Fathers in nature

Fathers who sing

Fathers by nature

Fathers unsung

Unknown fathers

Absent fathers

Abusive fathers

Patient fathers

Founding fathers

Church fathers

Fathers of faith

Foundling fathers

Father of Light

Father of the Son

Father always with me

Our Father, the One


3 Haiku by Kobayashi Issa

       Children imitating cormorants
are even more wonderful
       than cormorants.

       Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house

       Mother I never knew,
every time I see the ocean,
       every time

These haiku are among my favorites by Issa. Robert Hass, author of The Essential Haiku: Versions of Bashō, Buson, & Issa, (HarperCollins, 1994) is an excellent editor and translator. Background material for each poet is so comprehensive, I’m walking and observing alongside them. Every precious moment and memory feels familiar, whether I’ve experienced them or not. It’s comforting to know not every haiku they wrote was great.

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) “. . . has been described as a Whitman or Neruda in miniature, probably because his poems teem with creaturely life. . . His main English translator, a Scot, compares him to Robert Burns. . . And in other ways Issa’s sensibility resembles that of Charles Dickens—the humor and pathos, the sense of a childhood wound, the willingness to be silly and downright funny, and the fierceness about injustice.”

Neotropic cormorants by Alan D. Wilson @ Nature’s Pics Online

Haiku by Yosa Buson

Field of bright mustard,
the moon in the east,
the sun in the west.

Yosa Buson (1716-1783) was equally esteemed as a great poet and painter. Initially I misread one of my favorites as saying ‘moon in the west’ and ‘sun in the east.’ I thought his bright yellow field was illuminated by moonset and sunrise. Buson actually described the field beneath a sunset in the west and a moonrise in the east; equally ethereal and otherworldly. I’ve seen both phenomena but not the field of mustard plants in glorious bloom. Until now.

Light emanates from all three—the mustard flowers, the moon, and the sun—and paints an inimitable image unlikely photographed anywhere. Nevertheless Buson painted with words and thus elicited such a moment. I was unable to find a photograph to illustrate its splendor, obviously. These two great lights trading their soft brilliance on opposite horizons and revealing the self-glowing, allegorical mustard seed are painted with a palette of words.

Haiku translated by Robert Hass, The Essential HAIKU: Versions of Bashō, Buson & Issa, HarperCollins, 1994

Photograph found @ Pixabay

Haiku by Matsuo Bashō

Even in Kyoto—
hearing the cuckoo’s cry—
I long for Kyoto.

I’ve departed from my usual format to introduce one of my favorite haiku by Bashō (1644-1694). I began appreciating this poetic form in 1967 when, on a visit to Greenwich Village in New York City, a slender but pricey book of classic haiku masters called my name. It was years before I could appreciate my purchase.

Why this particular haiku and why, after reading several critiques of this poem, did none resonate with me? This poem expresses longing. To be deeply entranced in a moment but also desire to be more fully immersed is a profound feeling. You realize it’s fleeting, and you already miss it. This is what I tried to capture and evoke in my poem, Silver Cord (January 27, 2020). Looking up at a crescent moon and inhaling the delicious scent of lilacs on a balmy, late Spring evening can be a powerful moment of connection with God, the Earth, the cosmos, loved ones, and humanity. Who wouldn’t want more?

Bashō expressed that although he was in Kyoto, the cuckoo’s cry deeply moved him to want more of the Kyoto he was experiencing. The place, the sound, and everything else those meant to him, were only a taste of the surface. He wanted the depth of that experience. He knew it was transient. What genius to distill that so elegantly.

Bashō’s particular encounter becomes universal. This, despite the poem’s origin within a Zen, supposedly subjective and detached worldview. Kyoto becomes the Earth. The cuckoo’s song, a universal cry of belonging. One man’s unique experience transcends the boundaries of place and philosophical difference.

Yes, all that from three simple lines.

Haiku translated by Robert Hass, The Essential HAIKU: Versions of Bashō, Buson & Issa, HarperCollins, 1994

Photo by Timothy Price, OFF CENTER & NOT EVEN, https://offcenternoteven.com/ I encourage you to visit his wonderful blog featuring PHOTOGRAPHS, MUSIC AND WRITING ABOUT DAILY LIFE. It’s a fun place to engage.