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Viral 1.4

This week troutswirl has experienced some great activity. The posting of Viral 1.3 garnered an interesting debate which, it seems, my own excessiveness may have stifled the flow of; for that I apologize. One particular item on the news posting (Politiku) brought about an interesting discussion on the 5-7-5 exoskeleton used by the mainstream, as well as a brief history lesson of English-language haiku. Also, the first installment of Peter Yovu’s new section on the blog, Sails, has started off with a bang, and even a bearish tangent (see the “1st Sailing” post). Instead of moving the Virals section of troutswirl along with Viral 3.3, I’ve decided to take a step back and post Viral 1.4 instead (below) which features Peter Yovu’s selection of, and commentary on, a favorite haiku of his choosing. With Peter’s selection, Viral 1 comes to a close, as you’ll see. Enjoy, and please keep the comments coming, positive or negative (but hopefully helpful and analytical, and critical in ways that allow us to see how and why haiku work, or not). It would be nice to hear more voices and see more bulbs light up along the string. To echo a recent comment left by Claire Richardot: “What good is a sky chart if the stars [both big and small] are wearing hoods?”
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Virals is a section in which one person chooses a haiku by another person and comments on that haiku. Then the author of that haiku is invited to select a haiku by someone else and comment on that poem, and so on. For an introduction to this section, see Virals.

  • Viral 1.1 (Metz ➾ Kacian)
    • Viral 1.2 (Kacian ➾ Gurga)
Viral 1.3 (Gurga ➾ Yovu)

Silence Rains   by Peter Yovu


                        the mountains’
                        silence be
                        comes the rains’

I do not know what Santōka 山頭火 wrote. I do not know his words, nor do I know if Cid Corman, whose “version” this is, immersed himself in the original or in a translation. Nonetheless, based on what happens to me when I read the poem, I am convinced that Corman entered the same field where Santoka once stood, (though ages and possibly continents apart), and came out changed, that is, able to give us this particular poem, this version, this turning of one thing into another in a way that helps me consider that one thing is another, being and becoming.

And so I don’t know whose poem I am honoring here, whose poem this is, or if it is anyone’s at all. Perhaps I honor the genius of language itself, when it does not, as in this poem it does not objectify the world, does not use words to try to fix or rescue but rather bends as water bends to the slightest wind, revealing it. The question, the not knowing, is a mountain I can walk around on for a while: from vista to vista the answer changes, and finally it doesn’t matter, the whole thing is turning to rain anyway, silence reigns, I become it, I fall to my knees.

“the mountains'” was first published in One Man’s Moon by Cid Corman (Gnomon Press, October 1984)

Taneda Santōka (1882-1940) can not select the next poem, and so Viral 1 comes to an end.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Gabi, thanks for your thoughts about “internal shasei”. I hope readers of this blog will contribute to this discussion.

    I did not read your post until I had written, and posted moments ago, some thoughts about a John Stevenson poem which I believe resonate with some of what you’re describing. Would you check that post out and see if you think I am describing something like “internal shasei?” Here it is:

  2. “internal shasei”

    my heart (mind, soul) becomes quiet

    quote from here

    If I write normal poetry and paint a landscape, I am free to transform it as I please, but with my haiku, there is a difference.
    I hang on to external and internal shasei, sketching from nature and the inspiration of moment.

    “internal shasei”, writing a phrase that corresponds to your inner feeling of the moment, which is inspried by the scene you see around you (usually expressed in the kigo). This happens often to me when the outside coincides with a strong feeling that I am just having about something and I do not want to suppress, but simply spell it out.

    This leads us to the concept of expressing your true emotions in haiku:

    showing me
    a new dimension –
    the simple lily


    (sorry if this shows double)

  3. I am very glad that so many different facts and opinions can be revealed on this site without “academic feuds” but in the spirit of discovery. You are all certainly a wonderful gift to me.
    In gratitude, Merrill

  4. Thanks for your kind words, Paul !

    After quite a stormy night I am ready to interpret this (with a grin o) )

    tera no shizukasa e shizuka naru kokoro

    in the quietude of this mountain temple
    my heart (mind, soul) becomes quiet

    The “internal” shasei of his own situation, maybe after a typhoon night, of Santoka now seems obvious to me, considering his wandering, meandering life.

    Gabi from the “Paradise Hermitage” in Okayama (GokuRakuAn)


  5. Indeed yes, Monsieur Fish. It was Scott who was tracking down the original Japanese. Still, I imagine Scott has several opinions of what Santoka said in Japanese as it translates. Most of us will . . . ?

    I am reminded of the classic Book by Professor Ueda: “Basho and His Interpreters.” Ueda shows the romaji and a “pidgin” direct translation word-for-word in order from the Japanese. And he translates what many leading Japanese Basho/ haiku scholars thought it meant — both on a word level and as interpretation. I believe it consisted of some 260+ haiku, listed in order of composition. Some with only one Expert’s opinion other that Ueda’s, other poems a half-dozen or more. I do not have the book with me, I’m sorry if any of this is inaccurate. But I recall even word translation, not to mention meaning of the haiku, varied very wildly. Of course, such is the stuff of Doctoral Theses and academic feuds in any country. I like very much that Peter and Scott have presented the poem to us, and I’ve already thanked Gabi.
    – Paul MacNeil

  6. Paul, just to be clear: it was Yovu who said “I do not know [Santoka’s] words”. Nonetheless, it is good to know that even potentially you may sometimes agree with Metz, who, based on his output all over this blog, I personally now regard as “The Amazin”.

  7. Thank you Gabi for your scholarship and sharing. I agree with Scott (mark that happenstance well, doesn’t seem to be frequent — ha!) that I do not know Santoka’s words. Even in translations there is so much disagreement. But Gabi’s version and especially her footnote that the first word can be read as either mountain or temple — this shows a bit of Santoka’s subtlety and opens the haiku. The famous temple is called The Mountain, and indeed it seems to be high in the mountains. If one takes the poem literally, it is a scene I know well. I am writing this (summer cabin) from a lake valley of 3 mountains. If one could stretch a string diagonally to each peak, I am perhaps 2 miles from 2 peaks and 4 from the other — the latter is the tallest. Such mountains do attract rain; it can be seen sweeping across the face and other slopes. At an instant’s view the mountain is still and quiet, and the rain is just a streaked area… columns of water falling, perhaps even angled, but at a distance no drops can be seen, or heard. At some point an associated wind in the trees can be heard across the miles well in advance of the rain clouds crossing the lake — which is also audible before I get soaked. The heavy, straight-down rains do drum the lake — heard at a distance. After the rain, even in fog/cloud, I can hear its aftermath as it falls down the steep mountain… regular and temporary waterfalls and cascades. Sometimes, with Santoka’s _stillness_ I can hear this. His metaphors underlying the poem? I will leave this to experts on his variation of Buddhism — I am sure that silent rain is important to it.
    – Paul MacNeil)

    1. I can’t seem to track down the original Japanese of this ku by Santōka, but was able to find the romaji:

      yama no shizukesa e shizuka naru ame

      And two other translations:

      (At Eihei-ji)
      over the mountain’s silence
      silent rain

      – translated by Burton Watson (For All My Walking, Columbia University Press, 2003, #201, p 88)


      The mountain stillness
      Makes the rain still.

      -translated by John Stevens (Mountain Tasting, Weatherhill, 1980, #194, p 81)

  8. …and once spoken all poetry – all things – return to the silence from which they came. A fitting end for Viral 1. which will reemerge – changed…..

  9. Cid went beyond each piece that he translated
    into (his) mind… nothing like what he did at (mostly) his desk…. and made each piece/poem his own. And, I am sure that Cid would say/agree that… the last word is silence

    here is one of mine:

    full moon
    I think
    I’m in love with a rock


    when experience anything a “just don’t know” attitude is adequate, eh?

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