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Haiku -- Yosa Buson

Guest poem submitted by Radhika Gowaikar:
(Poem #908) Haiku
 Departing spring
 in the late cherry blossoms
-- Yosa Buson
In the Indian summer Goldrush blossoms everywhere. It is brightest yellow at
the height of summer - in fact, the trees are without leaves then, only the
flowers are seen - and slowly, as the rains set in, the leaves reappear and
the Goldrush makes a half-hearted attempt at retaining colour. It fails
miserably, managing only a sad off-white, before the green takes over

The setting in the haiku is obviously different, but it is always the
gradualness of the change that I am struck by and I think Buson captures it
admirably. The fact that he manages it in a haiku only adds to the effect.



I am not into painting - never have been. However, an opportunity to visit
the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presented itself yesterday.
Among the other things on display, was a set of 20 paintings by one Stanton
MacDonald-Wright. All of these sought to "represent" a haiku.  Only a few of
them were literal relative to the haiku - most were an abstraction. I played
a small game - reading a haiku arbitrarily and then going around trying to
see which painting it corresponded to. (This was possible since the haikus
were listed separately and numbered.) To my surprise, some of the more
abstract ones were the easiest to correlate and somehow seemed instinctively
'right'. The above haiku was one of them.

Also, I like to think that the connection with the words helped me
appreciate the painting better.

About the painter: Stanton MacDonald Wright (1890-1973), co-founder of
Synchromism, was apparently strongly influenced by Japanese culture and art.
These 20 paintings were done in woodblock - a Japanese technique. and are

Google gives some leads on Synchromism -


[Martin adds]

On the haiku:

  In Japan in the 15th century, a poetic form named "renga" blossomed.

  Renga is a poem several poets create cooperatively. Members alternately
  add verses of 17 syllables (5, 7, and 5 syllables) and
  those of 14 syllables (7 and 7 syllables), until they complete a poem
  generally composed of 100 verses.

  Renga was an dignified academic poem. Members were traditionally demanded
  to present their verses following the medieval
  aesthetics and quoting the classics.

  In the 16th century, instead of renga, it was haikai - humorous poem -
  that became popular. Haikai (haikai-renga) is a poem made of verses of 17
  and 14 syllables like renga, but it parodies renga introducing modern
  vulgar laughter. Haikai poets used plays on words and treated preferably
  things of daily life renga hadn't found interesting.

  The first verse of renga and haikai is called "hokku". Haikai poets
  sometimes presented their hokkus as independent poems.
  These were the origin of haiku.

        -- Ryu Yotsuya, "History of the Haiku"

Noteworthy is the fact that today's poem, in translation, does not conform
to the 5-7-5 syllable pattern. This is not a mistake - the syllable count
restriction is very different in English and Japanese, and 17 English
syllables can convey a lot more than 17 Japanese ones.

The following essay on English haiku goes into more detail on this:
  [broken link] is an excellent collection of haiku links

The chapter on Buson, from the aforequoted 'History of the Haiku':

And a biography of Buson:
  [broken link]

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