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Matsuo Basho Translations



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The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil
bow low
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Come, investigate loneliness!
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The cheerful-chirping cricket
contends gray autumn's gay,
contemptuous of frost
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Whistle on, twilight whippoorwill,
solemn evangelist
of loneliness
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The sea darkening,
the voices of the wild geese:
my mysterious companions!
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The first chill rain:
poor monkey, you too could use
a woven cape of straw
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

This snowy morning:
cries of the crow I despise
(ah, but so beautiful!)
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

I wish I could wash
this perishing earth
in its shimmering dew
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Dabbed with morning dew
and splashed with mud,
the melon looks wonderfully cool.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch



Basho's Butterflies

The butterfly
perfuming its wings
fans the orchid
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Will we remain parted forever?
Here at your grave:
two flowerlike butterflies!
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Air ballet:
twin butterflies, twice white,
meet, match & mate.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Ballet in the air! ―
two butterflies, twice white,
meet, mate, unite.
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

A spring wind
stirs willow leaves
as a butterfly hovers unsteadily.
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

As autumn deepens,
a butterfly sips
chrysanthemum dew.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch
aki o hete / cho mo nameru ya / kiku no tsuyu

Come, butterfly,
it's late
and we've a long way to go!
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Dusk-gliding swallow,
please spare my small friends
flitting among the flowers!
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch



Basho's Famous Frog Poem

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps:
the silver plop and gurgle of water
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

An ancient pond sleeps...
untroubled by sound or movement...until...
suddenly a frog leaps!
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Explosion!
The frog returns
to its lily pad.
—Michael R. Burch original haiku



Basho's Heron

Lightning
shatters the darkness—
the night heron's shriek
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Lightning―
the night heron's shriek
severs the darkness
― Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

A flash of lightning―
the night heron's shriek
splits the void
― Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch



Basho's Flowers

Let us arrange
these lovely flowers in the bowl
since there's no rice
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Like a heavy fragrance
snowflakes settle:
lilies on rocks
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

High-altitude rose petals
falling
falling
falling:
the melody of a waterfall.
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Revered figure!
I bow low
to the rabbit-eared Iris.
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Cold white azalea—
a lone nun
in her thatched straw hut.
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Glimpsed on this high mountain trail,
delighting my heart—
wild violets
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Disdaining grass,
the firefly nibbles nettles—
this is who I am.
—Takarai Kikaku translation by Michael R. Burch

A simple man,
content to breakfast with the morning glories—
this is who I am.
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch
This is Basho's response to the Takarai Kikaku haiku above
asagao ni / ware wa meshi kû / otoko kana

Ah me,
I waste my meager breakfast
morning glory gazing!
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Morning glories blossom,
reinforcing the old fence gate.
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The morning glories, alas,
also turned out
not to embrace me
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Morning glories bloom,
mending chinks
in the old fence
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Morning glories,
however poorly painted,
still engage us
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch
asagao wa / heta no kaku sae / aware nari

I too
have been accused
of morning glory gazing...
—original haiku by by Michael R. Burch

Curious flower,
watching us approach:
meet Death, our famished donkey.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch



Basho's Poems about Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter

Spring has come:
the nameless hill
lies shrouded in mist
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring!
A nameless hill
stands shrouded in mist.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The legs of the cranes
have been shortened
by the summer rains.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

These brown summer grasses?
The only remains
of "invincible" warriors...
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

An empty road
lonelier than abandonment:
this autumn evening
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Autumn darkness
descends
on this road I travel alone
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Taming the rage
of an unrelenting sun—
autumn breeze.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch
aka aka to / hi wa tsurenaku mo / aki no kaze

The sun sets,
relentlessly red,
yet autumn's in the wind.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch
aka aka to / hi wa tsurenaku mo / aki no kaze

As autumn draws near,
so too our hearts
in this small tea room.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch
aki chikaki / kokoro no yoru ya / yo jo han

Late autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue?
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter in the air:
my neighbor,
how does he fare?
― Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter solitude:
a world awash in white,
the sound of the wind
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The year's first day...
thoughts come, and with them, loneliness;
dusk approaches.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch



Basho's Temple Poems

Graven images of long-departed gods,
dry spiritless leaves:
companions of the temple porch
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The temple bells grow silent
but the blossoms provide their incense―
A perfect evening!
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

See: whose surviving sons
visit the ancestral graves
white-bearded, with trembling canes?
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Like a glorious shrine—
on these green, budding leaves,
the sun's intense radiance.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch
ara toto / aoba wakaba no / hi no hikar



Basho's Birds

A raven settles
on a leafless branch:
autumn nightfall
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

A crow has settled
on a naked branch—
autumn nightfall
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

A solitary crow
clings to a leafless branch:
autumn twilight
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

A solitary crow
clings to a leafless branch:
phantom autumn
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

A crow roosts
on a leafless branch:
autumn nightmare
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

NOTE: There has been a debate about the meaning of aki-no kure, which may mean one of the following: autumn evening, autumn dusk, the end of autumn. Or it seems possible that Basho may have intentionally invoked the ideas of both the end of an autumn day and the end of the season as well. In my translations I have tried to create an image of solitary crow clinging to a branch that seems like a harbinger of approaching winter and death. In the first translation I went with the least light possible: autumn twilight. In the second translation, I attempted something more ghostly. Phrases I considered include: spectral autumn, skeletal autumn, autumnal skeleton, phantom autumn, autumn nocturne, autumn nightfall, autumn nightmare, dismal autumn. In the third and fourth translations I focused on the color of the bird and its resemblance to night falling. While literalists will no doubt object, my goal is to create an image and a feeling that convey in English what I take Basho to have been trying to convey in Japanese. Readers will have to decide whether they prefer my translations to the many others that exist, but mine are trying to convey the eeriness of the scene in English.

Except for a woodpecker
tapping at a post,
the house is silent.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Swallow flitting in the dusk,
please spare my small friends
buzzing among the flowers!
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch




Basho's Insects

A bee emerging
from deep within the peony's hairy recesses
flies off heavily, sated
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

That dying cricket,
how he goes on about his life!
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The cicada's cry
contains no hint
of how soon it must die.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Nothing in the cicada's cry
hints that it knows
how soon it must die.
—Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The cicada's cry
contains no hint
of how soon it must die.
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch




Basho's Moon and Stars

Pausing between clouds
the moon rests
in the eyes of its beholders
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The moon: glorious its illumination!
Therefore, we give thanks.
Dark clouds cast their shadows on our necks.
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

The surging sea crests around Sado...
and above her?
An ocean of stars.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch
ara umi ya / Sado ni yokotau / Ama-no-gawa



Basho's Companions

Fire levitating ashes:
my companion's shadow
animates the wall...
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Among the graffiti
one illuminated name:
Yours.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Scrawny tomcat!
Are you starving for fish and mice
or pining away for love?
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch



Basho's End of Life and Death Poems

Nothing happened!
Yesterday simply vanished
like the blowfish soup.
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch
ara nantomo na ya / kino wa sugite / fukuto-jiru

Fever-felled mid-path
my dreams resurrect, to trek
into a hollow land
—Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Sick of its autumn migration
my spirit drifts
over wilted fields...
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

Sick of this autumn migration
in dreams I drift
over flowerless fields...
―Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch

NOTE: While literalists will no doubt object to "flowerless" in the translation above ― along with other word choices in my other translations ― this is my preferred version. I think Basho's meaning still comes through. But "wilted" is probably closer to what he meant. If only we could consult him, to ask whether he preferred strictly literal prose translations of his poems, or more poetic interpretations! My guess is that most poets would prefer for their poems to remain poetry in the second language. In my opinion the differences are minor and astute readers will grok both Basho's meaning and his emotion.

Too ill to travel,
now only my autumn dreams
survey these withering fields
― Matsuo Basho translation by Michael R. Burch



New Haiku Translations, Added 10/6/2020

Air ballet:
twin butterflies, twice white,
meet, match & mate
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Denied transformation
into a butterfly,
autumn worsens for the worm
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dusk-gliding swallow,
please spare my small friends
flitting among the flowers!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Up and at ’em! The sky goes bright!
Let’***** the road again,
Companion Butterfly!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Higher than a skylark,
resting on the breast of heaven:
mountain pass.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Farewell,
my cloud-parting friend!
Wild goose migrating.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

A crow settles
on a leafless branch:
autumn nightfall.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An exciting struggle
with such a sad ending:
cormorant fishing.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Secretly,
by the light of the moon,
a worm bores into a chestnut.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

This strange flower
investigated by butterflies and birds:
the autumn sky
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Where’s the moon tonight?
Like the temple bell:
lost at sea.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Spring departs;
birds wail;
the pale eyes of fish moisten.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon still appears,
though far from home:
summer vagrant.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Cooling the pitiless sun’s
bright red flames:
autumn wind.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Saying farewell to others
while being told farewell:
departing autumn.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  
Traveling this road alone:
autumn evening.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Thin from its journey
and not yet recovered:
late harvest moon.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Occasional clouds
bless tired eyes with rest
from moon-viewing.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The farmboy
rests from husking rice
to reach for the moon.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon aside,
no one here
has such a lovely face.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon having set,
all that remains
are the four corners of his desk.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon so bright
a wandering monk carries it
lightly on his shoulder.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The Festival of Souls
is obscured
by smoke from the crematory.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The Festival of Souls!
Smoke from the crematory?
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Family reunion:
those with white hair and canes
visiting graves.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

One who is no more
left embroidered clothes
for a summer airing.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

What am I doing,
writing haiku on the threshold of death?
Hush, a bird’s song!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Fallen ill on a final tour,
in dreams I go roving
earth’s flowerless moor.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Striken ill on a senseless tour,
still in dreams I go roving
earth’s withered moor.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Stricken ill on a journey,
in dreams I go wandering
withered moors.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch


New Haiku Translations, Added 10/6/2020

Air ballet:
twin butterflies, twice white,
meet, match & mate
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Denied transformation
into a butterfly,
autumn worsens for the worm
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dusk-gliding swallow,
please spare my small friends
flitting among the flowers!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Up and at ’em! The sky goes bright!
Let’***** the road again,
Companion Butterfly!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Higher than a skylark,
resting on the breast of heaven:
mountain pass.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Farewell,
my cloud-parting friend!
Wild goose migrating.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

A crow settles
on a leafless branch:
autumn nightfall.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An exciting struggle
with such a sad ending:
cormorant fishing.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Secretly,
by the light of the moon,
a worm bores into a chestnut.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

This strange flower
investigated by butterflies and birds:
the autumn sky
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Where’s the moon tonight?
Like the temple bell:
lost at sea.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Spring departs;
birds wail;
the pale eyes of fish moisten.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon still appears,
though far from home:
summer vagrant.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Cooling the pitiless sun’s
bright red flames:
autumn wind.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Saying farewell to others
while being told farewell:
departing autumn.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  
Traveling this road alone:
autumn evening.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Thin from its journey
and not yet recovered:
late harvest moon.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Occasional clouds
bless tired eyes with rest
from moon-viewing.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The farmboy
rests from husking rice
to reach for the moon.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon aside,
no one here
has such a lovely face.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon having set,
all that remains
are the four corners of his desk.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The moon so bright
a wandering monk carries it
lightly on his shoulder.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The Festival of Souls
is obscured
by smoke from the crematory.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

The Festival of Souls!
Smoke from the crematory?
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Family reunion:
those with white hair and canes
visiting graves.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

One who is no more
left embroidered clothes
for a summer airing.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

What am I doing,
writing haiku on the threshold of death?
Hush, a bird’s song!
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch  

Fallen ill on a final tour,
in dreams I go roving
earth’s flowerless moor.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Striken ill on a senseless tour,
still in dreams I go roving
earth’s withered moor.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Stricken ill on a journey,
in dreams I go wandering
withered moors.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch



Keywords/Tags: Basho, haiku, translation, Japan, Japanese, Oriental, Orient Occident, nature, season, seasons, waka, tanka, life and death, compassion, empathy, mrbhaiku, mrbbasho
Haiku Translations of the Oriental Masters

Grasses wilt:
the braking locomotive
grinds to a halt
― Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, fallen camellias,
if I were you,
I'd leap into the torrent!
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil
bow low
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Come, investigate loneliness!
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Lightning
shatters the darkness―
the night heron's shriek
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

One apple, alone
in the abandoned orchard
reddens for winter
― Patrick Blanche, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The poem above is by a French poet; it illustrates how the poetry of Oriental masters like Basho has influenced poets around the world.

Graven images of long-departed gods,
dry spiritless leaves:
companions of the temple porch
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

See: whose surviving sons
visit the ancestral graves
white-bearded, with trembling canes?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I remove my beautiful kimono:
its varied braids
surround and entwine my body
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This day of chrysanthemums
I shake and comb my wet hair,
as their petals shed rain
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This darkening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Let us arrange
these lovely flowers in the bowl
since there's no rice
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps:
the silver plop and gurgle of water
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The butterfly
perfuming its wings
fans the orchid
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pausing between clouds
the moon rests
in the eyes of its beholders
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first chill rain:
poor monkey, you too could use
a woven cape of straw
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This snowy morning:
cries of the crow I despise
(ah, but so beautiful!)
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Like a heavy fragrance
snow-flakes settle:
lilies on the rocks
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The cheerful-chirping cricket
contends gray autumn's gay,
contemptuous of frost
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Whistle on, twilight whippoorwill,
solemn evangelist
of loneliness
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The sea darkening,
the voices of the wild ducks:
my mysterious companions!
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Will we meet again?
Here at your flowering grave:
two white butterflies
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Fever-felled mid-path
my dreams resurrect, to trek
into a hollow land
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Too ill to travel,
now only my autumn dreams
survey these withering fields
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch; this has been called Basho's death poem

These brown summer grasses?
The only remains
of "invincible" warriors...
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An empty road
lonelier than abandonment:
this autumn evening
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring has come:
the nameless hill
lies shrouded in mist
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The Oldest Haiku

These are my translations of some of the oldest Japanese waka, which evolved into poetic forms such as tanka, renga and haiku over time. My translations are excerpts from the Kojiki (the "Record of Ancient Matters"), a book composed around 711-712 A.D. by the historian and poet Ō no Yasumaro. The Kojiki relates Japan’s mythological beginnings and the history of its imperial line. Like Virgil's Aeneid, the Kojiki seeks to legitimize rulers by recounting their roots. These are lines from one of the oldest Japanese poems, found in the oldest Japanese book:

While you decline to cry,
high on the mountainside
a single stalk of plumegrass wilts.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another excerpt, with a humorous twist, from the Kojiki:

Hush, cawing crows; what rackets you make!
Heaven's indignant messengers,
you remind me of wordsmiths!
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another, this one a poem of love and longing:

Onyx, this gem-black night.
Downcast, I await your return
like the rising sun, unrivaled in splendor.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

More Haiku by Various Poets

Right at my feet!
When did you arrive here,
snail?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Our world of dew
is a world of dew indeed;
and yet, and yet...
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, brilliant moon
can it be true that even you
must rush off, like us, tardy?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated...
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Standing unsteadily,
I am the scarecrow’s
skinny surrogate
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Autumn wind ...
She always wanted to pluck
the reddest roses
―Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Issa wrote the haiku above after the death of his daughter Sato with the note: “Sato, girl, 35th day, at the grave.”

The childless woman,
how tenderly she caresses
homeless dolls ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
umazume no hina kashizuku zo aware naru

Clinging
to the plum tree:
one blossom's worth of warmth
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

One leaf falls, enlightenment!
Another leaf falls,
swept away by the wind ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
hitoha chiri totsu hitoha chiru kaze no ue

This has been called Ransetsu’s “death poem.” In The Classic Tradition of Haiku, Faubion Bowers says in a footnote to this haiku: “Just as ‘blossom’, when not modified, means ‘cherry flower’ in haiku, ‘one leaf’ is code for ‘kiri’. Kiri ... is the Pawlonia ... The leaves drop throughout the year. They shrivel, turn yellow, and yield to gravity. Their falling symbolizes loneliness and connotes the past. The large purple flowers ... are deeply associated with haiku because the three prongs hold 5, 7 and 5 buds ... ‘Totsu’ is an exclamation supposedly uttered when a Zen student achieves enlightenment. The sound also imitates the dry crackle the pawlonia leaf makes as it scratches the ground upon falling.”

Disdaining grass,
the firefly nibbles nettles—
this is who I am.
—Takarai Kikaku (1661-1707), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A simple man,
content to breakfast with the morning glories—
this is who I am.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
This is Basho’s response to the Takarai Kikaku haiku above
asagao ni / ware wa meshi kû / otoko kana

The morning glories, alas,
also turned out
not to embrace me
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The morning glories bloom,
mending chinks
in the old fence
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Morning glories,
however poorly painted,
still engage us
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
asagao wa / heta no kaku sae / aware nari

I too
have been accused
of morning glory gazing ...
—original haiku by by Michael R. Burch

Taming the rage
of an unrelenting sun—
autumn breeze.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
aka aka to / hi wa tsurenaku mo / aki no kaze

The sun sets,
relentlessly red,
yet autumn’s in the wind.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
aka aka to / hi wa tsurenaku mo / aki no kaze

As autumn deepens,
a butterfly sips
chrysanthemum dew.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
aki o hete / cho mo nameru ya / kiku no tsuyu

As autumn draws near,
so too our hearts
in this small tea room.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
aki chikaki / kokoro no yoru ya / yo jo han

Nothing happened!
Yesterday simply vanished
like the blowfish soup.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
ara nantomo na ya / kino wa sugite / fukuto-jiru

The surging sea crests around Sado ...
and above her?
An ocean of stars.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
ara umi ya / Sado ni yokotau / Ama-no-gawa

Revered figure!
I bow low
to the rabbit-eared Iris.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come, butterfly,
it’s late
and we’ve a long way to go!
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nothing in the cry
of the cicadas
suggests they know they soon must die.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I wish I could wash
this perishing earth
in its shimmering dew.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Spring!
A nameless hill
shrouded in mist.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dabbed with morning dew
and splashed with mud,
the melon looks wonderfully cool.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cold white azalea—
a lone nun
in her thatched straw hut.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Glimpsed on this high mountain trail,
delighting my heart—
wild violets
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The bee emerging
from deep within the peony’s hairy recesses
flies off heavily, sated
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A crow has settled
on a naked branch—
autumn nightfall
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Except for a woodpecker
tapping at a post,
the house is silent.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That dying cricket,
how he goes on about his life!
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Like a glorious shrine—
on these green, budding leaves,
the sun’s intense radiance.
—Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
ara toto / aoba wakaba no / hi no hikar

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated...
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The pigeon's behavior
is beyond reproach,
but the mountain cuckoo's?
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Plowing,
not a single bird sings
in the mountain's shadow
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The pear tree flowers whitely―
a young woman reads his letter
by moonlight
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

On adjacent branches
the plum tree blossoms bloom
petal by petal―love!
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Picking autumn plums
my wrinkled hands
once again grow fragrant
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Dawn!
The brilliant sun illuminates
sardine heads.
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The abandoned willow
shines
between rains
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

White plum blossoms―
though the hour grows late,
a glimpse of dawn
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch; this is believed to be Buson's death poem and he is said to have died before dawn

Don't worry spiders,
I clean house... sparingly.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since I'm left here alone,
I'll make friends with the harvest moon.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Because I'm alone,
I'll make friends with the moon.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Even lonelier than last year:
this autumn evening.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My thoughts return to my Mother and Father:
late autumn
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This roaring winter wind:
the cataract grates on its rocks.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

While snow lingers
in nooks and recesses:
flowers of the plum
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

White blossoms of the pear tree―
a young woman reading a moonlit letter
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The red plum's fallen petals
seem to ignite horse ****.
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Intruder! ―
This white plum tree
was once outside our fence!
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The hood-wearer
in his self-created darkness
fails to see the harvest moon
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Our life here on earth:
to what shall we compare it?
Perhaps to a rowboat
departing at daybreak,
leaving no trace of us in its wake?
—Takaha Shugyo or Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tender grass
forgetful of its roots
the willow
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

NOTE: I believe this poem can be taken as commentary on ungrateful children. It reminds me of Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays."―MRB

The dew-damp grass
weeps silently
in the setting sun
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I thought I felt a dewdrop
plop
on me as I lay in bed!
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

We cannot see the moon
and yet the waves still rise
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first morning of autumn:
the mirror I investigate
reflects my father’s face
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Wild geese pass
leaving the emptiness of heaven
revealed
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Silently observing
the bottomless mountain lake:
water lilies
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Cranes
flapping ceaselessly
test the sky's upper limits
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Falling snowflakes'
glitter
tinsels the sea
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Blizzards here on earth,
blizzards of stars
in the sky
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Completely encircled
in emerald:
the glittering swamp!
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The new calendar!:
as if tomorrow
is assured...
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because morning glories
hold my well-bucket hostage
I go begging for water
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring
stirs the clouds
in the sky's teabowl
― Kikusha-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight I saw
how the peony crumples
in the fire's embers
― Katoh Shuhson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It fills me with anger,
this moon; it fills me
and makes me whole
― Takeshita Shizunojo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

War
stood at the end of the hall
in the long shadows
― Watanabe Hakusen, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because he is slow to wrath,
I tackle him, then wring his neck
in the long grass
― Shimazu Ryoh, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pale mountain sky:
cherry petals play
as they tumble earthward
― Kusama Tokihiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The frozen moon,
the frozen lake:
two oval mirrors reflecting each other.
― Hashimoto Takako, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The bitter winter wind
ends here
with the frozen sea
― Ikenishi Gonsui, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, bitter winter wind,
why bellow so
when there's no leaves to fell?
― Natsume Sôseki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter waves
roil
their own shadows
― Tominaga Fûsei, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

No sky,
no land:
just snow eternally falling...
― Kajiwara Hashin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Along with spring leaves
my child's teeth
take root, blossom
― Nakamura Kusatao, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Stillness:
a single chestnut leaf glides
on brilliant water
― Ryuin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

As thunder recedes
a lone tree stands illuminated in sunlight:
applauded by cicadas
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The snake slipped away
but his eyes, having held mine,
still stare in the grass
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Girls gather sprouts of rice:
reflections of the water flicker
on the backs of their hats
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Murmurs follow the hay cart
this blossoming summer day
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The wet nurse
paused to consider a bucket of sea urchins
then walked away
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

May I be with my mother
wearing her summer kimono
by the morning window
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The hands of a woman exist
to remove the insides of the spring cuttlefish
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The moon
hovering above the snow-capped mountains
rained down hailstones
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, dreamlike winter butterfly:
a puff of white snow
cresting mountains
― Kakio Tomizawa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring snow
cascades over fences
in white waves
― Suju Takano, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tanka and Waka translations:

If fields of autumn flowers
can shed their blossoms, shameless,
why can’t I also frolic here —
as fearless, and as blameless?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Submit to you —
is that what you advise?
The way the ripples do
whenever ill winds arise?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Watching wan moonlight
illuminate trees,
my heart also brims,
overflowing with autumn.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I had thought to pluck
the flower of forgetfulness
only to find it
already blossoming in his heart.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

That which men call "love" —
is it not merely the chain
preventing our escape
from this world of pain?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Once-colorful flowers faded,
while in my drab cell
life’s impulse also abated
as the long rains fell.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I set off at the shore
of the seaside of Tago,
where I saw the high, illuminated peak
of Fuji―white, aglow―
through flakes of drifting downy snow.
― Akahito Yamabe, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: haiku, oriental, masters, translation, Japanese, nature, seasons, Basho, Buson, Issa, waka, tanka, mrbhaiku
Ascendant Transcendent
Ascendance Transcendence
by Michael R. Burch

Breaching the summit
I reach
the horizon’s last rays.

This is a poem about unexpectedly glimpsing the raw beauty of the universe, which comes like an unexpected blessing.



Sudden Shower
by Michael R. Burch

The day’s eyes were blue
until you appeared
and they wept at your beauty.



Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You're too perfect for words―
a problem for a poet.



yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #1
by michael r. burch

plagued by the Plague
i plague the goldfish
with my verse



yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #2
by michael r. burch

sunflowers
hang their heads
embarrassed by their coronas

I wrote this poem after having a sunflower arrangement delivered to my mother, who is in an assisted living center and can't have visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.



homework: yet another iffy coronavirus haiku #3
by michael r. burch

dim bulb overhead,
my silent companion:
still imitating the noonday sun?



Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.



Splintering

An unbending tree
breaks easily.
―Lao Tzu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.



Laughter's Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.

Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.



Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.



New World Order
by Michael R. Burch

The days of the dandelions dawn...
soon man will be gone:
lawn fertilizer.



Translations

I entered the world empty-handed
and leave it barefoot.
My coming and going?
Two uncomplicated events
that became entangled.
―Kozan Ichikyo (1283-1360), translation by Michael R. Burch

“Isn’t it time,”
the young bride asks,
“to light the lantern?”
―Ochi Etsujin (1656-1739), translation by Michael R. Burch

Brittle cicada shell,
little did I know
you were my life!
―Shuho (?-1767), translation by Michael R. Burch

Bury me beneath a wine barrel
in a bibber’s cellar:
with a little luck the keg will leak.
―Moriya Senan (?-1838), translation by Michael R. Burch

Learn to accept the inevitable:
the fall willow
knows when to abandon its leaves.
―Tanehiko (1782-1842), translation by Michael R. Burch

Darkness speaks―
a bat in flight
flits through a thicket.
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I’m tired,
so please be so kind as to swat the flies
softly.
―Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Keywords/Tags: haiku, Japanese, translation, transcendent, Oriental, imagery, metaphor, nature, coronavirus, plague, life, death, nature, ascension day, beauty, eyes, perfection, universe
Äŧül Nov 2019
A kleptomaniac was born,
His specialty was hearts
That he whisked away
In a real short time.

An oriental angel ascended,
Upon him she descended
In a way that changed
All of what was his.
My HP Poem #1814
©Atul Kaushal
ConnectHook Jan 2019
Haiku lifts our souls
to views beyond the village:
distant Fuji. (****)

Shoppingu-sentah
Aisu-krimu sandu-witch
Robotic Gul-friend

Kamikaze beer
wriggling tentacle skewered
Hell: Japanese bar

They did deserve it.
Both Fat Man and Little boy.
I'm part ***. Eat me.

Seriously what
is wrong with the Japanese?
They need Jesus Christ !
Love/Hate relationship with Haiku.
Apologies to Basho-San
ConnectHook Sep 2017
Kyoto rock garden:
mist rises among the pines...
where is that remote?

Bashō-san help me !
That big frog on lily pad
scared me with Haiku.

Shinto temple dawn...
monks ringing the temple gongs:
what a hangover.

Island of robots
poetic soul of *****
and those weird soft drinks

From bowlegged troops
invading the entire East
to bland consumers.

Japanophilia:
weakness of the western mind
grass no greener
Japonaiserie

noun: a style in art reflecting Japanese qualities or motifs;
Tim Peetz Jan 2017
Where lonely camels roam, dunes in darkness lay
And myriads of stars glow in disarray.
Solely the morning star, lone wanderer, shines bright
And thus illuminates this dark Arabian night.

As the gleaming eye of heaven rises in the East,
wake the weary nomad and his weary beast.
And as it reaches zenith, the heat burning the flesh,
they reach their destination: the vibrant Marrakech.

Explosion of colors, spices galore
Sold on bazaars selling infinitely more
A snake tamer plays his tunes in a trance
and the dervishes do their habitual dance.

And with every turn, every swish, every sway,
Unfolds like a dream the Arabian day.
'Til the sun sets again in this wondrous land
To darken once more the kingdom of sand.
Dαиι Apr 2016
Give my hopes a sign.
You may **** them already.
Just... Give my hopes a sign.

Every morning is the same.
Your strongly black amber eyes
vanish my ease with just a gaze
gets me in a constant flight.

The way your marked oriental eyes
****** me with a transcending melody
takes me back in time
How the world reflects in his ebony...

What does it mean?
What should I feel?

Seems you enjoy what you provoke in me.

To put me out of orbit
From the sphere I can't control.
I'm not certain, how you do it?
Only a grin, fills me with thoughts.

I'm pulling away uncountable times
but it's like magnetic force
All I need is to settle my mind
and your words would calm the storm.

So,

Give my hopes a sign.
You may **** them already.
Just... Give my hopes a sign.
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