After the Haiku of Yosa Buson

      by David Budbill

In 2015, David Budbill published After the Haiku of Yosa Buson (Kanona, New York: FootHills Publishing), a collection of poems written in response to translations by W. S. Merwin and Takako Lento in Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 2013). Budbill refers to his poems as “take-offs” that aim to “transfer as many of these poems as possible into the vernacular and with the common objects of where I live here in northeastern Vermont” (5). Each poem comes with a title and he makes it clear that “They are not haiku” (5). The book presents 194 poems in four seasonal sections. Among these poems are the following that directly refer to Bashō, Buson, or haiku in particular. These are selections of David Budbill’s poems about haiku, inspired by Buson, among other poems in other books.

Meeting at Bashō’s Hut

Buson met someone at Bashō’s hut
where both of them noticed
someone else had been tending Bashō’s garden                                               page 14

Buson Stood Guard

Buson stood guard over the traditions of Japanese poetry
If I stood guard over poetic traditions
What would I do?                                                                                                page 24

Buson Calls

Buson calls the bush warbler’s song a mistake
How can that be?
Does the bush warbler not know his own song?                                                page 25

Buson’s Poems

I make take-offs of Buson’s poems
while two vases of peonies
here on the dining room table
flavor the air                                                                                                       page 36


Fall is the time to be lonely and sad
That’s why I love fall so much
Buson felt the same way I do                                                                             page 50

Famed Shakuhachi

I wish I could visit Suma Temple
the way both Buson and Bashō did
to hear the famed shakuhachi                                                                            page 52

Cold Rain

At Bashō’s hut Buson says
winter is apon us
here are the clouds
bringing the cold rain                                                                                         page 53


I read Buson’s poem about catching a bass
and think
it’s been a long time since I went fishing                                                         page 56

Red Maple

Around the tenth of the tenth month Buson said
It’s aging leaves, unable to bear frost, fluttered down
stirring in me a deeply felt pathos                                                                    page 61

Skinny Legs

Tairo died a few months after Buson wrote
Skinny legs getting up from a sick bed
I see myself in this scene too                                                                           page 75

Simple Poems

These simple poems say
be honest
no matter what you do                                                                                     page 75


These small poems
are connections between
ancient Japan and here                                                                                   page 80

Bashō’s Tomb

At Bashō’s tomb Buson said
I will die too
Me too and you                                                                                               page 85