February 6th 2016

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utterly
····stymied—finding the lost sack
········of radishes

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Funny how we forget these little things. Now I’m stymied by this sack of radishes in February. I first wrote:

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no idea
····what to write—the lost radishes
········in February

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I’ve been thinking about my promise to describe the haiku I love, though as with all things that changes from year to year. Right now I’m especially enamored by Basho and have been reading him enough that I think I begin to sense his personality; and I think he had a more serious disposition that Buson while Buson was probably warmer, more gregarious and approachable.

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When Buson was dying, he said to his desciple, “Even being sick like this, my fondness for the way is beyond reason and I try to make haiku. The high stage of ‘My dream hovers over withered fields’ [Basho’s last poem] is impossible for me to reach. Therefore the old poet Basho’s greatness is supremely moving to me now.” Called his ‘death poem’, here is what Basho wrote:

Sick on a journey,
····my dreams wander
········the withered fields.
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It’s moments like these when Basho’s imagination reminds me of Salvadore Dali. He draws together ideas, in the space of a few words that are unexpected, shimmering and dreamlike—or like a strange delirium, half unconscious.

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A wild sea—
····and flowing out toward Sado Island,
········the Milky Way

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Or:

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Winter solitude—
····in a world of one color
········the sound of the wind.

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And one of my favorite, because the association between the thinned moon and the insets singing is inexplicably perfect in its impressionism:

Winter garden
····the moon thinned to a thread,
········insects singing.

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Stillness—
····the cicada’s cry
········drills into the rocks.

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And perhaps among his most delirium-like:

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The jars of octopus—
····brief dreams
········under the summer moon.

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While there are qualities to Buson’s poems that aren’t attained by Basho, Buson, to my knowledge, rarely makes these same associative leaps, rarely experiences the world with the same sort of synesthesia. And there’s a depth of metaphor that I don’t often notice in Buson, Issa or Shiki, who are more apt to spell out associations. Another way of putting it, perhaps, is that Basho sees what’s not there, whereas Buson shows us what’s there in a new way. Having written all that, I confess my impressions are through the filter of translation.

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snow
····on Moosilauke—nights floating on a sea
········of melancholy

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Nights when I drive over Sharon hill, I can see Moosilauke far on the horizon. Moosiluake is deep in my memories—from the time I grew up in Vermont. It’s a large mountain, apart from the other Whites, and stands so far above any of its neighbors that seeing it for the first time can feel breathtaking. At night, when only the snow is visible and the mountain beneath has gone to darkness, the quiet span of the ridge can seem to float with an ancient loneliness.

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92 February 6th 2016 | bottlecap

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2 responses

  1. It is not a haiku, Patrick, or haibun but your poem is the last lines:

    At night,

    when only the snow is visible

    and the mountain beneath

    has gone to darkness,

    the quiet span of the ridge

    can seem to float

    with an ancient loneliness.

    • You’re right Hendrik, maybe I should make something out of these? The lines are almost metrical. Moosilauke is definitely not the most impressive mountain the world has to offer, but its impressiveness is in its age. If I understand its Geology, Moosilauke was overlooking our terrain before there were even plants or animals. Think about that. Moosiluake has seen the trees on its side evolve from single cell organisms. She’s an ancient, ancient mountain.

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