Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grasshopper At Peace

My childhood friend, Conal, is highly trained in many fields, among them languages. He is trained in both art and science. He loves Basho, a Japanese Haiku poet, among the most famous. He wrote this morning:

"Here is the preface as translated by Dorothy Britton (and the three lines of verse translated by me, since I didn't care for her attempt):

"Tada Shrine

"At Komatsu, we visited Tada Shrine. There we saw the helmet of the warrior Sanemori [1111-1183] and a piece of his brocade armor robe. They are said to have been given him by Lord Yoshitomo of Minamoto, when Sanemori served with the Genji clan.
It was no ordinary helmet. From its peak to the turned-back ear flanges, it was embellished all over with chrysanthemum arabesques in gold. The crest was a dragon's head, and the helmet had flat, gilded 'horns' that were proud and graceful.
When Sanemori was killed in battle, Kiso Yoshinaka sent Jiroo of Higuchi to offer these relics to the shrine. All this is vividly recorded in the shrine's chronicles.

A cruel fate
For the great warrior's helmet:
Home to a grasshopper"

I replied,

I want to write one now from the grasshopper's perspective.

Maybe like this:

Grasshopper At Peace
(on an abandoned but ornate warrior's helmet)

I have found myself
clinging to a slippery
slope, gilded and warm
in old summer sun,
in the heat of late
afternoon, nothing nearby
to eat, still, at peace.


  1. your still talking about Oregon Coastal Towns right?

  2. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. :)

  3. Footnote to the Basho piece (with its prose prologue that reminds one of many of Christopher's own prologues here):
    There are so many ways to attempt a literary translation, but just one way to translate the poem literally:
    [The] tragic helmet's underside's grasshopper...
    (Muzanya-na/Kabuto no shita no/Kirigirisu)
    That's it. EXCEPT, 'kirigirisu' is surely an onomatopoeic word, not only denoting 'grasshopper' but also suggesting its chirp. So, to reflect this aspect of the poem, Dorothy Britton introduces multiple grasshoppers singing:
    What a tragic thing:
    'Neath a mighty warrior's helm
    Grasshoppers chirruping!
    Compare her atttempt and mine against the literal translation, and one can see immediately what a thankless task (or fool's errand) it is to dabble in (or devote a lifetime to) so-called 'poetry translation'!

  4. Amen to that, so no one should do it except as a calling because only a connection to some larger source will permit the ongoing task to continue day after day without causing a burnout along the way.

    We cannot do this nor can we do so many other thankless tasks we encounter as possible life paths without a connection to a larger source. In this case the godesses of poesy, the Muses, have to honor your translation work or you will quit and do something else rather quickly.

    Also a thick skin helps since there will be many self assured critics of any possible translation.

  5. Also, I might suggest that an entire rewrite such as mine is also a translation. All it did was shift the viewpoint and suggest that the view shifting changes tragedy into late hot afternoon peace.

  6. First, I hope you're feeling somewhat better today!

    Second, I like the found-poem frame and the grasshopper voice in this one. Perfectly natural and content.

  7. Joseph, I always appreciate your visits and value your comments. I wish that my full time work and old age mixture didn't stop me from roaming the nets. I have really limited energy any more.

    And thanks for asking after me. The bleeding stopped after two days of trouble and stopped as inexplicably as it started, since it was a week after the procedure. I had to suffer human fallibility and then I think God's sense of humor too. You may have noticed how God loves a good practical joke. There is no doubt about that.

  8. wow! beautiful.. everything


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

Get Your Own Visitor Map!