tôyama ga medama ni utsuru tombo kana
In the eye of the dragonfly
The distant hills
Student: ((The compound) eye of a dragonfly, (comprises) a thousand [thirty-thousand] facets, you can’t (actually) get a reflection from it (as a singularity))
AG: All dragonfly’s eyes are thousand-faceted? Well, I don’t know what we’re going to do with that. I think (here) it does come from some observation of some (natural)…
Student: (But it’s not biologically accurate..)
AG: We’d have to question, then, the translation, maybe. But, actually, he might have had
a little ant-heap, (for) which a thousand-faceted reflection would be the distant hills. Or maybe it was a grain of sand? – “A grain of sand/ reflected in the eye of a dragonfly/the distant hills”)
The wind-bells ringing…
(You know wind-chimes?)
The wind-bells ringing,
While the leeks
Round the small house
Struck by lightning,
(Some correlation there, between vast, mighty impact of the lightning and melon flowers springing up. That’s Buson, another celebrated haiku-maker
Then, for time again, this is Basho again. As you may know (or may not know) – of course, this is about impermanence – the umbilical cord of Japanese babies were saved at the old homestead, wrapped up and saved.
In my old home
weeping over the umbilical cord
at the end of the year.
(That’s enough to make you cry. Back, returned, after many years – “In my old home/weeping over the umbilical cord/at the end of the year”).
The footnote – “Japanese people still preserve their children’s umbilical cord. Basho is spaeaking of his own, that his mother, now dead, has preserved” – “In my old home/weeping over the umbilical cord/at the end of the year”
Well, all the emotion there, which is very powerful, is suggested without direct reference (and only by) indirect reference to the word, “emotion”. There’s the word “weeping”, which is literal, there’s the “old home”. there’s “the umbilical cord”, and there’s “the end of the year” – all totally material objects, which actually do catalyze tears in your eyes, if you understand the haiku – and they’re the tears of things, the classical traditional lacrimae rerum, tears of things, which are supposed to be unapproachable, but they are (approached) actually.
But I keep trying to say, no matter, according to the old ways, there’s only one road to silence, there’s only one road to dealing with what’s unspeakable, which is you have to deal with the speakable to get there. You have to combine the speakables to get the unspeakable. You can’t plunge directly into the unspeakable and say, “You can’t say it”. Because it is say-able
This, is a question of… as in (Walt) Whitman’s inquisitiveness of mind, or, “not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you” [from “To A Common Prostitute”], or (William Carlos) Williams’ “(Nose), must you have a part of everything..” [from “Smell!”], there’s a famous haiku:
The autumn moon
on the flower thief
(It’s the same mind. Mind). Or:
Even to the saucepan
where the potatoes are boiling
a moonlit night.
A few of Basho now:
I’ll lean against this fence-post
The first morning
I felt like somebody else
(And, an answer to that):
I am one
who eats his breakfast
gazing at the morning glories
And, a late poem by Basho, an ascetic and a monk:
Resigned to death by exposure
How the wind
Cuts through me
nozarashi o / kokoro ni kaze no / shimu mi kana
Student: Allen, would you repeat that please?
AG: Yes. It’s the first poem in the Nozarashi Diary (Nozarashi Kikō (Record of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton (1684)) . These were done as prose-diaries, accountings of travels, or visits, in which, (like in (Jack) Kerouac‘s Dharma Bums prose), in the midst of the prose accountings, a sudden flash of insight is expressed in a brief (single) line. In the Japanese, the haiku is actually one line, you know. Seventeen syllables in one line. Translated into English in three, so Kerouac used three lines, copying, probably as much from this haiku anthology [Blyth] as (from) anyone – “Resigned to death by exposure/How the wind/ Cuts through me” – Yeah?
Student: (Did you say that the original haiku was a single line?)
tape and class end here