Friday, March 13, 2015

Return of Spring

This verse is included near the end of Volume 1 of Kikusha's Hand-picked Chrysanthemums. It was written by her younger brother Tamon, whose haikai name was Konshi. 

Happy that today or tomorrow, the deeply missed Lady of the Ichiji-an Studio will finally return home: 
as I waited
I learned its fragrance --
old plum tree
machi etari sono ka narawamu toshi no ume
待得たり其香習はむ年の梅   一陽居今始

It's been warmer this week, so I feel like spring might really be on its way finally.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

More Autumnal Kikusha

Today I've got a very sad poem sequence, also from Kikusha. Kikusha's Chinese poetry is very hard for me, so this is by no means perfect. I hope it at least give a hint of the remarkable range of this talented, perpetually questing woman.




Headnote: Already more than 20 years have passed since I became a widow, and I have been traveling from east to west. In the autumn of 1798 I returned home, and happened to visit my father-in-law's house. I wrote these two verses to express some of my feelings then.

Twenty years have passed and I have forgotten many moments
Since the spirit of travel beckoned me and I set out with just a single garment.
Going back to my hometown, pines and chrysanthemums are everywhere east of the fence
My black hair turned to frost before I returned from far away.

I grew tired of avoiding the world after countless years,
Returning home with my solitary traveler's staff I knocked on my old door.
I was overwhelmed by sadness, and a deep sorrow
Where he had been now flourishes lonely longing.

shine your light on me,
as I mourn for a distant past --
autumn moon

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Kikusha, for All Saints / Day of the Dead

Kikusha wrote some very interesting works: poems in Chinese that were followed with a hokku, in the style of Manyôshû chôka (long courtly-style verse) that were concluded with hanka ("envoy" verses). I am not sure this is right. I've followed the interpretation in Isobe Masaru's 磯辺勝 Edo haiga kikō: Buson no hanami, Issa no shōgatsu 江戶俳画紀行 - 蕪村の花見、一茶の正月 (央公論新社, 2008).




Topic: Skull Picture

May I ask, what family’s child was this?
Still young, fallen frail as the dew.
I ponder on these things that remain
Wayside weeds and grasses, blown by the wind.

withered miscanthus may be called “flower bones”
but they are not
for dogs to gnaw

The picture comes from the Kikusha Commemoration Society's site.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Courtesan Kasen

Here are some hokku by Kasen 哥川 (ca. 1716-1776). I'm sure I've read some of these wrong, but here they are anyway. Courtesans led tragic, frequently brutal lives. These verses, however, are very evocative and romantic.

upon awakening
I tuned my koto
to the sound of spring rain


envious that
snow does not gather on its branches
the plum tree itself blossoms


without tying back
her beautiful hair --
willow tree


morning glory --
I too, await someone,
taking a flower for my companion


when tying back my hair
I gaze outside --
scattered poppy blossoms


airing out clothes --
a cherished letter
falls from her sleeve


These are in Nakajima Michiko's 中島道子 Yûjo Kasen: Echizen Mikuni-minato no haijin 遊女哥川: 越前三国湊の俳人 (渓声出版 [1985]). It's a biographical novel. Sometimes it's so sad/horrific I find it hard to read; it's full of useful information, though.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sanzôshi 7 - Twilight of Autumn

Some more favorite verses from Akazôshi. It's way too early in the year for aki no kure, but I suppose it's always twilight on the earth, somewhere.

people’s voices —
coming home on this road
twilight of autumn

hito koe ya kono michi kaeru aki no kure

on this road
no one else travels
twilight of autumn

kono michi ya yuku hito nashi ni aki no kure

About this verse: Someone asked, “Which is better?” Later, he decided on “no one else travels,” and published it under the topic “Inner Thoughts 所思.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sanzôshi 6 - Six Hokku

A set of hokku from Akazôshi. Dohô lists them together as verses that Bashô revised. They're not autumn verses, but I post them in honor of the equinox and first day of autumn, as Bashô was a rather autumn/winter kind of person. 

banana tree in a storm —
a night of listening
to rain in a bucket

bashô nowaki tarai ni ame o kiku yo kana

see you later
I’ll be snow-viewing
until I’m rolling in it

izasaraba yukimi ni korobu tokoro made

wintry winds —
I am just like

kogarashi no mi wa Chikusai ni nitaru kana 

coming upon them, on a mountain road
how lovely!
wild violets

yamaji kite nani yara yukashi sumire gusa 

a family, all of them
with canes and white hair
visting the cemetery

ie wa mina tsue ni shiraga no haka mairi

Buddha’s birthday —
wrinkled hands pressed together
sound of rosary beads

Kanbutsu ya shiwade awasuru juzu no oto

Originally the “storm” verse had two excess morae, “nowaki shite (as it storms).” Originally the “snow-viewing” verse started with “iza yukan (so, let’s go).” “Wintry winds” originally had excess morae, “kyôku kogarashi (mad verse wintry winds).” “Wild violets” originally had “nan to naku nani yara yukashi (why, how lovely!).” “A family, all of them” originally had “ikka mina (the whole family).” “Buddha’s birthday” also originally sounded like “nehan e ya (nirvana painting);” did he revise it later? Surely there are others of this kind. All of them show our Teacher’s changes of heart, and should be appreciated. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sanzôshi 5 - Lingering Dreams

This Akazôshi passage discusses one of my favorite Bashô verses, so here it is:

Though a dim light shown from the late-month moon at the dawn of the twentieth day, the base of the mountains was deep in darkness; even the pony’s hooves clomped clumsily and several times I thought I’d fall off. In that way we passed countless miles, with no birdsong audible yet. I thought of Du Mu’s lingering dream in “Early Travel,” and woke up at Sayo-no-nakayama:

dreams linger while sleeping on horseback
the moon, in the distance
a tea-fire’s smoke 
uma ni nete zanmu tsuki tôshi cha no keburi  

About this verse: The headnote uses the words of an ancient poet to illuminate a scene. Originally, it read:on horseback, lingering dreams as I’d like to sleep  / the moon in the distance / a tea-fire’s smoke 馬上眠からんとして残夢残月茶の煙 bajô nemukaran toshite zanmu tsuki” and at one point the first five morae were edited to read, “sleeping on horseback 馬に uma ni nete;” after that, the rhythm did not seem right, so it was amended to “the moon in the distance / a tea-fire’s smoke 月遠し茶の煙 tsuki tôshi cha no keburi.”

Saigyô verse memorial at Saya-no-yamanaka Park |