I am trying to review more of the kids book I read, and this is one that that's been bugging me forever. Haiku make me insane, totally insane, because I love them and they are impossible and crazy. My soul dies a little every single time someone says to me, "I don't get poetry." People say this a lot. You may be saying this now, and you are wrong. You get it. Just roll the words in your mouth. Say them out loud. Declaim to your cat or your lover or the wall. Words, baby, words, they are the sexiest thing ever, and poetry is sex for your brain.
Where was I? Oh yeah. So, hrm, haiku makes me insane because of the in-translation thing. Lots of bellyaching goes on about the translations of novels - I'll just gesture to the fights I've seen go down over Dostoevsky translations as my back-up - but the translation of poetry is so much freaking worse. I can't even imagine trying to translate a sonnet, from English, let alone a Wm Shakespeare one that hinges on all kinds of puns. And the haiku is (arguably) a harder form to translate. I'm given to understand that haiku in Japanese were often written in context - one coming after the other on a roll. They are conversational, a terse statement in a rolling back-and-forth. So they get weird when they are broken off from the group and considered singly. It's like taking a comment out of a thread and reading "LOL" and thinking, what? This commenter was an idiot.
So, these poems, collected in this book for children. Children get poetry, and I love them for it. We read them scads of poetry, from Mother Goose to Dr. Suess, and it's still funny to me that we claim we don't get it. So here, we have these fragments from a life, and they break my heart with their beauty and concision. But, holy man, do I wish the art were better. The art is awful. I admit I have some problems with pencil drawings, but could it get creepier than this? No.
I'll be getting a big person's book of Issa, when I can, and I'm happy I found this in with the kiddies' books.