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Monday, August 20, 2007

As background for writing hokku in English,  here are some of the best verses of the early writer Onitsura, as well as by two other early writers of hokku.  All are in my translation.


"Without reality there is no haikai."

Began composing verses at seven or eight years of age; later composed verses in the Teitoku manner, but after cosideration, realized that both the Teitoku and Danrin schools were trivial and shallow. He came to the conviction that makoto -- the sincerity/faithfulness to reality/honesty/truth of the writer, reflected in the verse -- was the fundamental principle of composition. He thus transformed a hokku that had formerly been a mere pastime into something simple yet profound.

Onitsura died at the age of 77. Unfortunately, he had only two or three untalented students to carry on his school, so after his death hokku was dominated by students of Bash˘.


On the tips of the barley,
Spring frost.


In the garden,
Blooming whitely --
The camellia.


Blowing wind;
The buds of the plum
Cling tightly.


A spring day;
Sparrows bathing in the sand
Of the garden.


They bloom and then
We look and then
They fall and then....


With blossoms fallen,
Again it is quiet;
Enj˘ Temple.


Green barley;
The lark ascending
And descending.


No place
To throw the bathwater;
Chirping insects.


In the broken pot,
A water plaintain --
Slenderly blooming.


The leaping trout,
Clouds pass by.


Here! Here! I say,
But the firefly
Just flies away.


Swaying and rustling
The lotus leaves --
The pond tortoise.


With the cormorant,
My mind dives in and out of
The water.


Bellies of trout seen
In the river shallows.


Flowing water,
A cricket chirping in the bamboos--
S˘koku Temple.


A cool wind;
The empty sky is filled
With the sound of pines.


Jutting up
Into the autumn sky --
Mount Fuji.


This autumn;
With no child on my knee,
Moon viewing.


Withered reeds --
The rippling waters
Of Naniwa Creek.


The wind of autumn
Blowing through;
People's faces.


Whoo! Whoo!
Goes the wind in the sky;
Winter peonies.


Learned hokku in the Teitoku School, and was influenced by the Danrin School and associated with writers of the Bash˘ school. Died at age 65.


A rainy day;
Someone passes the gate
Carrying irises.


1642 -1716
Studied Confucianism; learned hokku under Kigin, was friendly with Bash˘. Died aged 74.


Spring too so brief;
The mountain rose whitens --
Lettuce turns bitter.


Only the melons
Know nothing of the storm;
The morning after.


My shadow
Accompanies me home;
The moonlit night.


Copyright 2007
David Coomler

Posted at 10:02 am by hokku


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