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haiku commentary ~ Peter Yovu

the sky's blue gong an orange in my hand

          — Peter Yovu

I don’t think Yovu could have packed any more into this haiku. Colour and sound.  The human experience and the natural world. Distance and proximity. And the beautiful simplicity of concrete language that injects it with vibrancy and authenticity and communicates an experience we can all recognise and share. 
Add to that the use of colour as adjective and noun, the onomatopoeia of ‘gong’ and the almost-eye rhyme with ‘orange’, as well as the monostich form that encourages us to experience this moment in one celebratory hurrah, and this is a haiku that makes me feel good to be alive on this day in the world. A day when that orange could almost be the sun sitting in my own small palm.

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haiku commentary ~ ai li

in a room
with no windows
drawing stars

          — ai li, still two one (1998)

There are two things that immediately strike me about ai li’s haiku:
a strong sense of containment, perhaps even imprisonment, from the image of a room with no windows.the concrete images at the end of each line – room, windows, stars – which anchor me to the real world.
The idea of containment/imprisonment is a subjective response; the room could as easily be a cellar where the poet/narrator has chosen to be. But surely there’s a sense of longing, or aware*, in the third line, a longing for the exterior world, the night sky, for beauty and peace and freedom, that reinforces this idea for me. 
But if this is about imprisonment why don’t I feel any distress or sense of restriction? Perhaps because of those three concrete words at the end of each line. Poets place (or should place) words at the ends of lines for deliberate and conscious reasons. And these do feel consciously placed. Room. Window. Stars. 
I am i…

haiku commentary ~ Kobayashi Issa

All the time I pray to Buddha      I keep on      killing mosquitoes

          — Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson and Issa (ed. R Hass, The Ecco Press, 1994)

I’ve been told (but have never been able to accurately source it) that Arthur Koestler* said ‘true understanding involves transcending the barrier of paradox’. And that idea seems to be the backcloth to this haiku by Issa, how he subscribed to the non-violence at the heart of Buddhist thinking and behaviour yet could not live up to the first of the five precepts that all Buddhists should follow: ‘Avoid killing, or harming any living thing’. Because there’s no wriggle room to say that mosquitoes, annoying or not, aren’t living things. How could he call himself a Buddhist but also act in a way that betrayed his core beliefs? Does that make him a hypocrite?
On the logical surface of the argument, yes. But I imagine we are all culpable of what could be described as self-betrayals. Are we Chris…
sunset fishing the flood tide catching the light

tinywords 10 January 2018
this slow healing
a blackbird almost invisible
in the winter dusk

                    Twitter 14/12/2017
                    Temps Libre
beach sunset a woman kisses the light on her baby's face

Blithe Spirit 27.4 November 2017

haiku commentary - Kaneko Tohta

    a wild boar      comes and eats air      spring mountain path
          — Kaneko Tohta,Selected Haiku With Notes and Commentary Part 2:1961-2012, translated by the Kon Nichi Translation Group (Red Moon Press, 2012)
The translation of poetry has to be one of the most challenging arts. How can someone translate words, syntax, sound, rhythm and connotation from one language to another and be sure of achieving something comparable to the original author’s intention? How does the translator balance commitment to the original text with the necessity of creating poetic effect in the translated one?
I am not a translator. And while my reasonable grasp of French and Spanish might help me produce a passable English translation of a short poem in either of those languages, all other languages are beyond my reach. So it’s the translation of Kaneko Tohta’s haiku that I must respond to.

I appreciate the overall scene the haiku conjures but I’m less satisfied with a close reading: …