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Book of the Week – Fire on the Mountain by Taneda Santoka, translated by Hisashi Muira and James Green

About Taneda Santoka and his Somokuto: “Somokuto (A Grass and Tree Pagoda) is the most important book of haiku by Taneda Santoka (1882-1940). It was published by Yagumo Shorin of Tokyo in April, 1940, about six months before he passed away at the age of 57. It is a compilation of six booklets of haiku privately published by Santoka, the first one being Hachinoko published in 1932 and the second one entitled Somokuto published in 1933.

Santoka, whose real name was Taneda Shoichi, was born in a village in Yamaguchi Prefecture (present-day Hofu city). When he was young his life was full of such tribulations as his mother’s suicide and his family’s bankruptcy. In 1925, at the age of 43, he became an ordained Soto Zen monk. From then on he travelled all over Japan as a mendicant monk, writing haiku. The haiku included in Somokuto were written after he became a Zen monk. He opened up a new field of writing free-style haiku under the tutelage of Ogiwara Seisensui. It could be even said that thanks to Santoka haiku became “songs” born from the depths of the minds of modern men.
Though in the original Somokuto there are 701 haiku, we put in this Aozora Bunko version 150 poems from Somokuto and 24 written after Somokuto.
Differing from the complete Somokuto and other haiku books already registered in Aozora Bunko, this “Selected Haiku from Somokuto” has two parts; the original haiku in Japanese and its English translation. The source book for the original haiku is Collected Haiku of Santoka published by Chikuma Shobo. The haiku not found in this book are from Haiku (IV) published by Shunyodo Santoka Bunko.”
Following are a few selected poems from the book:
Wading through,
And wading through,
Yet green mountains still.
amidst life and death,
snow continues to fall.
In the water,
A traveler’s refection –
As I pass.
A cool pine wind,
Man eating,
Horse eating.
Rain –
Catching a bucketful,
Enough for today.

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library and please share your favorite poem from the book with us.

Do you have a chapbook published in 2018 or earlier that you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details. Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by the THF Digital Librarian Kenneth Pearson and are used with permission.

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