Monday, April 16, 2018

Brief Review by Mary Soon Lee of “The Essential Haiku, Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa” by Robert Hass

In The Essential Haiku, Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, Robert Hass provides translations of haiku by three of its preeminent practitioners together with supplemental material to give the reader context.  He discusses how haiku grew out of the older Japanese tradition of collaborative verse and notes that Basho, who lived in the seventeenth century, worked before haiku were recognized as an independent art form.

At the end of the book, Hass discusses the inherent challenges in translating haiku--how the resonances of their seasonal references, their mix of kanji and phonetic symbols, their syntax, and their punning are often difficult to render in English. I found the book an excellent introduction to the three poets.

A used hardcover copy of the book may be had from Amazon for about $2.50 https://www.amazon.com/Essential-Haiku-Versions-Basho-Buson/dp/0880013516.  A new hardcover copy may be had for about $54.00, and a new paperback copy may be had for about $8.50 from the same source.

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