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An open mind

is the gateway to heaven.


            What follows are interpretations of Basho's works by three editors and translators, three gentlemen that would seem to have the qualifications for the task; R.H.Blyth, Lucien Stryck, and Peter Beilenson. There are also some comments by a fourth,Kenneth Rexroth. I began putting together this list as a means to clarify, for myself, what this lovely art form is all about. Opinions seem to vary wildly about just what constitutes haiku. There doesn't seem to be any "concrete" answers. Mr. Rexroth points out, however, in the preface to "One Hundred Poems from the Japanese" that "the Japanese language is almost as rich in homonyms and ordinary double meanings as is Chinese" and there are engo, "associated words rising from the same concept,occupy a position between our similes and metaphors...". He further speaks of the kake kotoba, a pivot word employed in two senses, even three on rare occasions. Rexroth makes the statement that "The pivot word shades into the pun, and some Japanese poems have so many puns that they may have two or more quite dissimilar meaning." I have also read that the kigo or "season word" is also a metaphor (there's that word again) for the stages of our lives. I guess my point is, if I have to have one, that an absolute statement as to the correct way to write haiku would be practically impossible. I found some of all three of the following interpretations to my liking. Mr. Beilenson attempts to stick with the 5-7-5 format, occassionally to the poems detriment. Stryck on the other hand seems very Spartan in his translations, and in the book his poems are taken from, "On Love and Barley - Haiku of Basho" one of Basho's poems seems to have two interpretations, it is appended to the list below.

      R.H. Blyth

      Moonlight slants through
      The vast bamboo grove:
      A cuckoo cries

      Ah, summer grasses!
      All that remains
      Of the warriors dreams.

      Along this road
      Goes no one;
      This autumn evening.

      From time to time
      The clouds give rest
      To the moon beholders..

      The butterfly is perfuming
      It's wings in the scent
      Of the orchid.

      Yes, spring has come
      This morning a nameless hill
      Is shrouded in mist.

      It is deep autumn
      My neighbor
      How does he live, I wonder.

      The old pond
      A frog jumps in
      The sound of water.


      From moon wreathed
      bamboo grove,
      cuckoo song.

      Summer grasses
      all that remains
      of soldiers dreams.

      Not one traveller
      braves this road -
      autumn night.

      Clouds -
      a chance to dodge

      Orchid breathing
      incense into
      butterfly wings.

      Spring - through
      morning mist
      what mountains there?

      Autumns end
      how does my
      neighbour live?

      Old pond
      leap - splash
      a frog.


      Moonlight slanting
      through all this long bamboo grove
      and nightingale song.

      Here where a thousand
      captains swore grand conquest
      Tall grasses their monument.

      By lonely roads
      this lonely poet marches
      into autumn dusk.

      Glorious the moon
      therefore our thanks, dark clouds
      come to rest our necks.

      Lady butterfly
      perfumes wings by floating
      over the orchid.

      Spring morning marvel
      lovely nameless little hill
      on a sea of mist

      In my dark winter
      lying ill, at last I ask
      how fares my neighbor

      Old dark sleepy pool
      quick unexpected frog
      goes plop! Watersplash.

      This haiku seemingly has 2 interpretations by Stryck: Fading bells - Dusk - though last now musky blossoms bells faded peal in dusk airs cherry rich and this one by Blyth:

The temple bell dies away The scent of flowers in the evening Is still tolling the bell.

Basho:Gentlest Friend of Moon & Winds A childrens story for all ages

Commentaries on Basho's "lonely road".

Basho's own comments on his life as a poet. Is it Haiku? A letter from Jane Reichold Flower Shadows haiku by soji

Haiku Festival Haiku by todays practitioners

World Wide Haiku Links