Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Room of My Own: Frog Pond Haiku

 written in response to Robert Aitken’s commentary on Basho's frog haiku

frog pond...
the weight of a shadow
on the lotus leaf

Note: For more information, see
1) Poetic Musings: Generic Analysis of Basho’s Frog Haiku (written from the perspective of kigo) or
2) To the Lighthouse: Cutting through Time and Space (written from the perspective of  kire (cutting))


  1. I once met an avid reader of haiku who could recite at least ten different English versions of Basho's frog haiku, but when I asked him, “what makes Basho's haiku so great that is worthy of more than a hundred different translations published in book form?” How could there be significant meaning in such a simple poem which merely describes a frog jumping into an old pond? If I replace “frog” with any other amphibian creature or any creature that can dive into a pond, is it still considered to be great? ” At the time I received no good answers from him, but a few days later I received a lengthy email, in which he gave me a list of books or websites on Basho’s frog haiku. One of them was an often-quoted website page titled “Matsuo Basho: Frog Haiku: Thirty-one Translations and One Commentary.” The commentary was taken from Robert Aitken’s A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen, a collection of essays on Basho’s haiku. I wasn’t satisfied with any of the answers from his sources because of their individualistic, de-contextualized, and Zen-influenced interpretations of Basho’s haiku. More importantly, they didn’t help answer my question. I pondered, “What would Basho say if he were alive today and could read these English language reviews of his frog haiku written by writers or lovers of haiku?”

  2. Below is the link to the full text of Robert Aitken’s widely-read, Zen-influenced commentary in which there is almost nothing about a contextualized analysis of Basho's use of kigo or kire (cutting)

    Note: kigo and kireji (cutting words) are two of three formal requirements for writing classical Japanese haiku