the wanton tree

A haiku blog. Non traditional ramblings (this guy does'nt count his syllables) of a haiku poet about town. Includes daily haiku from the author and his shady poet friends. Off the cuff haiku book reviews. Writing ideas, gripes, and non categorical asides. Off the beaten haiku path.

Location: California, United States

I often post while wearing a speedo because it keeps me focused.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Haiku Bad Boys

In recent history you'd think of Guns N Roses, Courtney Love, Led Zeppelin. People you might rock out to but would'nt want to live next door or marry into your family. Flamboyant, wild ones who drank all the beer, borrowed money they would'nt payback and generally acted out.

Oddly though, so were many haiku poets of the past. Drunken, irresponsible showboats who had a lot in common with Jim Morrison. There was a sleazy glamour connected with haiku that is in marked contrast with most of todays higher profile poets. Now days, writing haiku is "obscure, quaint, and harmless" in the publics mind. Maybe that's why NFL and NBA buffoons are front page news when they crash a car, or punch a fan, and the word "haiku" does not even exist on network news or in the American print media.

But there were hard drinking, roadrunning poets of yesteryear in the haiku tradition. They could'nt hold a job, got thrown out of everyplace they went, and depended on friends for a place to sleep. (Sounds like most drummers I know.) Maybe what the American haiku movement needs is an Axel Rose. A furniture breaking haiku poet maniac who will get people asking, "What's this haiku thing all about?"

Hosai Ozaki was the last guy you'd want to marry your sister. He wrote "free verse" back when it just was'nt done. No syllable structure, no season structure. This guy was a rebel and a genius.
An insurance salesman with a law degree that just could'nt hold a straight gig. Drinking like a fish. Losing his health and his positions and his wife. After washing out in normal society, he tried to live as a religious but was thrown out of temples for getting drunk, coming in late, and insulting the priest.

At the height of his writing powers, he reached the end of the line as a sexton in a temple on Shodo Island. His only tasks were weeding and sweeping. He died there eight months later.
His verses are lonely and detached as anything you'll ever read. I have just completed a collection of his work called "Right under the big sky, I don't wear a hat" trans by Hiroaki Sato. Stone Bridge Press.

This is a haiku tour de force. All the translations are single line. It traces his early verse right up to what he wrote alone and isolated on a windswept isle.

Gazing into the storm's darkness my eyes become lit

Sunflowers hugely turn, this is Manchuria

The mountain sunset graveyard tilts toward the sea

I wake from a nap, only the shadows of tired things

This firefly does'nt glow its hardened

From the lonely body nails begin to grow

This book is now a prize possession of mine. If you get your hands on a copy, you'll say the same.


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