May 31st 2016

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me
····and the spider—both of us expectantly
········tidying
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This time of year I’m always reminded of what might be Kikaku’s best known haiku. Kikaku, along with Ransetsu and Kyorai, were Basho’s chief disciples. In describing Kikaku, the typically austere R.H. Blyth concluded that Kikaku’s career, after the death of Basho, descended into “frivolity and witty sincerity”.  Without translations of Kikaku, it’s hard to trust Blyth’s estimation. Blyth’s claims more often say more about Blyth than the poet (given Blyth’s humorlessness and his, for example, utterly boorish misogyny).  But as to Kikaku’s haiku:
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····Across a pillar of mosquitoes
hangs the bridge
····of dreams
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  • Trans. Stephen Addiss, Fumiko Yamamoto, Akira Yamamoto Haiku: An Anthology of Japanese Poems
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When I first read this, and I’ve read it many times, it didn’t impress me; and yet  the poem stuck with me like an unshakable melody.
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Now it’s one of my very favorite haiku.
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My interpretation, which may or not be correct, detects some of Kikaku’s humor and lightness; and also truth. Our bridge of dreams, our lives, hopes and ambitions, hang from a pillar of mosquitoes. During the time that we’re born to the time we die, which we can think of as the “bridge”, we suffer the little tortures of life’s mosquitoes, both literally and figuratively: the little injustices, the distractions and sleepless nights. The mosquitoes await us: we who, for some reason and just like Kikaku, decided to cross the bridge of dreams.
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207 May 31st 2016 | bottlecap
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May 28th 2016

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still
····cooling in the morning grass—yesterday’s
········butterfly
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I’ve always liked Basho’s numerous haiku on the cool melons of summer. Coolness and melons always seemed joined in his imagination.
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morning dew
the muddy melon stained
with coolness
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  • 956: Basho: The Complete Haiku. Transl. Jane Reichhold
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204 May 28th 2016 | bottlecap
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May 27th 2016

·
·
so
····blue—asters breaking over sun-glazed
········stone
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The flowers that I saw were spiked blue-eyed grasses—tiny and beautiful flowers growing out of a dry knoll. There were also asters, and I chose these because they were fewer syllables. The heat at noon belonged to August but the breeze was still cool, and especially so as the sun began to slip from its peak.
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I’m still not sure if I prefer soil or earth as the final word.
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But earth seems too suggestively broad, soil too soft, whereas I like the hard solidity of dirt. Maybe tomorrow morning I’ll change my mind.
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203 May 27th 2016 | bottlecap
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May 25th 2016

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first
····summer’s day—how cold and delicious the tap-
········water
·year
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I traveled to my beloved Burlington, Vermont. Today was beautiful and the hottest day so far. Still, though, on Camel’s hump and Mount Mansfield, the highest slopes remain barren and brown.
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almost
····summer—the barista steams milk in a bathing
········suit
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Needless to say, I tipped a little extra.
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201 May 25th 2016 | bottlecap
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May 24th 2016

My 200th haiku. I feel as if they might begin to create a unified work.
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crickets
····on a May evening—the silence of distant
········lightning
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All day today, the sun and clouds took turns. The blue sky was sometimes only half visible through the gray and purple sheets of rainfall—my favorite kind of weather. The clouds are a glittering white and a moody darkness beneath. I stick my bare feet beyond the porch roof and the water is warm. By evening, mists rise from the greening valleys and mountainsides.
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200 May 24th 2016 | bottlecap
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