The sad poet admirer of nature, Santôka

August 25, 2017

Last week, one of my customers contacted me to know the signification of a kakejiku (Japanese scroll painting or calligraphy) she got from a Japanese friend. I asked my wife who translated it. It's a haiku written by Santôka Taneda, poet of the 20th century known for his free verse haiku.

 

塵かと吹けば生き
ていて飛ぶ

Thinking it was dust, I blew it. 
But it was a living creature and flew away.

 

A simple observation of nature, but I find it very beautiful and profound.

To be honest, until now I didn't know much about haiku. But this short poem rose my interest!

Haiku is a short form of poetry with a very rigid structure.

The most famous haiku master is Bashô Matsuo, who lived in the 17th century.

As many Japanese poets, Bashô was a great wanderer, drawing his inspiration in the study of his environnement. Last year, I visited his home town, Ueno in the Iga Province, which is also renowned as the historical center of the ninja culture. Here one of his famous haiku:

 

古池や蛙飛びこむ水の音

an ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the splash of water

 

At first sight, it's only a scene in the countryside. But what's Bashô means is: enjoy the silence. It's so quiet out there you can even hear a frog jumping in a pond! 

Now, let's come back to master Santôka! He was one of the moderniser of haiku. His poems don't observe the strict rules of traditional haiku. His style is completely free and his haiku are easy to understand even for absolute novice like me! As Bashô, Santôka was a great and sad wanderer. His haiku describe everyday situations, the nature which surrounded him. I'm beginning to love haiku, the simplicity and humility of this form of poetry appeals to me.

 

あの雲が落とした雨に濡れている

The rain from that cloud made me wet.

 

His life was full of misfortunes and after many strokes of fate he became a drunk on the verge of suicide. Then, he met a Buddhist priest of the Zen school who brought him back a purpose in life. He became priest and began to wander around the Japanese countryside, achieving among other things the famous Shikoku pilgrimage of the 88 temples. During this time he wrote his most famous haiku.

Credits: For this post, I used once again the great articles of Wikipedia as well as a very complete study about Santôka at Terebess Asia Online

 

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