Today’s Haiku (February 17, 2012 REVISED)

February 17, 2012 (revised version)

暮れそめてにはかに暮れぬ梅林   日野草城

kuresomete niwakani kurenu umebayashi

sun starts to set…

a plum grove suddenly

grows dark

                                                Sojo Hino

from “Haiku Dai-Saijiki” (“Comprehensive Haiku Saijiki”), Kadokawa Shoten, Tokyo, 2006

Fay’s Note:  Sojo Hino  (1901-1956)

Shortly after I uploaded the translation of the above haiku, Kiyoshi Hanatani sent me an e-mail.   He graciously pointed out, the letter “ぬ” (“nu”) in this haiku indicates  “completion” of the word “kureru” (“get/grow dark”); not negates the verb.   At first, I did not agree with him.   When I read this haiku, I saw a grove with white plum blossoms.   I imagined the grove refusing to surrender itself to the night’s darkness.

Then, Kiyoshi sent to me a commentary written by Nobuko Katsura, one of the prominent female haiku poets in the twentieth century, from her “Sojo Jùnikagetsu” (“Sojos’s Twelve Months”) privately published in 1980. Still, I did not agree with him.

Finally, Kiyoshi sent me the following five haiku from “Kinô no Hana” (“Yesterday’s Blossoms”), Sojo’s haiku collection published in 1932.   The second one is the one I found in “Haiku Dai-Saijiki.”  Let me provide translation of these five haiku.

ume-biyori owaru yûhi no shôji kana

a perfect day

for plum blossoms ends

shoji screen at dusk


kuresomete niwakani kurenu umebayashi

sun starts to set…

a plum grove suddenly

grows dark

tôki hi no kagayaki-somenu umebayashi

distant light

the plum grove starts

 to glow

yo ni irite tsuzumi o utsu ya ume no yado

at night

playing the tsuzumi drum –

plum blossom inn

haru no yoi hi tomoreba hi ni hibiku mizu

spring night—

when the light gleams

water reverberates it

Finally, I realize I made a mistake…

Fay Aoyagi

February 22, 2012


5 responses to “Today’s Haiku (February 17, 2012 REVISED)

  1. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    Hi, Fay, This brings up a very interesting contemplation. Often the haiku we write and send out into the world are reinterpreted in many ways by many people … which is more valid? The motivation of the haiku poet or the interpretations as those words reflect moments in other people’s lives. Long ago I gave up worrying about whether anyone would understand what I had experienced… I was just glad when it meant something to them. One time was even a bit embarrassing since it meant something I had never dreamed of but seemed to reflect actions way beyond my abilities or inclinations. Words are slippery things. So I honor your translation as much as the original…and have to tell you it’s interesting to me that people care enough to try to seek out the original experience. Once again, haiku proves that words are important and for that I am thankful.

  2. Very interesting – being involved in doing translations between languages that are a bit closer to eachother than Japanes and English I yet recognize this aspect of interpretation and understanding…and this is such an elucidating example, how it can be worthwhile to actually dig into the poet’s very language during the process – i e also read other of his/her poems than the ones that one is about to translate. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. Thank you, all for your kind words! I may never forget this plum grove haiku! ^_^;;

    Helga: this poet, Sojo (pronounced ‘soh-joe’) is a man.

  4. Lovely – and very interesting! I have recently bought a book called “On the Smell of an Oily Rag’. It is not by a Japanese author, rather Chinese, but the point is the same – the book is about the differences, similarities and parallels in the way Chinese people use language as opposed to people who speak English. It is very illuminating – due to our differing cultures and history, and even the way we write our language, of course we think differently. Therefore translation is bound to be fraught with intricacies!

  5. Pingback: Across the Haikuverse, No. 29: The Not-Haiku Edition « Red Dragonfly

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