Monday, January 05, 2015

IN MEMORY OF: Kobayashi Issa (小林 一茶, June 15, 1763 - January 5, 1828)

Picture Credit:  Wiki

Kobayashi Issa (小林 一茶, June 15, 1763 - January 5, 1828) was a Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest of the Jōdo Shinshū sect known for his haiku poems and journals. He is better known as simply Issa (一茶), a pen name meaning Cup-of-tea (lit. "one [cup of] tea"). He is regarded as one of the four haiku masters in Japan, along with Bashō, Buson and Shiki - "the Great Four, Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki".

Reflecting the popularity and interest in Issa as man and poet, Japanese books on Issa outnumber those on Buson, and almost equal in number those on Bashō.

Issa wrote over 20,000 haiku, which have won him readers up to the present day. Issa wrote 54 haiku on the snail, 15 on the toad, nearly 200 on frogs, about 230 on the firefly, more than 150 on the mosquito, 90 on flies, over 100 on fleas and nearly 90 on the cicada, making a total of about one thousand verses on such creatures'. By contrast, Bashō's verses are comparatively few in number, about two thousand in all).

In his honor, I'm posting some of my favorite haikus and prose he wrote.


In the city fields
Contemplating cherry-trees...
Strangers are like friends.

In the cherry blossom's shade there's no such thing as a stranger.

Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.

Even in warmest
how cold my shadow.

In this world
we walk on the roof of hell,
gazing at flowers.

In the midst of this world
we stroll along the roof of hell
gawking at flowers

Before this autumn wind
even the shadows of mountains
shudder and tremble.

The holes in the wall
play the flute
this autumn evening.

Bright moon,
welcome to my hut -
such as it is.

P!ssing in the snow
outside my door—
it makes a very straight hole.

Just beyond the gate,
a neat yellow hole
someone p!ssed in the snow.

O snail
Climb Mount Fuji
But slowly, slowly!

in the dragonfly's eye --

Arise from sleep, old cat,
And with great yawns and stretchings ...
Amble out for love.

When the wild turnip
burst into full blossom
a skylark sang

I'm going out,
flies, so relax,
make love.

Giddy grasshopper
Take not leap and crush
These pearls of dewdrop.

Ah, the sad expression
in the eyes of that caged bird -
envying the butterfly!

Right at my feet --
and when did you get here,

Don't kill!...
The fly is asking you
To save his life
By rubbing his hands together

Like some of us
he looks very important -
this snail.

A huge frog and I,
staring at each other,
neither of us moves.

The snail gets up
And goes to bed
With very little fuss.

Where there are humans,
You'll find flies,
And Buddhas.

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

In spring rain
a pretty girl

Blossoms at night,
and the faces of people
moved by music.

In the beggar's tin
a few thin copper coins
and this evening rain

Once in the box
every one of them is equal -
the chess pieces

Approaching my village:

Don't know about the people,
but all the scarecrows
are crooked.

Summer night—
even the stars
are whispering to each other.

Writing sh!t about new snow
for the rich
is not art.

The vanity of men
they would like to retain
this passing winter moon.

Brilliant moon,
is it true that you too
must pass in a hurry.

Crescent moon--
bent to the shape
of the cold.

With my father
I would watch dawn
over green fields.

Last time, I think,
I'll brush the flies
from my father's face.

Not gifted with genius but honestly holding his experiences deep in his heart, he kept his simplicity and humanity.

Dew Evaporates
And all our world is dear,
So fresh, so fleeting.

At the age of 49, Issa married Kiku. Their first-born died shortly after his birth. A daughter died less than two-and-a-half years later, inspiring Issa to write this haiku:

This world of dew
is only a world of dew
-And yet...

Issa’s third child died in 1820 and when Issa was 61, his wife Kiku fell ill and passed away in 1823, he wrote this:

Outliving them,
Outliving them all, -
Ah, the cold!

His death poem:

A bath when you're born,
a bath when you die,
how stupid.

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