Thursday, August 04, 2011

Haiku Harvest translations by Peter Beilenson and Harry Behn

This nifty, slim volume holds about 220 haikus from all the great masters of the genre. Basho, Issa, Onitsura, Saikaku, to Yasui along with many others, present a showcase of wonderful nuggets of timeless beauty and simplicity. I stumbled on it at Plotz Used Books in Waco.

Haiku Harvest, the fourth in a series, started at Peter Pauper Press. Their website says they have been producing fine books since 1928. This volume, like the others, has translations by Peter Beilenson and Harry Behn. Each page has woodblock-style Japanese prints. Most of the poems are really good in translation, but a few – very few – have an awkward word or violate the 5-7-5 rule. Here follows a couple of my favorites.

Snow whispering down
all day long, earth has vanished
leaving only sky --Joso

Oh that summer moon!
It made me go wandering
round the pond all night --Basho

Some poor villages
lack fresh fish or flowers…
all can share this moon – Saikaku

Now the dragonflies
cease their mad gyrations…
a thin crescent moon --Kikaku

The drake and his wife
paddling among green tufts of grass
are playing house --Issa

A hunt for the first three volumes in this series has already begun.

--Chiron, 8/4/11

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