Blossoms (and Blossoms, and Blossoms, and Blossoms)





ki no moto wa shiru mo namasu mo sakura kana

— Basho (1654-1694)
Season: Spring
Kigo: Cherry blossoms



Under the cherry-trees,
On soup, and fish-salad and all,

— R.H. Blyth, 1950

Under the trees
Soup, fish salad, and everywhere
Cherry blossoms.

— Makoto Ueda, 1970



Under the cherry–
blossom soup,
blossom salad.

— Lucien Stryk, 1985




From all these trees,
in the salads, the soup, everywhere,
cherry blossoms fall.

— Robert Hass, 1994




I spent part of this semester completing a class assignment by developing a structure for a database of classical haiku, using XML and related markup tools. Don’t get too impressed. It’s pretty primitive. And at the moment it contains fourteen haiku. And I don’t have any real enthusiasm for spending the hundreds of hours that would be required to expand and refine it enough to make it at all useful.

But I do think it would be really, really cool if such a thing existed. As you can see from my example above, there’s the Japanese (romaji) version of the haiku, accompanied by numerous translations (love, love, love comparative translation), and information about the season and kigo associated with the haiku, which can easily be indexed using markup tools. I can’t even imagine how useful and fun that kind of database would be, if it had enough haiku in it.

But barring some really bored person coming along with a fondness for both haiku and data entry (do such people exist?), this dream will probably not come to fruition any time soon. But I felt like I had to get some kind of real-world satisfaction out of this project, so here’s one of Basho’s more delightful spring haiku for you to enjoy, in all its delightful versions. (I’m kind of fond of Lucien Stryk’s translation. You?)



first apples
sniffing for the lost scent
of blossoms




15 thoughts on “Blossoms (and Blossoms, and Blossoms, and Blossoms)

  1. on initial readings i like Blyth. if i sit and think through and about each one – i like Stryk.

    yeah. i can see how many ku in this kind of data base would be fun and awesome. on a number of levels.

    yeah too. i think such people as you’ve described probably exist.

    they probably need to eat too tho.

    so unless there is some funding. a grant. or organization willing to support it… yeah. it might be a while.

    it might be interesting to put it out there to organizations on culture or between cultures or where ever else this kind of thing might be attractive too… and see… i have no idea if The East West Center at university of hawaii would be interested in it or could even fund it or funds anything – or not.

    • There are retired people, I suppose. But you’d need either a few abnormally dedicated ones or a whole ton of mildly dedicated ones. Grants, yeah, that’s something I didn’t really think about. I think I’d probably have to have a way, way better idea what I was doing, though, to write a decent grant proposal.

      • yeah. from what i understand (and some minimal experience altho i’ve never gotten one) there is an art to grant writing. …skill. i mean, skill to grant writing. – and yeah, clarity probably helps altho you sound quite clear on what you’d like to accomplish. it’s probably costs that are as much of a challenge as clarity on doing. yeah. definitely a skill in grant writing.

        • Well, I have a pretty good idea what I want to accomplish in a very big-picture sort of way, but I think grant giver-outers want you to have a very specific idea of exactly what you are going to do on a micro level, and how, and have a timeline and a budget and all that kind of thing, and that is where I’m completely lost. Not to mention that I don’t have anything remotely resembling the coding skills that would be required yet, though I’m sure that given time I could acquire them. May be something I’ll have to work on in the background of my life for a few years.

  2. I prefer Blyth’s careful noting of each thing and how the “flower-petals” gather the scene into one unity. He gives the preposition “on” such a wonderful importance.

    Your Japanese haiku translation database idea is terrific. The Japan Society may be interested in such a project. A Guggenheim Foundation proposal might be worthwhile for you.

    Last, never least, I admire your haiku very much.

    I am cross-posting your wonderful piece here on word pond. I also love comparative translation. Thanks for all of this.

    • I like Blyth too, I almost always do. (My goal for the summer is to read all four volumes of Haiku through from beginning to end. And take notes.) I think Stryk here gets at the playfulness that Basho must have had in mind writing this.

      A Guggenheim, good Lord. Don’t swell my head. 🙂 I’d have to actually figure out what I was doing to do that. Right now my efforts fall strictly in the half-assed category. But I suppose if I wanted to put off getting an actual job a while longer that might be a good thing to figure out.

      Thanks for posting to word pond, this and some of the other things you’ve posted recently…I appreciate the recognition. And thanks for the kind words about this haiku.

  3. Pingback: Blossoms (and Blossoms, and Blossoms, and Blossoms) / Red Dragonfly « word pond

  4. A wiki effort might make sense. A hundred people each with a manageable and assigned number of translations and “organized instructions” might make a good start. It could be called Wikihaiku. But even still it would be a long project.


    • Interesting idea, Sully. Yeah, that kind of distributed effort often makes sense for this kind of thing. Though the idea of coordinating it kind of makes my head hurt a little…

    • I need to sit down and go carefully through my book of Stryk’s Basho. It’s interesting, I don’t care as much for his translations of Issa, but I like the Basho for some reason.

  5. I was walking in the city yesterday and parts of the concrete were covered with petals, a warm soft snow… did I just write a poem? 🙂

    Thanks – and congrats on being a ‘featured blog’ for poetry. I can say I blogged with you when…


    • Love the concept of a warm snow…

      Yeah, that whole featured blog thing kind of freaked me out. They don’t notify you, you just figure it out when you keep getting hits from that page. It kind of makes me wonder what their selection process is and is someone real at WordPress going around reading poetry blogs or does some kind of computer program pop up your name for some reason? This kind of thing fascinates me.

    • Wow, really? I should have known one of my readers would fall into this category. 🙂
      If I ever get organized enough to actually do something about this project, I’ll definitely contact you. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s