“River Willow” by Karai Senryū

Karai Senryū was born in 1718 in Edo. A town official and frequent judge of poetry contests, he was responsible for popularizing a lighter, more whimsical variation of haiku that now bears his name (senryū). Before his passing at the age of 73, he composed the following jisei or death…

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“Moon” by Saiba

Saiba was a Zen Buddhist monk who wrote this jisei or death haiku as he sensed his end approach in the fall of 1858. He finally died on the night of the harvest moon. So I’ll just scoot my pillow closer to the full autumn moon. —Translated by David Bowles,…

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“The Scarecrow” by Bonchō

Nozawa Bonchō was born in the city of Kanazawa in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture. Though he worked most of his life as a doctor in Kyoto, Bonchō never made much money. He became one of Matsuo Bashō’s foremost disciples, which saved him when he was convicted of smuggling: due to his…

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“Behind the Falls” by Matsuo Bashō

On May 20, 1689, a few weeks before the beginning of the three-month time of seclusion Buddhist monks were required to observe each summer, the Japanese poet Bashō climbed into the mountains to visit Urami Falls. Passing behind the cascade, he tarried a while in a cave, looking out at the world…

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“A Child Has Died” by Matsuo Bashō

Japanese poet Bashō composed the following haiku in 1666, apparently after visiting the home of a couple whose young child had died. The sight of their despair reminded him of the nō play Take no Yuki (“Snow on Bamboo”) by the playwright Zeami Motokiyo, in which a young boy dies…

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“Autumn Wind” by Matsuo Bashō

Japanese poet Bashō composed the following haiku in the fall of 1666. An autumn wind blows through the doorway’s yawning maw— cold and cutting voice. —Translated by David Bowles, March 2015  

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“Split Melon” by Bashō

Japanese poet Bashō gave the following haiku to Emoto Tōko, a young merchant who wanted to become the master’s student. Don’t just mirror me as if we were both two halves of the same melon. —Translated by David Bowles, March 2015  

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Rattle #47

Rattle 47 is out. This edition of the journals features a tribute to Asian poetical forms, including my translation from the Japanese of three pieces by Karai Senryū as well as haiku by Billy Collins and a wealth of verse from many others, from Debra Kang Dean to Mariko Kitakubo. Especially wonderful…

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“Butterfly” by Saijō Yaso

Saijō Yaso was a Japanese poet and scholar from the early 20th century who specialized in French symbolist verse. His own work ranged from darker symbolism to lighter children’s lyrics. Butterfly When in time I slip down to hell where my parents and friends await, what will I take to…

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“Tomino’s Hell” by Saijō Yaso

I’m always looking for ways to combine my love of poetry, translation and the macabre, so I was delighted to stumble across a sort of “creepy pasta” Internet legend about a cursed Japanese poem that causes tragedy and death should you read it aloud. I quickly looked for the piece,…

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