Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Poetic Musings: Burned Fields Haiku by Anonymous

Japanese Original:

Kusa-moyuru ikioi ari ya yakenohara

English Translation

the grass
sprouting wildly ...
burned fields

Anonymous,  “Current Events Haiku” Column, Taiwan Daily News, 27 January 1901, p4.
trans. by Chen-ou Liu


Denotatively speaking, "burned fields" (or burned plains) is an early spring season word, and "the grass sprouting," is a frequent association in poems with "burned fields" (Brink, "Conventional Projections of Nature and Labor in Early Colonial Taiwan," p. 337). In the old days, Japanese farmers burned the fields or plains to make way for  new grass, and they made fertilizer from the ashes. 

Connotatively speaking,  this anonymous haiku was published in the “Current Events Haiku” Column of  Taiwan Daily News on 27 January 1901, mainly employed to be a symbol of crushing the recent Taiwanese armed resistance to the Japanese colonial rule, which began in 1895 after Qing China lost the First Sino-Japanese War to Japan. And evaluated in this sociopolitical context, “the grass,” takes on "the meaning of the people of Taiwan, and with “sprouting wildly” Ls 1 &2  indicate a "condescending framing of Taiwanese Chinese and aboriginal peoples as just starting to grow into the modern model which would suit the Japanese (being shaped to serve the needs of agriculture and industry)" (Ibid.)

Note: This "Poetic Musings" post is a part of my essay project, titled "Politics and Poetics of Haiku in Taiwan," written for the Haiku Foundation.


Dean Brink, "Conventional Projections of Nature and Labor in Early Colonial Taiwan," Oriental Archive, 79, 2011, p.337.

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