A [SPRING] Poem-a-Week

I’m trying to get in the zone for a course I’m teaching this semester on the poet Matsuo Bashō. He’s mostly known for his 17 syllable haiku poems (open any school book with haiku in it, and chances are you’ll see his haiku). Haiku more or less follow a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, but another poetry genre uses this 5-7-5 pattern and tacks on a 7-7 syllable pattern, kind of like a “couplet”. Sometimes the author of the 5-7-5 would also write the 7-7, and sometimes another person would compose the 7-7 couplet. This went on kind of like a game or a challenge.

March 21st was the 1st day of Spring 2014, if you believe what the calendar tells you. I was up in Aomori studying about the 20th century author Dazai Osamu, and didn’t get a poem up that week to ring in the first day of spring. Also, I was trudging around in about 6 inches of snow, so I wasn’t really in a spring-mood. Here’s my original translation of a poem for March 28th though. It’s a 5-7-5 poem, and I tried to preserve the 5-7-5 in English, too! It was tricky.




Haru mekuyahito samazama no

Ise mairi

The coming of Spring!People from all around visit the Ise shrine.

EDIT: I guess I could mention that this is pretty much a literal translation of the poem. According to a commentary I read on the poem though, “Haru mekuya” [The coming of spring] could also mean “recollecting-memories”. As if the coming of spring brings memories to mind. It certainly does for me! So many! Rowing, winding down the school year, the smell of hyacinths… geeze, so many.


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