Saturday, 29 August 2015

Frost and Confusion

#hyakuninisshu 29  mitsune ooshi koochi #waka #japanesepoetry
aristocrat provincial governor and one of the people who helped compile the kokinshu anthology.

Kokoro ate ni
Orabaya oramu
Hatsu shimo
Oki madowaseru
Shiragiku no hana.

There's nothing quite like confronting damaged plants to freak out a gardener or the owner of a garden. This is one of those waka that describe a simple event but the poet's skilled use of language turns his description of his dismay into a masterpiece.

word its something like
heart hope or hit ? at /on
fold / break if only (i could) I wish to break / fold / bend?
oramu is reinforcing orabaya or oraba ya ?
first / new frost on
place = confused / perplexed his position state of mind and the flowers
white chrysantheums of flowers

It seems he's come outside to pick or select flowers for cutting and to his horror found there was a severe unexpected frost and his beloved flowers are at the least marred or will be when they thaw or a solid mass of ice that cant be cut without damaging the whole plant

I have to confess I'm not entirely sure I understand the second line as well as I could even after consulting the Bungo manual.

I'm welcome to ideas on that!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Haiku and Linking Lines

Due to its popularity I'm reposting this with a few minor edits.

Two examples of  #Haiku #micropoetry one by me and one from #chiyo that demonstrate using assonance  to link links and images

I wrote this one this morning. The weather changed last night from unusually warm to more wintry after a night storm.

Now the weather's changed

With Puritan Reverence

The Crows speak of rain.

Crows are black and the English Puritans especially their ministers were noted for wearing black and dark colors and its Sunday in my timezone also I've been reading 17th century English History.

The sound of the crows calling early morning bring things together and the use of w in each line helps the linkage or three ideas sounds and images.

Now here's one from #Chiyo who lived in 18th century Japan.

Koe nakuba / sagi ushinawan / kesa no yuki

literally  voices if not (having)
herons disappear
now time = morning of snow

Chiyo's town of Matto is near Hakusan a mountain with snow fields now used for skiing. This is a winter poem so I'm keeping with the theme for this series of poems. Koe naKuba Kesa yuKi K K K   and the soft contrast of Sagi uSHinawan


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Saturday, 15 August 2015

On writing (BAD) Haiku in English

On Writing (BAD) Haiku in English

Some Observations

Based on seeing bad haiku in twitter and elsewhere

1) No it is NOT just a sentence split into 3 lines!
of 3 lines of phrases

2) The middle line is supposed to be longer whether you're using the 5 7 5 pattern or not

try to read a translation of Basho or Issa or Chiyo or Shiki that includes notes and a word for word translation or transliteration of the original kanji and kana into romaji so you can study assonance in the original

4) Japanese Poetry does have "Metre"
based on Syllable count and Assonance and Image
all linked and balanced

5) yes emotions are allowed but don't be too emo or sentimental
Look up wabi sabi !
and if you're writing free form
read Song dynasty Chinese Ci / tzu translations too!
Basho and Issa probably did!

6) American and some other school systems should be banned from setting haiku writing as homework assignments  until after students have mastered basics like assonance and what the difference is between "blank" verse and "free" verse.

7) Please read a good translation of the Hyaku Nin Isshu or Heian Waka.
Then a good anthology of Haiku

Finally will someone please reprint Daniel Buchanan' One Hundred Famous Haiku!

For those who can't get a hold of one

Here's how he translates Basho's most famous Haiku

Into the old pond / A frog suddenly plunges / The sound of water

note how 3 separate things and images are linked
Action Cause Effect

the japanese is literally

 furu ike ya old pond ! / kawazu tobikomu frog leaps / water of sound

it shouldnt work but it does in both japanese and english!

my translation would be

the old temple pond

the frog leaps and dives in

the sound of water

 (temple inserted cos Basho is said to have written this while staying at a buddhist temple)

Please Study and Read haiku before trying to write them in English !

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Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Memory of a Summer Storm

 #japanese poetry #waka

This poem is about 1500 years old and was composed in the Asuka period by Empress Jito. Its 2 in the #hyakuninisshu anthology and 1.28 in the #manyoshu

Haru sugite / Natsu ki ni kerashi / shirotae no /
koromo hosu tefu / ama no kaguyama

Spring has passed
Summer Surprise!
"White sleeves"
robes spread to dry they say
on Amakaguyama.

Now this was probably written  when the Imperial Place was south of this mountain which has a shinto shrine and isn't actually very high (google a photo!)
though one commentator claims it was written at the fujiwara palace north of  mountain.

A point I have seen NO English language commentators make is that the use of kerashi a fusion of keri and rashi indicates that something most UNseasonal has occurred. A lot of articles and essays and notes draw attention to the use of shirotae which could be translated as white sleeves or white garment and often refers to other white things like snow or frost or fog anything white that covers something else.

These white sleeves are not those of modern kimonos but something more like the big sleeves you see in NO or Kabuki drama that Shinto priests wear so I do mean BIG sleeves!

A lot of scholars presume this is a reference to a legend about white robed heavenly dancers blah blah blah which leads to translators inserting references to angels that do not exist in the original text!

Tefu according to my Bungo Manual means or equals to iu they say and it is said and you may see it written as choo if you have a copy that changes the archaic Japanese into modern Japanese.

OH and the Yamato area while being surrounded by mountains ... well heavier snow usually occurs elsewhere and remember the reference to summer?

and yes I did take liberties with that line to emphasize kerashi !

This poem records a freak weather event! 

Saturday, 1 August 2015


#white #waka #tanka #hyakuninisshu

The most common color adjective in the famous #HyakuninIsshu anthology is white. Yes I went and counted. The next most common are red and black.

I counted 7 using shiro or shira or shirotae.

There  are a couple of more that use phrases and verbs that could be translated as white or whiten.

Poem 2 about seeing a mountain still snow capped  at the beginning of summer

shiro tae no white sleeves / robes

Poem 4 being seeing snow on Fuji also uses shirotae

Poem 6 refers to white frost shiro ki

Poem 29 compares and links heavy frost to whiteness and white chrysantheums shiragiku

Poem 31 compares light reflecting off a heavy fall of white snow to moonlight

yoshino no sato ni fureru shira yuki

Poem 37 shira tsuyu white dewdrops compared to jewels

Poem 76 compares clouds and waves

kumoi ni magoo okitsu shira nami

I'll be translating a few or all of these over the next few weeks !