Issa Explored

The following text first appeared in Pebbles 27:5, May 2015, page 14, the journal of the Mensa special interest group focused on haiku (I’ve given several talks on haiku to my local Mensa organization). Donna is the editor of Pebbles.

by Donna Fuchsluger

Michael Dylan Welch publishes an extensive poetry website at Among the pages, he posts an article, “For the Love of Issa.” Welch, who has engaged with Issa’s work for nearly thirty years, explains in the article that he has found Issa’s work a “poetic touchstone for empathy and an appreciation of the small.” Given the amazing quantity of Issa’s haiku, Welch acknowledges that all are not of the finest quality, but believes a poet’s oeuvre is most properly judged by the works that are of finest quality. On this web page, Welch provides interesting and compelling analyses of some of Issa’s finest haiku. He insightfully connects the poetic repetitions in Issa’s haiku about a world of dew with Issa’s own grieving upon the loss of his child. Welch also remarks on some of his personal favorites, including the following seasonal selection:

        a nightingale wipes

        his muddy feet . . .

        plum blossoms

Another of Welch’s favorite haiku by Issa—and Issa himself—are imaginatively and affectionately encountered in “Flowers on the Roof of Hell.” Welch provides a link to the Jack Straw Writers Program that includes his live reading of this poem at the end of an audio blog.