Friday, April 11, 2008

What on God's earth was he talking about?

He was Kobayashi Issa. Born in 1763 and died in 1828, he is widely regarded as one of the four great haiku masters of Japan.

He wrote chiefly about the world around him. Mountains, snow, spring, insects, animals, leaves, rivers, ponds.

And yet, in these brief poems of limited syllable count, he captured moments of love, compassion, inspiration, and even epiphany.

In my quiet moments of despair and disillusionment, apart from turning to the Noble Koran, I often read Issa's haiku. In them, I find a rare sort of calmness, amid the storms of my daily life.

Below are 23 of my favourite haiku. Can anyone here tell me what I see in them, and more importantly, why they are a source of calm and peace for me?

"Don't worry, spiders,
I keep house

"I'm going out,
flies, so relax,
make love."

"A huge frog and I,
staring at each other,
neither of us moves."

"Last time, I think,
I'll brush the flies
from my father's face."

"A cuckoo sings
to me, to the mountain,
to me, to the mountain."

"Asked how old he was,
the boy in the new kimono
stretched out all five fingers."

"Having slept, the cat gets up,
yawns, goes out
to make love."

"Hey, sparrow!
out of the way,
Horse is coming."

"These sea slugs,
they just don't seem

"Even with insects--
some can sing,
some can't."

"Children imitating cormorants
are even more wonderful
than cormorants."

"Not very anxious
to bloom,
my plum tree."

"That wren--
looking here, looking there.
You lose something?"

"The distant mountains
are reflected in the eye
of the dragonfly."

"A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle."

"The dog walks by
with a hat...
fallen leaf."

"O flea! Whatever you do,
don't jump;
that way is the river."

"O owl!
Make some other face.
This is spring rain."

"That gorgeous kite
from the beggar's shack."

"I'm going to roll over,
so please move,

"A firefly
creeping up my sleeve.
OK, I'm a blade of grass."

"Singing high ---
A cricket on a log
floating down the river."