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Book of the Week – One Hundred Famous Haiku translated by Daniel C. Buchanan


One Hundred Famous Haiku, translated by Daniel C. Buchanan, was published by Japan Publications, Inc. in 1973. He was born in Kobe, Japan in 1892. In the Preface, he states, “Haiku are meant to be read over and over again, for often with each reading a new interpretation can be gained.”

From the Lilliput Review (July 1, 2010): “One Hundred Famous Haiku … adheres closely to the 5/7/5 approach to English haiku, as did many of the early English haiku collections. Since … 10 to 14 syllables in English is closer to the 17 ‘syllable’ Japanese, this approach can sometimes lead to haiku that seem decidedly bloated. However … it can also result in provocative work, which informs other, more modern versions of classic poems we may be used to.”

Following are a few selected poems from the book:

A sunny spring day,
People are doing nothing
In the small village.
– Shiki (p. 50)

Bearing no flowers,
I am free to toss madly
Like the willow tree.
– Chiyojo (p. 68)

Butterflies follow
Lovingly the flower-wreath
Placed on the coffin.
– Meisetsu (p. 76)

As I grow older,
Even the much longer days
Bring plentiful tears.
– Issa (p. 98)

With the year’s first dream
I told no one of my secret,
But smiled to myself.
– Shō-u (p. 117)

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.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. It’s hard to pick favorites when we are faced with the choice of “old pond” and something else.

    That said, I did enjoy reading this. It certainly was an exercise in “ma.” My interpretations were vastly different than the editor’s.

    For example, I found this one that closes the anthology:

    Like a lovely cloud
    In a beautiful picture,
    New Years’ first sunrise!

    To be bitingly sarcastic, not “lovely sunrise…beautiful cloud…unforgettable scene.” Another year down—and everything is as fake and artificial as it was last year. Even the first sunrise is merely as good as a representation of nature—not the real thing. This smacks of Modernist dissatisfaction with Modernity and reminds me more of Baudrillard more than a Zen master.

  2. I like this book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
    My favorite of these haiku is Issa’s

    (The dove’s advice)
    “Come on now, friend owl
    Change your facial expression
    This is the spring rain”

    A straightforward statement, but it opens the door to imagination.

    To my mind it brings an image of the flat, stoic face of my neighbour the barred owl. Only its eyes move. Issa’s admonition I see as a reminder of how stupid it is for us to let our moods control how we react to what is in fact happening around us.

    The laborious presentation of haiku in this book doesn’t bother me. Anyone can imagine shorter ways. This one, for instance, as

    Come on, owl
    why such sour face
    it’s spring rain!

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