perhaps worth a minute or two of thought.

At the shrinemaiden's street
ceremonial robes being washed --
early summer.
                                   -- Buson --

Usually poetry or nature writing celebrates the first appearance of a flower or a bird or animal or even a weather event as the sign of a new season.  Buson here suggests that human acts can also be a sign of a new season.

Buson (1716-1784), Japanese painter and poet, regarded as second only to Basho as a haiku poet.

haiku taken from Haiku Master Buson
trans.  Yuki Sawa and Edith M. Shiffert


  1. nice haiku; nice commentary... a more traditional, earthier poet would be Issa:

    Oh, don't swat!
    the fly rubs hands
    rubs feet

    there's volumes to be said and read about haiku; a good start is "The Haiku Handbook" by Higgins; but the all time authority in English is Blyth, who lived most of his later life in Japan, spoke the language fluently and wrote at least seven books on Haiku... highly recommended...

    1. Mudpuddle,

      Yes, I agree about Issa. I have already published a few by him in the past.

      Oh, do not swat them. . .
      Unhappy flies forever
      Wringing their thin hands

      If strangers threaten
      Turn into fat green bullfrogs
      Pond-cooling melons

      Both haiku from
      A Little Treasury of Haiku

      Thanks for the tip about the Higgens' book. I have one of Blythe's book and Issa's The Dumpling Field, neither of which I've had a chance to dig into, or even sample.

  2. This is a super concept for a series of posts.

    I will expend a bit of mental energy throughout the remainder of the day coming up with similar literary examples of human acts tied to beginnings of seasons.

    1. Brian Joseph,

      Sounds fascinating. I hope you share your discoveries.

  3. Fred: Along the lines you suggest, here is a haiku by Shiki:

    Chrysanthemums withering;
    Socks drying on the fence;
    A fine day.

    The translation is by R. H. Blyth, and appears in his Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 318.

    In reading Blyth's four-volumes over the years, I have been surprised by coming across these human touches -- fulling-blocks, straw hats, cooking utensils, umbrellas, etc. -- that appear in haiku. I agree with you: one usually associates haiku with the natural world. But it makes complete sense that the human world should be the subject of haiku as well. After all, the focus is upon what is right there in front of us, and what we often fail to pay attention to.

    Thank you for your post.

    1. Stephen,

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. Yes, the human touches are there. Most of the time those touches are about the commonplace things, those we no longer "see"
      --samisens, scarves, dolls, scarecrows. . .

      I had to smile reading the haiku you provided--especially at the last line.