Posts Tagged ‘Matsuo Basho’

The Narrow Road to the Disaster Zone

March 22, 2012

Matsuo Basho wrote The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a classic of haiku poetry, an account of a journey he made in 1689. He visited several places famous for their beauty, and because they had inspired poets in years gone by. The path he trod and the places he visited were devastated by the Tsunami that struck Japan a year ago.

To mark the first anniversary of the Tsunami and in honour of Basho, poet Stephen Henry Gill followed in the footsteps of Basho and like Basho wrote haiku poetry on what he saw and experienced.

No sooner had the spring mist begun to rise over the field than I wanted to be on the road again to cross the barrier-gate of Shirakawa in due time.

“Dousojin no maneki ni aite torumono teni tsukazu” 道祖神のまねきにあひて、取もの手につかず
(Not recorded in English:
Beckoned by Dosojin [the guardian spirit of travellers],
unable to put my hand to anything)

I was already dreaming of the full moon
rising over the islands of Matsushima.
“Matsushima no tsuki mazu Kokoro ni Kakarite” 松島の月まづ心にかかりて

“Natsukusa ya Tsuwamono domo ga Yume no ato” 夏草や兵どもが夢の後
These summer grasses
all that now remains of great warriors’ dreams. 

“Ishi no ka ya natsukusa akaku tsuyu atsuhi” 石の香や 夏草赤く 露あつし
Fumes from the stone
the summergrassis redden
the morning dew is hot

The gods seem to have possessed my soul and turned it inside out, and roadside images seemed to invite me from every corner.

With the pain of this secret love
my heart is full of tangled thoughts
like the wild fern patterns dyed on Shinobu cloth
of the far off north. (9C, by Minamoto no Toru)
陸奥(みちのく)の しのぶもぢずり 誰(たれ)ゆゑに 乱れそめにし われならなくに 河原左大臣

“Sanae toru temoto ya mukashi Shinobuzuri” さなえとるてもとやむかし しのぶずり
The busy hands
Of rice-planting girls,
Reminiscent somehow
of the old dyeing technique.

Late night thaw,
Snow crashing down from rooves:
As Basho’s was,
Another sleepless night?

“Dousojin no maneki ni aite torumono teni tsukazu” 道祖神のまねきにあひて、取もの手につかず
“Matsushima no tsuki mazu Kokoro ni Kakarite” (松島の月まづ心にかかりて)
I was already dreaming of the full moon
rising over the islands of Matsushima.

“Matsushima ya tsuru ni miokare hototogisu” 松島や鶴に見置かれほととぎす
Clear voiced cuckoo,
Even you will need The silver wings of a crane
To span the islands of Matsushima.

“Hamaguri no futamini wakare yuku akizo” はまぐり のふたみに別れ行く秋ぞ
As firmly cemented clam-shells. Fall apart in autumn, So I must take to the road again,
Farewell, my friends.

Many thanks to my lovely Japanese friend Misako Yoke for transcribing and posting on her blog.

Originally broadcast by the BBC on the first anniversary, but the BBC once again shoot themselves in the foot and fail to keep the programme on-line (two days left to listen).

It is a tradition of Paulo Coelho to mark St Joseph’s Day with a party for his friends. He always starts with prayers, first in Portuguese, then in many other languages. Yumi Crane spoke of the Tsunami. It was very moving. She was in tears. I was holding the hand of Mio. She was in tears. I was in tears. It was exactly one year, one week, one day since the Tsunami struck.

Songs From Tokyo was written and performed by Lindee Hoshikawa in memory of the Japanese tsunami.

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