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August 2007 Issue VII:3

Gendai Haiku Translations

Translated by Richard Gilbert and Itô Yûki


Haiku by Saito Sanki, Woodblock prints by Shodo Iwagaki

Translator’s note.

Please note that in each case, a form of lineation and punctuation was chosen to best emulate the feeling or power of the original; we were not looking for consistency but rather accuracy and feeling. Where possible we tried to follow the image-story of the original haiku. We also added short notes to a few of the haiku, where necessary or desirable.

 

22 

 

大仏殿いでて桜にあたたまる
だいぶつでんいでてさくらにあたたまる
daibutsuden idete sakura ni atatamaru

 

 

exiting the hall of the buddha
           cherry blossoms; become warmer

 

  

 

 22

 

しゅんぎくを播き水を飲みセロを弾く
しゅんぎくをまきみずをのみせろをひく
shungiku wo maki mizu wo nomi sero wo hiku

  

    sow greens
     swig springwater
         play cello

 

 

Note: “shungiku” is a green leafy vegetable, similar to spinach. Note the repetition of the post-position particle wo (linking of verb-object), also there is an abrupt use of three verbs in the original.

 

 

  

22 

 

蠅生まれ天使の翼ひろげたり
はえうまれてんしのつばさひろげたり
hae umare tenshi no tsubasa hirogetari

 

 

a fly born     an angel’s wings expand

 

 

 

22 

 

頭悪き日やげんげ田に牛暴れ
あたまわるきひやげんげだにうしあばれ
atama waruki hi ya genge da ni ushi abare

 

 

stupid head stupid day —
through a field of thistle
bull on a rampage

 

 

Note: genge (also known as renge) is Chinese milk vetch, a purple flower planted in fallow rice fields to return nutrients to the soil. As this flower and its purpose are not generally well-known we selected an alternative.

 

 

 

22 

 

鉄板に息やはらかき青蛙
てっぱんにいきやわらかきあおがえる
teppan ni iki yawarakaki aogaeru

 

 

on a cast-iron griddle
  the soft breath of
    a green frog

 

 

 

22 

 

冬に生ればった遅すぎる早すぎる
ふゆにうまればったおそすぎるはやすぎる
fuyu ni umare batta ososugiru hayasugiru

 

 

  winter born
  grasshopper —
     too late
      too early

 

 

 

 

22 

 

鉄球の硬さ青空の青林檎
てっきゅうのかたさあおぞらのあおりんご
tekkyuu no katasa aozora no aoringo

 

 

hardness of a steel ball
green apple of blue sky 

 

 

 

 

22 

 

クリスマス馬小屋ありて馬が住む
くりすますうまごやありてうまがすむ
kurisumasu umagoya arite uma ga sumu

 

 

a horse stable
being at Christmas
a horse’s home

 

 

 

 

 

22 

 

枯蓮のうごく時来てみなうごく
かれはすのうごくとききてみなうごく
karehasu no ugoku toki kite mina ugoku

 

 

a withered lotus moves
  around a moment —
   everything moves 

 

 

 

 

 

22 

 

湯の岩を愛撫す天の川の下
ゆのいわをあいぶすあまのがわのした
yu no iwa wo aibu su amanogawa no shita

 

 

groping a rock
at the hotspring, under
the milky way

 

 

 

 

 

22 

 

中年や遠くみのれる夜の桃
ちゅうねんやとおくみのれるよるのもも
chuunen ya tooku minoreru yoru no momo

 

 

 middle age —
   a night peach
 ripens in the distance

 

 

 

Note: this is one of Sanki’s celebrated haiku (he also published a book titled “Night’s Peach” (or “Peach of Night,” yoru no momo]). "Night peach" is an erotically charged image.

 

 

  

 

 

22 

 

柿むく手母のごとくに柿をむく
かきむくてははのごとくにかきをむく
kaki muku te haha no gotoku ni kaki wo muku

 

 

the hand when
peeling persimmons, like mother
when peeling persimmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 

 

春を病み松の根っ子も見あきたり
はるをやみまつのねっこもみあきたり
haru wo yami matsu no nekko mo miakitari

 

  

sick of spring — fed up with the roots of a pine tree

 

 

 

 

 

22 

 

逃げても軍鶏に西日がべたべたと
にげてもしゃもににしびがべたべたと
nigetemo shamo ni nishibi ga betabeta to

 

  

escaped, yet —
sunlight of the west sticky
with fighting cocks

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 

 

水枕ガバリと寒い海がある
みずまくらがばりとさむいうみがある
mizumakura gawabi to samui umi ga aru

 

  

water cushion
chomp !
it’s a chilly ocean

 

 

 

Note: Saito Sanki’s epitaph, and a signature haiku.

 

 

 

 

 

22 

 

百舌の声豆腐にひびくそれを切る
もずのこえとうふにひびくそれをきる
mozu no koe toufu ni hibiku sore wo kiru

 

 

song of a shrike
  from the tofu
  when it’s cut

 

 

 

Note: mozu (shrike) is a bird of prey which imitates the songs of other birds. In Japanese, the kanji for mozu is “100+tongue” (many-tongued). Its own voice is a sharp “ki-ki” creak, a metallic screech sound. “mozu” is an Autumn kigo.

 

Saito Sanki was born Saito Keichoku on May 15, 1900, in Tsuyama, Okayama, Japan. He was a key figure in the movement to transform traditional haiku in response both to the West as well as to the realities of modern Japan. He was thus labeled a “thought offender” and subversive during World War II by Japan’s ultranationalist government and, in 1940, put in jail for 70 days. In 1947, Sanki helped establish the Modern Haiku Association. A poet, short story writer, dentist, dancer, bohemian and sexual adventurer, he died on April 1, 1962.

Shodo Iwagaki is a Zen Buddhist monk and artist living in Kuse, Okayama, Japan. For over 30 years he has been living, praying and creating his artwork in Mairai-ji (Mairai Temple). Virtually every wall and ceiling inside the temple is covered with his woodblock prints and carvings.

Copyright © 2004-2007 by Roadrunner Haiku Journal. All rights revert to the authors upon publication.