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Per Diem for February 2019: Haiku Written in the Languages of Iberia

Per Diem: Daily Haiku

In the month of February, Per Diem:Daily Haiku will feature haiku in the languages of the Iberian Peninsula. The collection, arranged and translated into English by Danny Blackwell, features haiku in Spanish and Portuguese as well as Basque, Catalan, and Galician. Most of the poems originate from Spain and Portugal, but because Spanish and Portuguese are spoken beyond these borders, poems and poets from Latin America also feature. It’s a fascinating collection, with some of the poems dating back almost 100 years.

Enjoy!

Haiku in the Languages of Iberia

– Danny Blackwell

In 2018, I was fortunate enough to be given funding by the Consortium of Museums for the region of Valencia, Spain, for a project I called Haiku from Iberia and Beyond. The project was an investigation into haiku written in the languages of the Iberian Peninsula, and which culminated in the publishing of an anthology of poems, with extensive notes on the unique tendencies of haiku in the languages and areas studied.

The Iberian Peninsula is composed of Spain and Portugal, with the most widely spoken languages Spanish and Portuguese. Spain, of course, has other officially recognized languages, namely Basque, Catalan, and Galician. The languages of the Iberian peninsula, however, are not limited to the peninsula itself. Spanish and Portguese are also the main languages of Latin America, as well as being spoken in parts of Africa. The history of these languages and the regions where they are spoken is complex and I invite anyone interested to study further. (Of note is the debate about Catalan and Valencian, the language spoken in Valencia.)

I was interested to see how the history of haiku had developed in these differing regions and languages. While there are many poets who are greatly inspired by the Japanese classics, local haiku has left its mark on Spanish and Portuguese poetry and there are notable poets, such as Tablada in Mexico, who had a profound influence of the production of haiku in their native tongue. And Brazil, too, is a unique country in terms of the history of haiku because of the Japanese immigration there, as well as the long history of haiku being written both in Portuguese and in Japanese.

One of my objectives with Haiku from Iberia and Beyond, and by extension with this month’s Per Diem of Haiku in the Languages of Iberia, is to see previously marginalized languages and poets get exposure so that we can re-evaluate the current canon; and to show that there is a willingness to broaden the horizons of haiku so that, in future, speakers of languages such as Basque, Catalan, and Galician need not compose in Spanish if they are to be read.

One Basque poet claimed in an unpublished essay on haiku in Basque that to write in Basque is to make oneself invisible. Hopefully, those days are gone.

Danny Blackwell

*The translation of the poems from Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish into English is by Danny Blackwell. (The Basque poems, however, were first translated by the poets into Spanish before being translated by Danny Blackwell into English.)

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Dear Danny,
    Greetings! Going through this week’s pick on Per Diem, with your topic on “haiku written in the languages of Iberia,” something interesting and new . starting from your project called — Haiku from Iberia and Beyond,getting more insights into the languages of ‘IBERIAN PENINSULA’ taking us far into the history of these languages . I sincerely appreciate your efforts in the objectives.

    “One of my objectives with Haiku from Iberia and Beyond, and by extension with this month’s Per Diem of Haiku in the Languages of Iberia, is to see previously marginalized languages and poets get exposure so that we can re-evaluate the current canon; and to show that there is a willingness to broaden the horizons of haiku so that, in future, speakers of languages such as Basque, Catalan, and Galician need not compose in Spanish if they are to be read.”

    kudos and wishing you good luck .

  2. Excellent ideas here. And ties in with the United Nations making 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages so great that you are including Galician, Basque, Catalan and other languages from the region in addition to Spanish and Portuguese.

  3. This will be an interesting collection.
    .
    Another very notable writer, Jorge Luis Borges from Argentina, also wrote haiku. I’ve just now googled and found some in English translation as well as in Spanish:
    .

    17 Haiku, English translations (by 3 different translators):
    https://terebess.hu/english/haiku/borges_en.html
    .
    Click on the Spanish flag in the upper right hand corner and you’ll get the Spanish ( and a choice of 10 other languages, including Japanese, denoted by the flags)
    .
    – Lorin

  4. An interesting subject for further exploration. Thanks Danny.

    Basque country
    the haiku train pauses
    for an invisible poet

  5. How interesting Danny. I will be reading the daily per diem. Do they write differently, is what I want to see… is the moon the moon of so many haijin or does it have a cultural dimension that is fresh? I wonder. Great initiative, btw

    1. There are definitely cases of local peculiarities in some cases, and in other cases of attempts to mirror the Japanese traditions. Reading the selection, you should get a rough idea of which poets do one and which do the other. As regards the local peculiarities by region and language, it is something I go into in more depth in the anthology, but unfortunately the Per Diem format doesn’t allow space for, as it’s more geared towards just the poems.
      There is definately such a thing as a Latin American style haiku (although it may have flourished more in a certain epoch), as controversial as it may be to purists of the Japanese mindset. With the introduction of haiku to the West, Hispanic haiku was more the product of poets, where as in the English speaking world it as more the product of scholars.

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