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:
Crows raucous by dayOwl proclaims the trees at night
Tracks of hungry deerBroken crusts of icy snow
Green a memory.
Scolding the snowy feeder
Hot in annoyance.
Cold wind bites my earEar responds with heat and blood
Points of sharp sunshine
In icicles remind me
How cold is the sun.