Archives for posts with tag: Japanese poetry

by David Mura

After wandering years
Basho returned
to gaze at his umbilical cord
pickled in a jar. Plopped
in brine years ago
like the frog in the pond
in his famous haiku.
Of course
fame meant nothing
to him. He stood
in the blazing rain
in his family graveyard
and as a crow squawked overhead
the stones proclaimed him
the last of his line. He
kept feeling inside his
straw raincoat for a missing
limb or the hole where
the wind and rain
flew in. I’ll get drunk
tonight, he thought,
and his eyelashes glistened
as he trudged back
to his hermit’s hut
to gaze again at the jar.

SOURCE: “Frightening Things” appears in David Mura‘s collection The Last Incantations: Poems  (TriQuarterly Books, 2014), available at

ART: “Portrait of Matsuo Basho” by Katsushika Hokusai


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  David Mura is a writer, memoirist, poet, and performance artist whose work has won critical praise and numerous awards. He gives presentations at educational institutions, businesses and other organizations throughout the country. His books include The Last Incantations: Poems (Triquarterly Books, 2014), Turning Japanese (1991), Where the Body Meets Memory (1996), After We Lost Our Way (1989), The Colors of Desire (1995), Angels for the Burning (2004), and Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto & Mr. Moto (2002). Visit the author at

by Matsuo Basho
Translated by Allen Ginsberg

The old pond
A frog jumped in,

ART: “Good Fortune” by RHRussell. Original art available at


One Hundred Frogs: From Renga to Haiku to English

by Hiroaki Sato

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Poet Ezra Pound described the haiku as “an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” It is the haiku’s sense of immediacy and its precision that continue to appeal to poets and poetry lovers today. In One Hundred Frogs, author Hiroaki Sato  discusses the haiku as well as the often ignored renga or linked-verse form, out of which the haiku grew. One Hundred Frogs features many renowned Japanese poets, most notably Matsuo Basho, in the translated poetry that illustrates the text. To reveal the myriad choices open to translators of renga and haiku, the author provides an in-depth analysis of one of Japan’s most famous haiku, Basho’s poem about a frog in a pond, and presents a compilation of over one hundred translations and variations of the poem.

Find One Hundred Frogs by Hiroaki Sato at


Matsuo Basho‘s frog poem is illustrated in this canvas print, available in various sizes at This translation of the poem reads:

A lonely pond in age-old stillness sleeps . . .
Apart, unstirred by sound or motion . . . till
suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps.

Frog Haiku
by Matsuo Basho
Translated by Alan Watts

The old pond,
A frog jumps in:

IMAGE: Fan painting of a frog (detail), Kano school (15th-19th century)


People who follow the Silver Birch Press blog know that we love to pursue themes — and explore many facets of one particular idea or subject. As summer gets under way, frogs have been on my mind — and, for many, their call signifies the warm season. In reading Matsuo Basho‘s famous Frog Haiku recently, I found that there are many translations of the same few lines. During the coming weeks, we’ll feature some of these translations each day.

Basho’s Frog Haiku in the original Japanese:

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

Translation by D.T. Suzuki:

Into the ancient pond

the frog jumps.

Water sound!

IMAGE: “Frog and gold beetle” by Kitagawa Utamaro (1788).

by Issa

may the wind send
this plum blossom scent
to Kyoto!

IMAGE: “Plum Blossoms” by Cindy Lee Longhini. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) was a Japanese poet and Buddhist priest of the Jōdo Shinshū sect known for his haiku poems and journals. He is better known as simply Issa, a pen name meaning Cup-of-tea. He is regarded as one of the four haiku masters in Japan, along with Bashō, Buson, and Shiki.

by Matsuo Bashō

The sun’s way:
hollyhocks turn toward it
through all the rains of May.

IMAGE: “Hollyhocks,” watercolor by H. Cooper. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694) was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, he is recognized as the greatest master of haiku (then called hokku). He made a living as a teacher, but renounced urban life to wander throughout the country to gain inspiration for his writing.

by Adelle Foley

Winter may be gone
Maybe time to move on toward
May memorials.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adelle Foley is a retirement administrator, an arts activist, and a writer of haiku. Her column, “High Street Neighborhood News,” appears monthly in The MacArthur Metro. Her poems have appeared in various magazines, in textbooks, and in Columbia University Press’s internet database, the Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry. Along the Bloodline is her first book-length collection. Beat poet Michael McClure writes, “Adelle Foley’s haikus show us humanity. Their vitality and imagination shine from her compassion; from seeing things as they truly are.” Visit her online at

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Most of my haiku start life in the margins of The Oakland Tribune as I walk to work.

by Nimuae

Welcome the May as
life weaves a new spring from her
pink and white blossoms. 

IMAGE: “Pink cherry blossoms” by Sonja Quintero. Prints available at