Bumper crop of classical Japanese verse in English

Suddenly this spring, an unexpected flowering of Japanese verse in English.

Two Copper Canyon editions of W. S. Merwin: Ten years in the making, the first complete bilingual edition of haiku from Yosa Buson (1716–1783), the successor to Basho and one of the great Haikuists of the Edo period, translated in collaboration with Takako Lento

Plus a reissue of of Merwin’s 1989 translation, with Soiku Shigematsu, of the work of zen monk Muso Soseki (1275-1350), with an extensive introduction by Merwin describing Soseki’s singular career as a monastic, advisor to emperors,  and poet-gardner

Meanwhile, just published, David Young’s new translations of poet–vagrant Matsuo Basho (1644–1694)

And, coming in August, Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns, with Pound, Stevens, Reznikov, Winters, L. Hughes, Cummings, Ginsberg, Kerouac, R. Wright, Dag Hammarskjöld (!), Ammons, Wilbur, Ashbery, Heaney, Muldoon, and of course Merwin,  Rexroth, and Snyder.

A great chance to compare and consider the translation of very resistant genres. Here, for example is an interesting solution by Merwin and Shigematsu: they break down the lines of the traditional four-line gatha, a poetic form that followed Buddhism from China to Japan, into three parts, reflecting how the poems would have been chanted by Zen monks, and still are:

Cradled in the breast of this mountain
    I have forgotten
        its original wildness

Day after day
    watching the sea
        I have never seen its depths

From #8, “Thanks for Daisen Osho’s Visit,” Sun at Midnight, by Muso Soseki, translated by W. S. Merwin and Soikuy Shigematsu

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