Issa, poet for ordinary people

I’ve been reading poems by Issa lately.  He is my current poetic hero, not just for the words he produced, but for the fact that he could produce any poetry at all given the life he lived.  In case you don’t know him or his work, he is one of four stars in the constellation of great Japanese poets, Basho being the best known out of the four in the Western world.   Reading even a brief biography of Issa’s life is enough to make you cry:   loss of mother at an early age, cruel stepmother,  marriage followed by the birth of four children — all of whom died as did his wife — family in-fighting over father’s property, remarriage followed by divorce and then another marriage, and a whole life lived in abject poverty.  Yet through all of his sorrows, he managed to produce hundreds of haiku, many humorous, many testifying to the joys of nature, some addressing loss and suffering, and most expressing compassion to all living things, even mosquitos and fleas. He was a poet for ordinary people.  And unlike some haiku poets, he didn’t hide his emotions.

I chose a few of his poems to feature here to give you a flavor.

my old age–
even facing a scarecrow

hey mice
no pissing on my old
winter quilt!

sing soft!
a samurai lives next door

the home village
I abandoned…
cherry trees in bloom

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house

There are a number of websites devoted to Issa’s works.   Here are three:

Passage through August – Kobayashi Issa haiku

Kobayashi Issa : Poems and Biography

fun with Issa

And you have many choices among his poetry collections: poems by issa: Books

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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