Passion For Poetry

As a follow-up to my Haiku Rant a few weeks ago, I thought it would be interesting to see the haiku of professionals. According to the Haiku Society there are three acknowledged masters of haiku: Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa. I’ve gathered together a few examples from each one and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

One last note. Haiku was never meant to be written in English. When written in Japanese, a long vowel counts as two syllables, or onji. Thus, when translating from Japanese to English, many of the following haiku will have odd syllable counts. Also, I didn’t translate these, so there you have a second reason for the odd word counts.

Matsuo Basho did not, as many believe, invent the haiku, but he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku. You will find many of his poems reproduced on monuments and traditional sites in Japan.

Sleep on horseback,
The far moon in a continuing dream,
Steam of roasting tea.

Spring departs.
Birds cry
Fishes' eyes are filled with tears

Summer zashiki
Make move and enter
The mountain and the garden.

From all directions
Winds bring petals of cherry
Into the grebe lake.

Bush clover in blossom waves
Without spilling
A drop of dew.

Yosa Buson was first known for his skill as a painter but soon became the leading haiku poet of the late 18th century.

Grasses are misty,
The waters silent --
A tranquil evening.

In pale moonlight
the wisteria's scent
comes from far away

Before the white chrysanthemum
the scissors hesitate
a moment.

The air shimmers.
Whitish flight
Of an unknown insect.

Summer night ending so soon
while on the river shallows
a sliver of moon remains

Kobayashi Issa was not just a poet, but a Buddhist priest as well. He left in his journals over twenty thousand one-breath poems—then called haikai but today known as haiku.

the young sparrows
clamor at spring's
last day

evening cicada--
a last nearby song
to autumn

summer night--
the moon by the river
just a sliver

three raindrops
a greeting card from heaven...
midsummer heat

shaking her body
in the summer rain...
maiden flower

I see them now
how they were...
bare winter trees


Bish Denham said...

Beautiful. My husband likes to write haiku. Some aren't too bad for a white boy. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I never tire of reading these three masters' works. So much said in so few words.
I write haiku for my blog based mostly on my musings in nature. Whether they conform perfectly or not, I do not know, but I love seeing the world in that format.

C R Ward said...

I love all the Japanese forms - Haiku, Waka, Choka, Tanka, Sedoka . . . they're short and concise, but they're so expressive.