Thursday, April 16, 2015


In the last light, I went down to see the bees, and the new leaves on the willow 
and the light on the water of the Little Union Canal.

Willow in the Rain

Tangled even further
in the wind
that dries them---
threads of green willow
wet with rain

Saigyo       (1118-1190)
trans. by Burton Watson

Saigyo; Poems from a Mountain Home
Columbia University Press, 1991, page 33.

This poem is in the form of a waka, or tanka, an ancient Japanese five-line poetic form that still has power. Many of the people who write English language haiku also try this form. Many translators have worked to bring these elegant poems into versions in English. I am finding that when I use them here, I often prefer Burton Watson's English renditions of Saigyo and of other poets, too. As here, there is often a thought-break between the first three lines and the final two lines. Another task: try writing in this form, perhaps after a walk outdoors, or on a rainy afternoon on the porch.

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