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86 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basho: An interpretation
Matsuo Basho is the undisputed master of haiku. He refined what was seen as a simple, almost comic, style of verse into something that we would call high art. A collection like this, with all of his haiku translated and gathered together into a single, annotated volume is an absolute treasure, and the only surprise is that it wasn't published many years ago...
Published on August 25, 2008 by Zack Davisson

versus
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible Translations!
I would not recommend this translation to anyone.

It is as though the Haiku's are upside down!

Truly a poor product. Would return if I could.
Published 5 months ago by Papa r


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86 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basho: An interpretation, August 25, 2008
This review is from: Basho: The Complete Haiku (Hardcover)
Matsuo Basho is the undisputed master of haiku. He refined what was seen as a simple, almost comic, style of verse into something that we would call high art. A collection like this, with all of his haiku translated and gathered together into a single, annotated volume is an absolute treasure, and the only surprise is that it wasn't published many years ago.

Of course, collecting the haiku is easy. There are numerous collections available in Japanese, and it is simply a matter of reprinting them. But translating his haiku is a different problem all together. Haiku are a form of art that take unique advantage of the Japanese language, and they can only be approximated at best. There are two general styles, a more-literal translation that tries to capture the form and order of the writer, and an artistic translation that tries to capture the feel of the poem while using the flow of the English language. The main difference is with the third line, which in a Japanese haiku is always a non-sequitur image that relates only indirectly with the first two lines, providing the scenery for the story.

Jane Reichhold takes the artistic approach, and I must admit it is one I am not particularly fond of. This is definitely "Jane Reichhold's Basho: The Complete Haiku", with the emphasis being on her interpretation rather than on introducing people to Basho's poetry. She is undoubtedly talented and respected, having published such books as Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide and Narrow Road to Renga: A Collection of Renga, and her translations have a beauty and power all of their own, but she ignores Basho's forms, and creates continuous narratives in the poems, narratives that do not exist in the original.

Ultimately, it is a matter of style, and preference of one over the other. I prefer a more literal translation that is true to the Japanese original. Others prefer the artistic approach. Some of the best haiku collections, such as The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology (Dover Thrift Editions), present the same poem translated by several different people so you can see how the meaning can change depending on the interpretation.

To me, the greatest section of "Basho: The Complete Haiku", which I wish had been the focus of the book rather than tucked into the back, is the appendix with all of Basho's haiku in both their original kanji and in the Alphabet-characters romaji, along with a literal English translation and annotations. This is the true treasure trove, with the master's art in his own words. To make this book perfect, and to take the emphasis off of Reichhold and put it back on Basho, the appendix wouldn't have been tucked into the back but threaded throughout the front with each poem being presented in its original Japanese and accompanied by the annotations and both literal and artistic translations. As it is, I find myself reading the back of the book much more than the front, but even so it is an amazing addition to my library and I am happy to have all the poems collected at last.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Basho for here and now, July 4, 2008
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This review is from: Basho: The Complete Haiku (Hardcover)
The poet Basho (born Matsuo Kinsaku in Iga Province, Japan, in 1644) is widely regarded as the founding father of haiku as we have come to know it. It was Basho who brought to the haikai, as much pastime as poetry, of the Japanese merchant class and samurai the high seriousness of true art. High seriousness, we must remember, is not solemnity; lightness is one of the defining qualities of Basho's best poems and a key point of his aesthetic.

Now, in "Basho: The Complete Haiku," we have for the first time a translation into English of all 1012 of Basho's haiku. Jane Reichhold, an accomplished haiku poet and the author of the highly influential "Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-On Guide," has been a Basho enthusiast since she first encountered his work, an encounter that set her on her own haiku path. If her translation is a labor of love, it is also a work of dedicated scholarship and poetic sensibility. In Reichhold, the most famous Japanese poet of all time has found his translator for our time.

In addition to the poetic translations themselves, the book includes, under the heading of "Notes," the original Japanese poems, Romanized versions, literal word-for-word translations, and commentaries that are unfailingly informative and frequently illuminating.

In the back matter, Reichhold provides a chronology of the poet's life, a bibliography of Basho in English, and an index of first lines. All of these are useful, but among the book's most valuable features are a glossary of literary terms (which may also serve for some as an introduction to the spirit of haiku) and an enumeration with examples of 33 haiku techniques employed by the master. This last lends insight into Basho's work and guidance to those who, inspired as Reichhold was by that work, may want to set out on their own haiku path.

Ultimately, of course, it's the translations that count, and here Reichhold shows the sure hand of a contemporary poet who is deeply in tune the spirit of the originals. Just a sampling:

old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

autumn deepens
so what does he do
the man next door

morning dew
the muddy melon stained
with coolness

For anyone seriously interested in haiku, as reader or writer or both, "Basho: The Complete Haiku" will be required reading and rereading.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Essential, August 2, 2008
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This review is from: Basho: The Complete Haiku (Hardcover)
Ever since I first discovered Basho, some forty-plus years ago in a seventh grade English class, I have been influenced by the seeming simplicity and power of his poetry. But a complete collection of his haiku did not exist in English and I had to make do with the various partial collections which surfaced now and again.

Now, at long last, thanks to Jane Reichhold and Kodansha International, we have all of Basho's haiku in English. Basho: The Complete Haiku is a literary tour de force which every lover of haiku, poetry, and Basho needs to have on his or her bookshelf.

The book itself is beautifully done with the artwork of Shiro Tsujimura. Subtle and subdued, the illustrations please and tantalize the eye. Offering a wonderful visual counterpoint to the poems themselves.

Reichhold, a haiku poet in her own right, has been on the English haiku scene from the beginning. Her understanding of the form is second to none and she stands amongst the best of English-language haikuists. What better tribute to a poet than for another to translate his work?

Reichhold's labor of love enriches us all. In Basho: The Complete Haiku, we learn of Basho's life, what were the possible influences upon him, and how he in turn influenced others. We gain an understanding of his literary techniques, as Reichhold presents us with an appendix of analysis. A glossary of important terms is also provided. Then, of course, there are the poems.

Basho's haiku are presented in two sections: the main section, which are the superb translations; a second which gives the Japanese, a literal rendering into English, and explanatory notes. The translations themselves are spare, clean, yet full of life. The translator has clearly been touched by the spirit of her mentor. The literal renderings and notes provide the reader an opportunity to go deeper into the poem for an even richer experience of nuanced meanings. This addition gives the book greater depth.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to Jane Reichhold for translating the work of Basho and to Kodansha International for bringing the work to the world. We non-Japanese readers can now savor the full range of haiku of one of the truly great poets and philosophers. I cannot help but think the spirit of Matsuo Basho is smiling and filled with great joy.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poorly indexed, June 5, 2011
By 
Steve Savage "Suteebu" (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Basho: The Complete Haiku (Hardcover)
While I agree with most of the other reviewers that this is a wonderful resource, especially the detailed Notes section, the lack of an index to the original sounds makes it nearly impossible to find a favorite poem. "Shizukasa ya," for example, at the beginning of the very famous "shizukasa ya/ iwani shimi iru/ semi no koe," is translated as "Such stillness," which means it is indexed under "such" rather than "stillness." I see from a quick search of the internet, that his poem is widely known by the title "Stilllness," so it is just contrariness to alter the meaning in this way. In most other instances, the translator does not translate the particle "ya" as "such," so there is no rationale for her choice here. Following many other translators, this version also mistranslates "shimi iru" as "piercing" rather than "permeating." Any good Japanese dictionary will delineate the difference between "shimiru" and shimi iru."

But this is a beautifully printed and bound book, and of course a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in Basho, in Haiku, or in Japanese culture in general.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this for the notes section if nothing else!, August 17, 2012
This review is from: Basho: The Complete Haiku (Hardcover)
Worst 'Look Inside' ever! They just list three pages of Haiku, but zero pages of the amazing notes section.

Major, major kudos to the publisher for including literal translations as well as the Romanized translations!

Like the other reviews state, this is one person's version of the translations, albeit a fantastic version. The reason I am giving a solid five star rating is that I don't think there is a better, 'complete' text of Basho's Haiku available. I did like the Dover Thrift version with the Romaji and the various interpretations, but it is a sparse collection for each poet (usually 10 - 20 for notable poets and about 200 in total if I recall correctly).

I too would have preferred the Romaji and Kanji/Hiragana, literal translation, and notes on the same or next page with the translated Haiku. Shoving everything to the back was the choice of the publisher, and I think in this instance it was a mistake. It's like the Pelican Shakespeare books I am fond of, the notes are on the same page (proper footnotes) rather than in a note index as in many other Shakespeare texts. I find it easier to have the notes nearby to eliminate frustrating flipping to indexes.

But it is a minor quibble with the publisher, and hopefully in future editions they will make the change. The translations seem to be pretty spot on with very few 'personal touches' by the editor/translator. I know a bit of Japanese, but I'm no expert translator, so I wouldn't know for certain!

I also recommend the following books containing Haiku or guides to enjoying Haiku:
The Haiku Handbook -25th Anniversary Edition: How to Write, Teach, and Appreciate Haiku
The Japanese Haiku
The Essential Basho
The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology (Dover Thrift Editions) (stupidly cheap!)
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb poetry, valuable background information, August 6, 2011
By 
This review is from: Basho: The Complete Haiku (Hardcover)
Other reviews have properly praised Jane Reichhold's wonderful translations, but someone should emphasize the incredible value of the notes given with the Japanese and literal versions in the last half of the book. Reichhold has actually sought out accurate scientific names for all the plants and animals (and Basho mentioned a lot), historical data on the people mentioned, the originals for the more important references to earlier literature, and everything else a poor nonexpert like me needs. That makes this book an absolutely necessary part of the library of anyone who wants to understand Japanese poetry beyond its romantic appeal. (She doesn't always translate accordingly though. She notes that the famous ume is an apricot, not a plum, but still translates it "plum"; admittedly, "flowering apricot" would ruin the metre of the translations, so fair enough! Similarly with "cuckoo" for "hawk-cuckoo," the latter being a very different bird from what we usually understand by the term "cuckoo." The hawk-cuckoo is one of the commonest birds in Japanese and Chinese poetry because of its mournful voice; its red mouth-lining is explained as due to crying blood.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars attractive book on great subject, March 13, 2014
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the greatest haiku writer ever is covered by this book and the added plus is the appendix concerning haiku construction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best Haiku book, February 7, 2014
By 
Hazel Douglas (Belair, South Australia, AU) - See all my reviews
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Great book for anyone who enjoys Haiku - I have bought several copies of this book as people borrow it, love it and I end up giving it to them!
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5.0 out of 5 stars what is not to love?, December 16, 2013
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Read. Experience. Enjoy.
A wonderful reminder of how paring language down to its simplest elements can provide such an uplifting experience.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Book, June 16, 2012
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This review is from: Basho: The Complete Haiku (Hardcover)
This is a concise collection of Basho's Haiku poems. I found Jane Riechhold's commentary, literal translations, Romanized versions, and original Japanese valuable in understanding this important form of poetry.
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Basho: The Complete Haiku
Basho: The Complete Haiku by Jane Reichhold (Hardcover - July 1, 2008)
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