Select one of the keywords
Zen Haiku    translated by Jonathan Clements order for
Zen Haiku
by Jonathan Clements
Order:  USA  Can
Frances Lincoln, 2008 (2008)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Zen Haiku is a treasure for poetry lovers, not only for the excellent haiku between the covers, but also for its exquisite replications of paintings and woodblock prints (mainly of the Edo Period, 1603-1867) from the Art Institute of Chicago. An Afterword tells us that artists of this era 'often used ellipsis, suggestive but unexpected juxtapositions, and deceptive simplicity ... to engage the imagination of the viewer in a similar way as poets used these techniques to involve the reader.'

The collection - both haiku and art - is organized into four sections, covering Dawn, Daylight, Dusk and Moonlight. At the back, notes provide historical and personal context for each haiku verse.In his Introduction, Jonathan Clements reminds us that the haiku poet 'inscribes a partial idea that leaves an all-important space for the reader to fill in ... the poem comes alive through your own memories and feelings.' So different haiku will speak most strongly to each of us.

Here are a few that spoke clearly to me. Tama cries, 'Take me with you / Fly free from servitude / My kite.' Shiro sees that 'The Witherer blows / And day by day / The wild ducks are more beautiful.' Saryu tells us 'Without a brush / The willow paints the wind.' The renowned Basho observes that 'If seen by day / A firefly / Is just a red-necked bug.' And I love the wryness of Hyakuchi's 'With one who does not speak his every thought / I spend a pleasant evening.'

Though I'm sure that these succinct verses - probably even more than other poetry forms - lose much in the translation, Zen Haiku remains a feast for the eye, the imagination, and the intellect. It belongs in the collections of all poetry lovers, especially those who appreciate the way poems and the visual arts can work together.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews