That Haiku Frog Again!


From carpe diem haiku kai:

And this is our prompt: a frog jumps in which refers to that famous haiku by Basho:

the old pond

a frog jumps into it

the sound of water

(C) Basho (tr. Chèvrefeuille)

Maybe you can remember our Kamishibai Extreme challenge (2014-November). In which I challenged you to write a haibun (prose and haiku) on a given prompt with only 55 words (including the haiku). For this Time Glass episode I will challenge you again to write a haibun, with only 75 words, including the haiku, in just 24 hours.

Basho’s poem is probably the most famous ever written.  Everyone I met in japan knew this as well as his own address: furu ike ya, kawazu tobikomu, mizu no oto.   For such a perfect poem, it seems surprising that everyone is tempted to play with it .  My favorite was written by Ryokan (1785-1831): ata ike ya, kawazu tobikomu, oto no nashi: new pond, a frog jumps in, not a sound. And so I join the chorus of celebration:

such a noisy frog!

plopping into Basho’s pond

for five hundred years

11 thoughts on “That Haiku Frog Again!

  1. girl friday

    construction – deconstruction – reconstruction.
    love it. It makes me sad to think that I do not have enough lifetime left to attempt to learn the original language in which these haiku were written. So much needs to be taken on trust. Translation is such a barrier. Look at Angela Merkel and president Obama today. I fear that a lot was lost in their discussion. In this case nuances were of the essence and I’m sure they never survived and it scares me.
    But I digress. Sorry.


    1. jhanagan2014 Post author

      I enjoyed your digression! And your observations on the challenges of translation are well taken. My friend John Dougill, who lives in Japan, has responded to your comment in a most insightful way. If you can’t find it, I will forward it to you. Your comment on Obama/Merkel made me think that even when one speaks the very same language, there is much lost between the speaking and the hearing. Witness the Prayer Breakfast fiasco.



    Good points by girl friday.. I’ve been running a discussion group on Japanese poetry in translation for the past few years, and John H. used to be a member. Recently, reading 100 Poems by 100 Poets, we realised just how very tricky the matter of translation is in terms of trading poetry for accuracy, or vice versa. Ambiguity and other subtleties just can’t be conveyed concisely, and concision is after all the essence of short poems. Translation is a tricky art in itself…


    1. jhanagan2014 Post author

      This is so true, John. And I think this is why there are so many translations of everything form haiku to the Tao Te Ching. There are not only subtleties in the language, but also nuances in the experiences and internal lives of all who attempt a translation. Actually, i don’t think this is a bad thing, as long as we remember that no translation will ever be definitive, and we can enjoy the frog, for example, by viewing it through countless facets. I am enjoying the 100 Poems by 100 Poets, and just wish I could join you in your cozy office in Kyoto.



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