Essential Haiku Volume 20

Hass, Author, Robert Hass, Editor
Hass, Author, Robert Hass, Editor Ecco $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-88001-372-7
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 01/01/1900
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-88001-351-2
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-1-56731-138-9
Prebound-Sewn - 329 pages - 978-0-613-33998-8
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Hass ( Human Wishes ) defers to the complex syntactical gaps that separate the Japanese and English languages, calling his translations ``versions.'' Here he presents three masters of the haiku form: Basho (1644-1694), the haiku poet most familiar to English readers; Buson (1716-1783), a visually oriented writer renowned in his time as a painter; and Issa (1763-1827), whose work is most poignant when he utilizes his ironic wit. Hass's obsessions, as evidenced by his other work, can be fitted under two rubrics, grief and pleasure, and he chooses a fair number of haiku to represent these poles. Yet the poems that merely observe nature's cyphers are most absorbing. Hass's signature is apparent in the mixture of sensual and temporal imagery: ``The jars of octopus-- / brief dreams / under the summer moon'' (Basho). Buson's images settle in the mind for days with their lush, unexpected vistas: ``A field of mustard, / no whale in sight, / the sea darkening.'' Yet, surprisingly, it is Issa's haiku which may appeal most to Western readers. His benignly sardonic grasp of experience resonates with our late 20th-century cynicism: ``New Year's Day-- / everything is in blossom! / I feel about average.'' Or: ``I'm going out, / flies, so relax, / make love.'' Hass also includes samplings of each poet's prose, giving a deeper notion of their individual world views and aesthetics. Richly annotated, with illuminating essays on the poets and Japanese poetics, this anthology significantly broadens the pleasure of haiku for anyone unable to read them in the original. (June)
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