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
no pissing on my old
a samurai lives next door
the home village
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
And you have many choices among his poetry collections: Amazon.com: poems by issa: Books