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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