Monday, February 23, 2015


Kobayashi Issa is recognized one of the four great Japanese haiku masters. B. refers to his account of the death of his father, Last Days of Issa’s Father, which recounts the poet’s father falling ill with a fever, and of the son’s intense emotional impressions of family conflict, everyday occurrences, and the decline and death of his father. It’s a classic in Japanese literature.

B. had been drinking heavily and writing the Dream Songs obsessively, the two activities linked for him. He wrote DS 54 from the hospital, having been admitted due to severe alcohol poisoning which very nearly killed him. The details are reflective of his stay, including the “nitid” feeling of sparkling or brightness brought on by the drugs the medical staff administered. He forced himself to slow down because the writing, connected absolutely with drinking, was getting to be too much to handle.

Obsessiveness and alcoholism, real things, still lead toward a reflection on Issa and B.’s father. Here are five winter haiku, in honor of Issa:

Winter Haiku

Crows raucous by day
Owl proclaims the trees at night
Forest’s pendulum.

            Tracks of hungry deer
            Broken crusts of icy snow
            Green a memory.
Black-capped chickadee
Scolding the snowy feeder
Hot in annoyance.

            Cold wind bites my ear
            Ear responds with heat and blood
            Challenging winter.
Points of sharp sunshine
In icicles remind me
How cold is the sun.




  1. Nice haiku.

    Forgive my tinkering . . .

    icicle sharp sun-
    shine reminds me: the sun is
    cold, the sun is cold

  2. tracks of hungry deer
    break apart the snow—
    green . . . mere memory

  3. Oops. Second attempt founders on inadvertent introduction of HTML code. Try again . . . . . .

    tracks of hungry deer
    break apart the icy* snow—
    green . . . mere memory

  4. Double oops. Forgot to complete footnote.


  5. Hah! Thanks, Dirk. These are always first drafts, of course. I'll take the tinkering under advisement when the time comes.