Archive for December, 2012

The Sound of Water (IV): Lakes and Ponds 5

Posted in Haibun with tags , on December 18, 2012 by sosui

At an age-old pond,
A frog leaps into water —
A deep resonance.

Basho is believed to have written this poem at his cottage in Fukagawa in Edo (now Tokyo). It is difficult to imagine what kind of place it was. Basho has written several short haibun pieces about this cottage, in one of which he says:

“My grassy cottage is at a lonely place called Mitsumata in Fukagawa where two rivers come together as a fork. I can see Mt. Fuji in the distance, and nearby, large boats sailing to and from far-off places. Morning waves disappearing in the wakes of the boats as soon as they row farther away, and evening winds blowing dream-like through the withered leaves of overgrown reeds make me very lonesome. I sit facing the moon, deploring my always-empty sake barrel. I sleep lamenting the stiffness of my bed.”

Oars hitting the waves,
I feel my guts stiffen in the cold,
Shedding tears at night.

I do not know how accurate this description of his cottage is. Basho is quoting a number of poems from classical poets, both Japanese and Chinese, to emphasize his loneliness. Considering the fact that his cottage was burned down in the Great Fire of Edo in 1682, it may not have been so isolated from other houses. We have no description of the pond by Basho himself, but we know his cottage was owned by his disciple, Sugiyama Sanpu, who was by profession a fishmonger. The pond was originally his fish pond and the cottage was built for its keeper, but it was out of use by the time Basho occupied it. So probably, it was overgrown with reeds and weeds. Actually, Basho lived not far from the estuary of the Sumida. Big rivers tend to form a delta before they empty themselves into the sea, and the whimsical movement of the water creates many ponds. Basho’s pond was probably one of these. A book called Edo Meisho Zue (Famous Sights of Edo) has a drawing of Basho’s cottage by Hasegawa Settan. This book was published nearly a century and a half after Basho’s death, so its accuracy is doubtful. However, it is this book that tells us Basho’ s cottage was once for the keeper of Sanpu’s fish pond.

By a shady pond
I flipped over a black newt —
Its belly was red.

Quiet afternoon,
Coupled dragonflies slumber
On water lilies.

Basho’s statue sits
Facing modern high rises
And an iron bridge.

Drops of rain shining
On the blue iris flowers —
A June luxury.

Postscript: This concludes my haibun series, “The Sound of Water”. Thank you very much for reading them with patience. Thank you, Tito, for brushing up my English. My best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. The world is full of troubles, but let me pray that peace will prevail throughout the coming year. (NY)

From the Icebox inbox – 27

Posted in Haiku, Senryu, Submissions on December 18, 2012 by Hisashi Miyazaki

Sweet smell of summer—
Looking down on bare meadows
the first cut of hay
 . (David Sinex)

autumn winds
nothing bears repeating
but the moon
. (Michael Henry Lee)

maple moon
grandmother’s recipe
settles in the pan
. (Alan Summers)

Cobwebs –
My daily routine is
Lost in entanglement
. (Nancy May)

a diary –
within its ruled lines
anger and tears
. (Elaine Hillson)

wild boars
write in the sand –
october rains
. (Alhama Garcia)

At this stage of life
seasons swirl ever faster—
Years drop like petals
. (David Sinex)