Issa is probably my favorite of the four great haiku masters. I love the endearing humanity in his poems and seeing traces of his personality shining through. How could I not appreciate a poet whose pen name translates as “cup of tea,” or, “a single bubble in steeping tea”?
Recently, I was happy to stumble upon some of his “soup” haiku (many about pufferfish soup). While I’ll pass on pufferfish every time, I can certainly get behind this poem:
thin mist — night after night vegetable soup
Don’t you think Issa wrote it with me in mind, knowing its irresistible aroma would awaken my senses 213 years later? 🙂
Because May is the fifth month, today I’m serving up five of Issa’s “blue” haiku, paired with Japanese woodblock prints. Enjoy these lovely one-breath poems (all translated from the Japanese by David G. Lanoue). I hope their beauty will add a little joy, light, and the sweet fragrance of revelation to your day.
Please help yourself to a nice warm cup of Genmaicha (green tea with brown rice) and a piece of chi chi dango mochi. I remember many a time when my mother made a pot of Genmaicha after a good meal — a soothing way to cleanse the palate and set the stage for some lively ‘talk story.’
A couple of weeks ago, I searched Lee and Low’s website for books I hadn’t yet read and found the perfect picture book to share for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Cool Melons — Turn to Frogs!: The Life and Poems of Issa by Matthew Gollub and Kazuko G. Stone was first published in 1998, so many of you are probably already familiar with it. How did I miss it? I’m so glad I finally read it, as now it’s one of my favorite haiku picture books ever.
I love how every aspect of this book embodies the essence of haiku — its complex simplicity, beauty, elegance, and ability to open the eyes, refresh the mind, and inspire contemplation.