… to a party here on Red Dragonfly, on the occasion of my 300th post. Which should be, if my calculations are correct, on Sunday, October 24th.
The guests of honor, of course, are all of you: my intimidatingly talented readers. Well, at least all of you who have ever commented here, or who get around to doing so by the 24th. You know who you are.
As on the occasion of my 200th post, I’m inviting commenters to send me one or two haiku they’ve written, with the guarantee that whatever they send me will be posted here on the 24th. They don’t have to be haiku you compose specially for the occasion — they can be previously published, previously posted on your blog, previously scribbled on the back of your homework, previously spray-painted on the bus stop across the street … you get the idea. No special topic required either. (But bonus points if you manage to get the number “three hundred” in there somehow. On second thought … never mind.) Oh — and send me the URL of your blog or website if you have one, I’ll post that as well.
We all had a total blast the last time I did this. It’s still my most popular post of all time. And I am not at all offended that my most popular post is the only one that features none of my own poetry! No, I am more secure than that! So secure that I’m doing it again!
Deadline: October 24th, 7:00 a.m. U.S. Central Daylight Time. Please email me your contributions: mlallen.69 at gmail.com. I will remind (nag?) you daily until you give in and send me something. So you might as well do it right now. Just think of it this way — it’s a way to get out of reading any of my ku for an entire day.
Thanks in advance. I’m crazy about all of you.
The name of this blog, as you will see if you look under “Epigraph” in the right-hand column, comes from a translation of one of Kobayashi Issa’s haiku by David G. Lanoue. The red dragonfly of this haiku is a stand-in for all the small sights that startle and move us enough to get our haiku juices flowing.
If you are interested in reading (translations of) some of the most famous Japanese haiku, a fantastic place to start is David’s archive of his translations of thousands of Issa’s haiku. (I’ve linked to it above, and under “More Haiku” to the right.) It’s searchable and the results are beautifully laid out and organized, making it a joy to browse through. Pick a word, any word — how about “tea” or “rain”? — and spend a pleasant half hour scrolling down through the results, smiling at Issa’s images and at David’s elegant translations and many helpful and entertaining comments. If you’re shorter on time, you can choose to see a random haiku. You can also sign up to have one haiku a day emailed to you, which for me is like having Issa place a friendly hand on my shoulder and remind me to get writing.
Issa (along with Basho, Buson, and Shiki) is considered one of the four greatest Japanese haiku writers. He straddled the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and brought to haiku writing a sense of earthy humor and humanism. His haiku tend to appeal to those of us who find haiku that are entirely focused on nature a little too abstract to handle, and who prefer the surprising and moving connections between human concerns and impersonal nature that Issa so frequently discovers.
David’s site also contains a general introduction to haiku, featuring one of my all-time favorite (and one of the briefest I’ve seen) definitions of the form: “Haiku: a one-breath poem that discovers connection.” When I feel like I’m getting lost in the tangle of competing, complicated haiku definitions that are floating around out there, I come back to David’s definition and breathe a little easier. That really is the essence of haiku for me.
The site also has lots of great links to Issa sites and haiku sites. I am extremely honored that David links to this site, and extremely grateful to him for giving me permission to reprint his translation here — and to Issa for seeing the red dragonfly in the first place.