The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa

The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa American readers have been fascinated since their exposure to Japanese culture late in the nineteenth century, with the brief Japanese poem called the hokku or haiku The seventeen syllable form is rooted in a Japanese tradition of close observation of nature, of making poetry from subtle suggestion Infused by its great practitioners with the spirit of Zen Buddhism, the haiku has served as an example of the power of direct observation to the first generation of American modernist poets like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams and also as an example of spontaneity and Zen alertness to the new poets of the s This definitive collection brings together in fresh translations by an American poet the essential poems of the three greatest haiku masters Matsuo Basho in the seventeenth century Yosa Buson in the eighteenth century and Kobayashi Issa in the early nineteenth century Robert Hass has written a lively and informed introduction, provided brief examples by each poet of their work in the haibun, or poetic prose form, and included informal notes to the poems This is a useful and inspiring addition to the Essential Poets series


10 thoughts on “The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa

  1. Florencia Florencia says:

    the three men represent three types of the poet Basho the ascetic and seeker, Buson the artist, Issa the humanist and their differences are clear at a glance when you read them.Deep autumn my neighbor,how does he live, I wonder Tethered horse snowin both stirrups Don t worry, spiders,I keep housecasually.


  2. Harriet Harriet says:

    A gorgeous book of haiku by Basho, Buson, and Issa, translated and edited with great care and intelligence by Robert Hass I keep this book by my bed, actually, and am continually dipping into it it s a great cure for too much Facebook, email, text messages, etc The beauty of a haiku is to distil a whole world, or thought, into three lines that linger and unfold their meaning slowly, or else burst into meaning like a private, joyful fireworks.


  3. Kimber Kimber says:

    Basho favorite poems lines Winter solitude in a world of one color the sound of wind Don t imitate me it s as boring as the two halves of a melon Who mourns makes grief his master.Who drinks makes pleasure his master Don t follow in the footsteps of the old poets,seek what they sought Every form of insentient existence plants, stones, or utensils has its own individual feelings similar to those of men When we observe calmly, we discover that all things have their fulfillment O Basho favorite poems lines Winter solitude in a world of one color the sound of wind Don t imitate me it s as boring as the two halves of a melon Who mourns makes grief his master.Who drinks makes pleasure his master Don t follow in the footsteps of the old poets,seek what they sought Every form of insentient existence plants, stones, or utensils has its own individual feelings similar to those of men When we observe calmly, we discover that all things have their fulfillment One need not be a haiku poet, but if someone doesn t live inside ordinary life and understand ordinary feelings, he s not likely to be a poet Buson favorite poem is mourning for Hokuju Rosen This is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read I wish I owned this book for that poem Here is a haiku by Buson I go,you stay two autumns Issa haiku poems Don t worry, spiders.I keep house casually Even with insects some can sing, some can t For you fleas toothe nights must be long, they must be lonely All the time I pray to Buddha, I keep on killing mosquitoes


  4. Jenna Jenna says:

    This book makes me wish there were renga parties in my neighborhood that I could attend One of the most unfortunate things about the Western poetic tradition when contrasted with, say, the Eastern poetic tradition or the Western music tradition or the Western mathematics tradition is how rarely collaboration occurs among different practitioners.One interesting thing about Basho, Buson, and Issa, which Hass duly emphasizes in his editorial notes, is how devoutly Buddhist they all were The This book makes me wish there were renga parties in my neighborhood that I could attend One of the most unfortunate things about the Western poetic tradition when contrasted with, say, the Eastern poetic tradition or the Western music tradition or the Western mathematics tradition is how rarely collaboration occurs among different practitioners.One interesting thing about Basho, Buson, and Issa, which Hass duly emphasizes in his editorial notes, is how devoutly Buddhist they all were These three poets were all so damn conscientious, so damn hagridden by their unceasing awareness of how they should feel or how they should act in a given situation I can t help but wonder if this omnipresent religiosity dilutes the force of their poetry at all It certainly makes their prose and their longer poems seem oversentimental at times Ultimately, however, this fact merely serves to highlight the inherent powerfulness of the haiku form a form that forces a poet to focus his attention narrowly on small idiosyncratic real world things so that, even though these three poets had many spiritual sentiments in common, their three oeuvres turned out to be anything but homogenous


  5. Bee Bee says:

    I am sad, that i don t know who I lent this too Because this book is a constant companion You can open it anywhere, and BAM, killdeer, a little slice of this very moment right here, with a twist of lemon and a cherry blossom


  6. Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance says:

    The Essential Haiku is a distillation of a distillation, the best of the best, a delight of simplicity, beauty, and truth This book has reminded me of the brilliance of poetry, and the wonder that a tiny haiku holds I will readpoetry I will readhaiku.


  7. Sarah Sarah says:

    First day of spring I keep thinking about the end of autumn Matsuo Basho He s on the porchto escape his wife and kids how hot it is Yosa Buson Even a fleabite, when she s young,is beautiful Kobayashi IssaThis is a lovely collection of poetry that I enjoyed devouring very much Japanese literature has always hit an emotional spot for me I can t quite explain why, but something about the style shakes me to the core There is no time that this has becomeclear than during my reading o First day of spring I keep thinking about the end of autumn Matsuo Basho He s on the porchto escape his wife and kids how hot it is Yosa Buson Even a fleabite, when she s young,is beautiful Kobayashi IssaThis is a lovely collection of poetry that I enjoyed devouring very much Japanese literature has always hit an emotional spot for me I can t quite explain why, but something about the style shakes me to the core There is no time that this has becomeclear than during my reading of these three masters, particularly Issa At times I laughed aloud and at times I might have cried a little bit because of some subject matters and exquisite word choices That is rare, but it s what any author wants to make the reader do The art of the haiku is very interesting indeed while one might think it is easy to simply follow the rules and make a poem based on syllable count, there s a lotthan meets the eye It takes someone who lives in the common world , as Basho puts it, to transport the reader to a specific place and feeling in less than twenty words at most That s amazing if you ask me I find that I don t have a lot to say about this collection specifically as it is the first true collection of haiku which I ve read The organization appears to make enough sense and at no point did I feel lost For all of the reasons I have listed, I d recommend this to anyone who likes poetry For me, it definitely makes me interested in readingfrom each of these three poets


  8. Sally Hegedus Sally Hegedus says:

    I really loved this little book I enjoyed learning something of the history and form of haiku, also of the stylistic differences between the three haiku masters represented in this book For someone with little knowledge of the form, who had never, to my recollection, been introduced to these Japanese poets before, this collection was a lovely first dip into their works I also enjoyed the short sections of longer poems and prose which were also included, particularly those of the poet Issa Th I really loved this little book I enjoyed learning something of the history and form of haiku, also of the stylistic differences between the three haiku masters represented in this book For someone with little knowledge of the form, who had never, to my recollection, been introduced to these Japanese poets before, this collection was a lovely first dip into their works I also enjoyed the short sections of longer poems and prose which were also included, particularly those of the poet Issa This collection has made me want to doreading of and about haiku What a nice introduction this was


  9. Kate Kate says:

    I find it interesting that so many people who rated this book three stars or less did so because they didn t like haiku Totally unfair That s like saying, I think I ll read this here book about tarantulas, and then I ll give it one star because I HATE tarantulas Actually, this is a lovely introduction to haiku and other short form Japanese poetry by masters of the form Of course it s translated, and something is lost in translation However, the ideas are still faithfully portrayed I thin I find it interesting that so many people who rated this book three stars or less did so because they didn t like haiku Totally unfair That s like saying, I think I ll read this here book about tarantulas, and then I ll give it one star because I HATE tarantulas Actually, this is a lovely introduction to haiku and other short form Japanese poetry by masters of the form Of course it s translated, and something is lost in translation However, the ideas are still faithfully portrayed I think Mr Hass did a great job of communicating the humor, and sometimes the pathos and quiet beauty revealed in the work of these masters


  10. Abby Abby says:

    Knowing my love for Japanese literature, my husband gave me this book some years ago It was edited by one of our favorite poets, Robert Hass, which makes it that muchincredible I think this is the best primer for haiku in English translation for any reader I was floored by the depth, beauty, and simplicity and challenged to make my own writing so succinct and clear.


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