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1020 Haiku in Translation: The Heart of Basho, Buson and Issa Paperback – April 21, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Happily, this is not a problem in _1020 Haiku in Translation: the Heart of Basho, Buson and Issa_, 2006. Translated by Takafumi Saito and William R. Nelson. Artwork by Munetaka Sakaguchi. The simple patterns of everyday speech, and the utterances of things and places and feelings are brief, yet in their simple imagery and emphasis, the poems offer us at least sparks of awareness of the here-now presence in life, and at best grant us a revelation, a brief kind of surprise, an overwhelming openness.
The poesy of Japanese haiku is preserved, not in the 5-7-5 pattern, but through strong-weak stress patterns. The Japanese count of seventeen syllables in three lines (5-7-5) is naturally rendered in English differently, but still true to the original. Basho's famous frog haiku becomes: "An old pond - / A frog dives in / Water sound." Because of such apparent simplicity, schoolchildren around the world have been impelled, one believes, rather than driven, to learn and appreciate haiku - and to write them!
For children see, too, the variety of content in haiku. The poet Issa writes, "Don't swat it! / The fly is rubbing / Its hands and legs." This haiku is found in the book, _1020 Haiku in Translation: the Heart of Basho, Buson and Issa_. This anthology does not only include well more than others of the three masters' poems but also devotes many pages to helpful supplementary information not readily found in other collections.Read more ›
Misters Nelson and Saito explain that they chose to translate into an English version that they thought best captured the original Japanese intention. They elected not to retain a 5-7-5 or approximate format, although they did keep predominately three lines for each haiku. That being said, I have seen more artistic translations of the common haiku I have read elsewhere in other books-- all in all, I wasn't that happy with the translations... the percentage of haiku that really grabbed me was not as high as other books I've read. But that may just be me, or the fact that out of 1020 haiku, I've seen the best ones already in other books with less.
The book itself is trade paperback in style... about 8x6 inches, 1.5 inches thick. The paper is that thick, grainy, acid-free-looking stuff... it has nice texture that should last. The book is sparsely and tastefully illustrated with Japanese brushstroke paintings and calligraphy throughout. About a dozen or so of the more famous haiku are repeated in the calligraphy independently on full pages as stand-alone decoration.
As tradition, the haiku are divided into seasons. Each haiku poet gets a section in each season.Read more ›
The problem is with the translations. They're generally very poor: being wordy, ignoring the ordering of the originals, and awkward. For example:
In the darkness go the calls
Of night herons.
Compared with Barnhill's translation:
into the darkness
a night heron's cry
As in the original, Barnhill retains the order of imagery. He saves the "voice/cry" for the final word, which best reproduces the effect of the original haiku. It's the 'cry' that is the point or contrast of the haiku, not the "night herons". Why Saito and Nelson opt to often ignore the ordering of imagery in haiku leads me to think that neither (despite their reputations) really grasp what makes haiku *poetry*. To be fair, a translator like Barnhill will sometimes also ignore the ordering of the original, but only to avoid awkward syntactical formulations:
The wings of a butterfly
- Saito, Nelson
an orchid's scent---
its incense perfuming
a butterfly's wings
Curiously, the word "incense" also has the meaning "To inflame with anger; to enrage; to endkindle; to fire; to incite; to provoke; to heat; to madden." So, Saito and Nelson's translation invites the pun that the orchid's fragrance is enraging and maddening the butterfly's wings. It's just awkward and unsupported by the original.
The other problem I have with their translations is their bizarre inversion of English grammar.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book had been recommended, but I was very much disappointed with the translations it offers.
The use of kireji (cut marker) is arbitrary and the renditions of the... Read more
As the title suggests, the authors of this book chose 1,020 haiku written by the Japanese masters Basho, Buson and Issa and translated them accurately so as to give the reader the... Read morePublished on September 11, 2012 by Gail G. Jolley
This is the best volume of translated haiku I have ever seen. I join in singing the praises of this book along with the other reviewers. Read morePublished on February 11, 2010 by Amazon Customer