27 March, 2008


Listening to "Close Your Eyes-We are Blind" by Alaska In Winter, a song we'll play when we are clubbing in Iceland with Bjork. It's 10:45 pm. I am on a couch in the unusually still Joyner lounge with C.Sted, who is looking cute and checking Blackboard and Facebook and probably her Fug bracket. We went to a crazy Modern Latin American concert by the orchestra tonight and then laid in the dark grass and talked of love.

And now here I am wondering if I made a mistake in deciding to do my Japanese presentation on the 17th-century haiku master Matsuo Basho.

Haiku is wonderful and generally very basic. Except when it's written in 17th-century Japanese, which I apparently don't understand. You'd think it be easy enough; haiku has only three lines with a total of 17 syllables. But no. Nothing in Japanese is easy. Especially not when it's written in 1689.

Still, here are a few of my favorites from Oku no hosomichi ("The Narrow Road to the Interior"), Basho's travel journal which has prose entries sprinkled with random haikus.

Several to whet your appetite:

Spring is passing by!
Birds are weeping and the eyes
Of fish fill with tears.

How still it is here--
Stinging into the stones,
The locusts' trill.

The peaks of clouds
Have crumbled into fragments--
The moonlit mountain.

I love how minimal and smooth it is. Japanese poetry, at least in the haiku tradition, is grounded firmly in nature--自然--and how it leads to the transcendence of emotion. Come to think of it, the Romantics would have gotten along quite well with Basho and his crowd. Anyway. I like haiku and I like knowing that it makes a lot more sense to write it in Japanese than in English. The feeble translations are frustrating, though. So much really is lost in translation. I just don't know enough of the Japanese spirit and language to understand its poetry. Deep down, I don't really believe in translated poetry; I don't think it's possible. Only cheap replicas.

(I am excited and terrified about living in Tokyo for two months.)

This is all I have tonight. I am not very good at this blogging business anymore. Tonight Bill Schneider, senior political analyst for CNN, said in the 2008 Nelson Benton lecture that blogging was "the gutter of journalism." Probably.

Watching: Catherine read French with a serene face
Hearing: "He Lays in the Reins," Calexcio & Iron and Wine
Reading: Hemingway's short stories, e.e. cummings's poems, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and おくのほそ道 by 芭蕉.

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