Dumpling Field: Haiku Of Issa by Lucien Stryk and Noboru Fujiwara

3259829edaa9f19-261x361.jpg Author Lucien Stryk and Noboru Fujiwara
Isbn 9780804009539
File size 4.02MB
Year 1991
Pages 133
Language English
File format PDF
Category poetry


THE --------- DUMPLING ----------- fIELD - - I --~t----'~0 - - - ---------------- Haiku efIssa Translated by Lucien Stryk with the assistance efNoboru Fujiwara Swallow Press ~ Ohio University Press Athens Translation copyright © 1991 by Lucien Stryk Printed in the United States of America All rights reserved Swallow Press/Ohio University Press books are printed on acid-free paper oo Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Kobayashi, Issa, 1763-1827. [Poems. English] The dumpling field : haiku oflssa I translated by Lucien Stryk, with the assistance ofNoboru Fujiwara. p. cm. ISBN 0-8040-0952-X. - ISBN 0-8040-0953-8 (pbk.) 1. Kobayashi, Issa, 1763-1827-Tianslations into English. 2. Haiku-Uanslations into English. I. Stryk, Lucien. II. Fujiwara, Noboru, 1916-1989. III. Title. PL797.2.A25 1991b 895.6'134-dc20 91-17639 CIP To the Memory of Noboru Fujiwara and for Theo, of Issa's loyal company NOTE For permission to use material included thanks are due the editors and publishers of Amerilan Poetry Review, Colorado-North Review, London Magazine, Mid-American Review, The Penguin Book ef Zen Poetry (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press and Penguin Books Ltd., 1977), and Of Pen and Ink and Paper Scraps (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1989). The world? Moonlit drops shaken from the crane's bill. DO GEN INTRODUCTION 1 I stroll by the Open Air Theater in Regent's Park, London, and sit on a bench nearby to catch the poetry of A Midsummer Night's Dream this hazy midsummer evening, in walking distance of the spot where Shakespeare's company first spoke these lines. It sounds as if the first scene of act 4 has now begun, and I imagine Titania's entrance with her attendants, Peas-blossom, Cobweb, Moth, Mustard-seed, and all the other fairies. Droll Bottom, now an ass, coaxes one fairy to s~ratch his head, another to fetch a "red-hipp'd humble bee on the top of a thistle, and ... the honey-bag:' In Ass's Eden, Bottom, loved by all, loves all in return. Soon will come his rude awakening; restored to human shape he will have little in common with fays and fairy queens. Suddenly I am aware of a companion. One of London's countless ragged wanderers sits happily beside me. He opens one of several bags, takes out a sandwich and, after a few chomps, begins sharing his fare with the gathering birds and a gray-tail squirrel. He chuckles as they frisk for scraps, and says he could now do with a good cup of tea. "Swig it morning, noon and night;' he says, "while the rest of 'em swig from the bottle. Call me "Cuppa tea;' they do-it's a fact." Off he goes, leaving me to the creatures still coveting traces of bread, and I'm caught up again in the sounds of the play. Two hundred years after Shakespeare first enchanted London with the wonder and sympathy of his dream, another poet thousands of miles away was wetting his ink-~top.e and brushing poem on poem with wonder and sympathy for the world of creatures large and small, loved and despised: Watch out, young sparrows Prince Horse trots close. x i 2 Children, don't harm the fleas, with children. Silverfish escaping mothers, fathers, children. Among the four greatest haiku poets ofJapan, Issa (1763-1827) differs from the others, Basho (1644-1694), Buson (17151783), and Shiki (1867-1902) in many ways. Perhaps what most distinguishes him are his tenderness and compassion. Issa is best read in a well-trodden backyard, midsummer, filled with flies, fireflies, wasps, mosquitoes and peas-blossoms, cobwebs, moths, and mustard-seeds. For it is here, with birds, cats, rabbits, dogs and squirrels nearby, he is most himself Issa is necessary to us because his values, which must become ours if we are to survive as humans, are those most severely threatened in our world. At a moment when summer-evening creatures are blasted with insect "zappers" and dizzied with the stench of poison, he reminds us, over and over, of the individual reality of each life destroyed. Yetand it is this which gives his poems pathos - he is not above swatting a fly or mosquito, caught up in the small personal drama of survival. But at how great a cost! Some of his best pieces are elegies for creatures wantonly killed, some by himself: Each time I swat a fly, I squint at the mountain. First cicada: life is cruel, cruel, cruel. x ii Though he was as keen a traveler as his favorite Basho, forever the itinerant poet, in Issa's case journeys were undertaken because home was in the crudest sense denied him. His birthplace, to which he was passionately attached, was the source of his finest lines. Like Basho and others he tried to establish himself in Edo (now Tokyo), but he was for the most part uneasy there, always at heart the country boy, his imagination kindled by nature. Yataro Kobayashi, who took the pen-name Issa (Cup of Tea), was the first son of a farmer ofKashiwabara in the province ofShinano (now Nagano Prefecture). He was educated chiefly by a village teacher who wrote haiku under the penname Shimpo, exposing him at a very early age to the art. His mother died when he was three, and five years later his father remarried. The stepmother was insensitive to the child, and in 1777 he left home for Tokyo to find work, often forced to do most menial jobs. By 1787 he was studying haiku with Chikua, a poet of the Basho- inspired Katsushika group, and he began to distinguish himself. Following Chikua's death in 1790, he decided -very much in emulation ofBasho - to live as a poet, and spent the next ten years journeying. He visited fellow writers on his way, exchanging ideas on the art of haiku. On occasion he brought otlt a collection of his verse. In 1801, when his father died, he wrote Diary of My Father's Death. His father's wish was that he should settle in the old home in Kashiwabara, but problems with his stepmother and half-brother, who lived there, made tllls impossible, and he was unable to move back until 1813. In 1814 he married a woman named Kiku, and they had four children in quick'succession. None survived. The birth and death of the second of these, his daughter Sato, inspired him to write Spring qf My Life (1819), perhaps his best-known work: a haibun (haiku mixed with prose), it is an account of what was to him his most important year. He continued writing haiku, but his last years were saddened by the death ofKiku in 1823. x i ii He married again in 1824, but was soon divorced. In 1827, his house burnt down, and in poverty and heartbroken, he died, survived by a third wife and unborn child. In a life of countless misfortunes, perhaps the greatest was that as unwanted stepson after his beloved father's death, Issa was denied a place in his family home, which embittered his life for many years. Then the death of his children, one after the other, devastated his spirit. Things which other perhaps less emotional men might have taken in stride, he could not overcome, and in poem after poem we find him succumbing: Outliving them all, all how cold. How he must have envied Basho's Zen detachment, Buson's unruffled striving for perfection. There is nothing heroic about Issa, his art is never cold: to live, he discovered, is to suffer, to be poet is to record that suffering. Some who go to art for lives larger than their own may think Issa's poetry soft, sentimental, but one thing he can do better than anyone is stir us with the knowledge that a painful, impoverished life can have moments of generous warmth, even gaiety: I'm leaving now you can make love, my flies. 3 Issa's output, when compared with others, was prodigious. He wrote scores of haiku, many more than Basho. Indeed he wrote compulsively, and those who have no taste for casual insights might think some pieces less than poems: xiv One bath after anotherhow stupid. Yet who would wish him silent at such moments, contrasting the ordinary so sharply with the profound: Where there are humans you'll find flies, and Buddhas. And would a man's spirit be fully expressed if only the depths were revealed? He could not help the ever-rising lightness above misery, could not resist poking fun, chiefly at himself Issa was always ready to acknowledge a debt to Basho, and although like him he was to have disciples, he advised them not to follow his practice but emulate the master. He was at all times conscious of the difference between Basha and himself: Issa's art, never exalted, is bold in its use of common idiom and filled with ordinary details of everyday life. There is ever-present wit and constant personification, and though he clowns the laughter is never cruel. The poverty of his life, its many traumas, all with their sharp effect, led him to sympathize with all, neighbor and insect. He was after all a Shinshu Buddhist, and like all the sect's practitioners took seriously the doctrine's faith in the sacredness of life, as expressed in the Vinaya-pitaka section of the Tripitaka, the Bible of Buddhism. How can you, foolish men, dig the ground ... ? There are living things in the ground. How can you, foolish men, fell a tree? There are living things in the tree. Whatever man should intentionally deprive a breathing thing of life, there is an offence of expiation. xv 4 I I I ,•1 Haiku structure had become by Issa'~ time a profound orthodoxy: seventeen syllables arranged precisely 5-7-5, two elements divided by a break (kireji - cutting word-which in English is best rendered by punctuation): the first element, the object, condition or situation; the second, preceded by kireji, the vital perception. The desired effect was, and has remained, a moment in its crystallized state, a distillation of impressions, including seasonal, all related to transcendent unity. There is little doubt, therefore, that the poet is encouraged to seek totality of experience. Haiku is meant to snare life's keenest visions, one after another, high and low, fair and foul, strong and weak, manifesting the importance of each, taking care not to choose the "poetic" while at the same time valuing it. Issa gives us perhaps the largest, most varied gamut of experience amongst all his fellow artists, not because he lived more or was a greater hand with words, but because he had the deepest need to clarify for himself the meaning of all that could be seen and felt. Although he did not train, as Basha did, under a Zen master, Buddhist he was, and as one of the elder poet's most devoted admirers, he could not help bringing to his work those attitudes unique to Zen. Indeed Basho, as modern haiku's virtual creator, assured the predominance in this art of the principles and aesthetic long associated with the ancient sect. What are these principles and what is that aesthetic, as found in the poems of one not Zennist but living in a world permeated by its ideals? And, of equal importance, what have all works of art touched by Zen in common? What distinguishes them from works their equal yet not related? Here is the Rinzai Zen master Tenzan Yasuda's reply to just such questic)ns, asked some years ago at his temple, the Joeiji, in Yamaguchi: examine this picture ("Fisherman and Woodcutter" by Sesshu): of all the artist's pictures, this is my · favorite. The boat at the fisherman's back tells us his occupation, the bundle of firewood behind the woodcutter tells his. The fisherman is drawn with only three strokes of the brush, the woodcutter with five. You couldn't ask for greater concision. And these two men, what are they talking about? In all probability, and this the atmosphere of the picture suggests, they are discussing something very important, something beneath the surface of daily life. How do I know? Why, every one ofSesshu's brush strokes tells me . . . . Western art has volume and richness when it is good. Yet to me it is too thickly encumbered by what is dispensable. It's as if the Western artist were trying to hide something, not reveal it. Leaving aside the provocative conclusion of the master's comment, we are struck first by the high place given concision as aesthetic ideal-for Zeµnist, less is truly more. What becomes evident at once, and is most significant, is the desirability of participation in the work, the viewer's or reader's active penetration into the creative process. Suggestion, so essential to all arts associated with Zen, is central to haiku. Why this should be is hard to explain, but poems most appreciated are those proving most personal to the reader, a crumb of life discovered suddenly. Here is a piece by Boncho, who died fifty years before Issa's birth: Nightingale my clogs stick in the mud. What expresses cosmic truth in the most direct and concise way- that is the heart of Zen art. Please That the poet, transfixed by bird-song, is deeply sensitive would be apparent to all practiced readers. One extra word would have spoiled the impression, proved intolerable. The poem which most fully invites involvement, all else equal, is bound to be most admired. Here is Basha: xvi xvi i Summer grasses, all that remains of soldiers' dreams. Perhaps responsible for the five centuries of haiku has been its capacity to inspire such very different sensibilities. Its first practitioners, Sogi (1421-1502), Sokan (1458-1546), and Moritake (14 72-1549) had the task of establishing as legitimate form an element drawn from the reigning tanka, which was strictly structured as a pattern of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. Along with the choka and sedoka, the tanka was prominent in the earliest collection ofJapanese poetry, the eighth century Manyoshu. It must have taken daring of a sort, in a society so rule-bound, to break up ancient forms in hope of revitalization. If the haiku of its first makers, important as it was, had little appeal to Basho and his successors, they always spoke gratefully of it. From the very start, largely due to Basho, haiku at its best was seen as revelatory, possessing qualities in common with other arts based on an essentially Zen aesthetic: simplicity, directness, naturalness, profundity. And each poem had its dominant mood, one of four subtly categorized: sabi (isolation), wabi (poverty), aware (impermanence), yugen (mystery). To haiku's finest artists its brevity was seen less as barrier than challenge to the imagination, demanding that however broad in implication the poem would have to be of single impact. For Zennists like Basha the haiku event was realized in a state of near meditation, similar to the monastic practice of mind-pointing. In the earliest stage of training the disciple might be asked to point the mind at various objects, continuing until it stops wandering, associating, metaphorizingin short, wobbling. The mind penetrates the object ever more deeply, until one with it; the state of muga, as such identification is known in Zen, is attained. Little in Issa's background as Shinshu Buddhist would have led to such ambition, let alone effort, for his sect, most liberal of all, in making altruistic social contact among its most important goals would have been inclined to discourage the necessary solitariness and abstemiousness of Zen. But Issa's inspiration was Basho, and the great poet's comments on the art of life and poetry, faithfully recorded by disciples, were held sacred. Thus his adoption of Zen attitudes was natural. If through deep human bondage he found it impossible to live freely as the unattached Basha, he could nevertheless approach the events oflife with the hope of memorializing the most important of them. Though Issa is considered the simplest of haiku's famous four, he too is capable of reaching depths, and is honored as being closest to the common man, sharing in the everyday world all know and suffer. It is chiefly for that he is most loved. And yet there arc those who appear to regatd him as excessivly soft. Such a puzzling attitude is by no means uncommon in Japan, even among Zennists, whose view is based on a principle rooted in doctrine: the need to achieve and thereafter constantly to practice non-attachment, of the kind which might help overcome serious mental problems beyond the numerous small difficulties of existing. Among the stigma categorized are the "stepson mentality;' and "poverty complex;' both of which are said to have possessed him. xv j i xix Here Buson: A sudden chill in our room my dead wife's comb, underfoot. And here Shiki: Autumn wind: gods, Buddhalies, lies, lies. 5 j Often one so possessed is encouraged to seek guidance of a Zen master, and ifin such context one compares Issa's life and work with that of others, one must concede that he might indeed have been helped. But would we, then, have the poems? Those who care most for art, East or West, would wish the artist a happy, carefree life, but often the tensions of a life are the very source of uniqueness. Iflssa remained attached fatally to things "unworthy;' it is that which lay behind his overwhelming compassion, which was not limited to fellow humans. He was the poet of the ignored, the despised, and his eye-keen as his heart was large-was capable of the subtlest gradations: Don't kill the flyit wrings its hands, its feet. Such poems have had lasting impact on Japanese literature as a whole, and it is not surprising to find modern poets such as the Zennist Shinkichi Takahashi acknowledging a debt to Issa. Here is Takahashi at his compassionate best, in "Camel": The camel's humps shifted with clouds. from formal orthodoxy, even flaunting syllabic limitations. Indeed a contemporary haiku school, the Soun, offers Basho's example as justification for its practice of "free verse:' Not only did Issa conform to established pattern, he took care to abide by all accepted norms of the art, including seasonal suggestion. As Basho's disciple he was aware of the well-nigh canonical stature given B asho's comments on haiku's desired qualities. Chief among these were use of colloquial language, symbolic expression leading to _gravity of feeling, and above all else unity of tone. He seemed especially taken with Basho's elevation of the commonplace, ordinary things and events of everyday life. Anything could be lifted and refined, the lower the subject, the better. Basho used highly suggestive terms to make points clear. Good poems possessed karumi (lightness of touch), sabi (dryness), hosomi (thinness), and with all that there had to be shiori (warmth of feeling). He was to state: You can learn about the pine only from the pine, about the bamboo only from the bamboo. Observing an object you must leave aside preoccupation with self, for if you do not, you impose yourself, hence do not learn from it. The object and you must become one, and from this oneness comes the· poem. Issa's range, as we have seen, was unlimited and unconventional, yet in poetic form he was altogether a traditionalist, more so than Basho, who was known to depart on occasion Basho insisted on a highly conscious approach to composition, even to the extent of identifying essential elements, among them utsuri (color), nioi (smell), hibiki (tone) and kurai (grace). All, fused, were meant to assure harmony of feeling, without which there could not be true poetry. IBroughout his life Issa listened to the master, and learned. Basho's striving for poetic harmony is especially clear in his haibun, which match his verse in depth and imaginative flight. His haibun are essentially travel sketches, most having very suggestive titles: The Records efa Weather-Exposed Skeleton (1684-5), A Visit to Kashima Shrine (1687), The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel (1688) and, best-known of all, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (1689). Marvels of organic struc- xx xxi Such solitude beheads! My arms stretch beyond mountain peaks, flame in the desert. 6 ture, they have been emulated by many, matched by none. In spite ofits great interest, Issa's haibun, Oraga Haru (Spring ofMy Life), is, apart from its haiku-among his finest-a simple record, throughout 1819, of daily toils and turmoils, as the following excerpt reveals: At the height ofjoy, comes sorrow-thus goes the world. Like a small pine tree which hardly had half the joy of a thousand years, our daughter Sato with her second leafjust out, full oflaughter, was seized by the cruel god of smallpox .... For awhile she seemed to recover, then she grew weaker and weaker ... until finally, on the twenty-first day of the sixth month, she left the world with the bloom of a morning-glory. Her mother clasped her face and sobbed-who would have blamed her. But the child's time had come ... the flowing water would not return, the fallen blossom would not return to its branch. We tried to resign ourselves ... but could not stop thinking of her, our love was so strong. I" 7 Darkness has fallen over the bench where I sit. Words from the stage no longer drift my way. Actors and audience have left to Puck's soft words, which will follow into their sleep: If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumbered here .... Now the creatures, in the spirit of the night, reclaim their world. Somewhere far away, in time and space, a poet needs a friend: First firefly, why turn awayit's Issa. World of dew? Perhaps, and yet ... The poet's venture into haibun was surely important, and Spring ofMy Life does precisely what he had hoped, shoring up events that meant most to him. Though somewhat sketchy, the work adds greatly to his output. His haibun, as well as his poems, details his life moment by moment, giving a full day-to-day sense ofhis humanity. And if compared with his more austere company he sometimes, as result of intense attachments, loses control, we love him all the more. x xii x xiii THE POEM& 8PQING -----~-~------------- - 1 Cherry blossoms? In these parts grass also blooms. 2 Owls are calling, "Come, come;' to the fireflies. 3 Listen, all creeping things the bell of transience. 4 Don't weep, insects lovers, stars themselves, must part. 5 9 5 Short night - Cuckoo sings to me, to the mountain, scarlet flower at vine's tip. in turn. 10 6 Buddha's Nirvana Flies swarming- ' beyond flowers, what do they want of and money. these wrinkled hands? 11 7 When plum Where there are humans blooms - you'll find flies, a freeze in hell. and Buddhas. 12 8 What a world, Farmer, where lotus flowers pointing the way are ploughed into a field. with a radish. 6 7 13 17 Passing without Borrowing my house a glance - from insects, first firefly. I slept. 14 18 I'm leaving - Watch it - you'll bump now you can make love, your heads my flies. on that stone, fireflies. 15 19 Nightingale's song From the bough this morning, floating down river, soaked with rain. insect song. 8 16 20 Children, First firefly, don't harm the flea, why turn away - with children. it's Issa. 9 21 25 Under cherry trees Reflected there are in the dragonfly's eye - no strangers. mountains. 22 26 Mokuboji Temple fireflies come even In spring rain how they carry on, to the barking dog. uneaten ducks. 23 27 In my house Vines tight mice and fireflies around scorched rocks - get along. midday glories. 24 28 Treated shabbily by fleas, by flies, Moist spring moon - day quits. and it drips. 10 raise a finger 11 29 33 House burnt down - Sundown - fleas under cherry blooms dance in embers. men scurry home. 30 34 Bound to a tree, Early spring - mischievous boy stream flows bawls to a firefly. toward my door. 31 35 Rice-field dawn - Whitebait, would you were here, darting my dead father. into dusk's haze. 12 32 36 Fuji dusk - Watch out, back to back, young sparrows - frogs are chanting. Prince Horse trots close. 13 37 41 Come, sparrow Playing stone, orphan, frog lets play with me. the horse sniff 38 42 Old pillar, Kitten sized by on the scale, a spanworm. plays on. 39 43 Each time I swat In my old place a fly, I squint flies at the mountain. nettle anyone. 14 40 44 Spring evening how bold the Don't kill the fly it wrings horned owl's stare. its hands, its feet. 15

Author Lucien Stryk and Noboru Fujiwara Isbn 9780804009539 File size 4.02MB Year 1991 Pages 133 Language English File format PDF Category Poetry Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Koyashi Issa (1763-1827), long considered amoung Japan’s four greatest haiku poets (along with Basho, Buson, and Shiki) is probably the best loved. This collection of more than 360 haiku, arranged seasonally and many rendered into English for the first time, attempts to reveal the full range of the poet’s extraordinary life as if it were concentrated within a year. Issa’s haiku are traditionally structured, of seventeen syllables in the original, tonally unified and highly suggestive, yet they differ from those of fellow haikuists in a few important respects. Given his character, they had to. The poet never tries to hide his feelings, and again and again we find him grieving over the lot of the unfortunate – of any and all species. No poet, of any time or culture, feels greater compassion for his life of creatures. No Buddhist-Issa was to become a monk — acts out the credos of his faith more genuinely. The poet, a devoted follower of Basho, traveled throughout the country, often doing the most menial work, seeking spiritual companionship and inspiration for the thousands of haiku he was to write. Yet his emotional and creative life was centered in his native place, Kashiwabara in the province of Shinano (now Nagano Prefecture), and his severest pain was the result of being denied a place in his dead father’s house by his stepmother and half brother. By the time he was able to share the house of his beloved father, Issa had experienced more than most the grief of living, and much more was to follow with the death of his wife and their four children. In the face of all he continued to write, celebrating passionately the lives of all that shared the world with him, all creatures, all humans. Small wonder that Issa is so greatly loved by his fellow poets throughout the world, and by poetry lovers of all ages.     Download (4.02MB) Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry Nesreen Akhtarkhavari, Anthony A. Lee – Love Is My Savior: The Arabic Poems of Rumi In Search of a Prophet A More Beautiful Question: The Spiritual in Poetry and Art Load more posts

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