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