Nov 14, 2015

Book Review: Classic Haiku - A master’s collection by Yuzuru Miura


How much you enjoy this work will depend I think on your individual path to Haiku, whose translations you may have read first and your own experience and perhaps practice of English language haiku.

I find that I have a preference for the translations that I am most familiar with and so Miura is at a disadvantage for a great number of the included classic master’s (Basho, Issa, Buson, Shiki) Haiku that I had experienced previously. 

That’s not to say that there weren’t a number that I thought (and could still change my mind on) were interesting additions.  Compare the following:



Calm and serene

The sound of a cicada

Penetrates the rock.

- Basho (trans. Miura)


Lonely silence,

a single cicada’s cry

sinking into stone

- Basho (trans. Hamill)


What was a welcome addition to my reading and knowledge was the inclusion of lesser known (in the West at least) but still historically significant later masters like Kyoshi, and Dakotsu:


A woman

Taking a bath in a tub

Is coveted by a crow.

- Kyoshi

The 100 or so haiku are set out in seasonal format, including a section on New Year’s.  Each poem is written in English, Romaji and Japanese script, one poem to a page with attendant calligraphy or sumi-e painting.  When a poet’s work is introduced a short biographical note is attached. 

Though by all means easy for a novice to read, I do wonder if this work might provided more interest for someone with a fair bit of Haiku reading under their belt.  A worthy addition to your Haiku collection, though perhaps not a must have.

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