If you’re remotely interested in haiku, you should sign up to receive a daily poem by the haiku master Issa, via e-mail. (You can also pick them up on Twitter, by following @issa_haiku. And there’s an enormous searchable archive of Issa haiku on the site.)
What better way to start the day than by reading something like this?
the astonished face
of the dog
clutches them tightly…
But that’s not all. As well as providing the English text, translator David G. Lanoue gives us the original Japanese, in Western and Japanese scripts:
osanago ya nigi nigi shitari ume no hana
My Japanese is very rudimentary, but I know ‘ume’ (plum) and ‘hana’ (flower), as well as the kanji character for ‘hana’, and I get a frisson of pleasure from being able to read a few syllables in the original, with Lanoue’s help.
Some poems are accompanied by a note explaining the context or references:
the calf begins
Evidently it has been sold and now must leave its mother, a scene that becomes even more poignant in light of Issa’s own childhood.
I don’t know Issa’s haiku as well as those of Basho, and this is a wonderful way to remedy my ignorance. Reading a single poem each day makes you pause and consider it properly, without the temptation to rush on to the next poem in a book.
If only all the e-mails in my inbox were as inspiring as these.