koknishu: spring 1, #5

I think just the act of posting that last translation has made me dislike it.  I’m sending Spring I, #3 back to the drawing board.  Don’t look at it any more.  We’re moving on:


    the warbler
back in the branches
    of my plum tree,
singing in the spring
even as the snow falls

Japanese poetry often lacks a sense of “speaker”, due in part to the structure of the language itself.  Using “my” inserts a presence not expressly there in the original, but I find it shrinks and personalizes the scope of the poem.  “my plum tree” has a softer, smaller feel than “the plum tree”, pulling the scene of the poem into a familiar back yard, rather than a vague, open space-with-a-plum-tree.  Still not committed to the punctuation here–I played with dashes and different use of commas, even a colon, but nothing stuck, so I went with this one-comma version.

As always, comments and criticisms welcome!


kokinshu: spring 1, #3

In an effort a higher echelon of dorkdom (Nerdvana?), I have been devoting a portion of my free time to the translation of classical Japanese poetry.  The following tanka–a short poetic form which dominated Japanese culture for quite a long time–is from the Kokinshu, specifically the first book of spring verses.  I do not claim that it is perfect, or even necessarily done, but it is the first one I think I’ve gotten to the point of “decent”.

Here we go:


oh where
do the spring mists rise?
here in fair Yoshino,
in the mountains of Yoshino,
snow keeps coming down

I’m still a bit uncomfortable with the “oh where”, it’s a little melodramatic…  Thoughts, comments, and criticisms are welcome.

lepidoptera, baby

Guys…  Guys, I’m sorry for being such a blog slacker.  Here’s Jon Stewart and Peter Laufer talking about butterflies:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

… and while we’re on the subject, I’d like to mention a neat book of poetry:  Lost Alphabet by Lisa Olstein.  I haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet, but I heard her read several of the fascinating prose poems–all told from the perspective of a lepidopterist studying specimens in a remote town–a couple years ago, before the book was published, and have been eagerly awaiting it ever since.  The poetry is a wonderful mix of focused, scientific enchantment and stark human isolation.  Here’s a sample, “White Spring“.

(Apologies again for the lack of bloggery, I will endeavour to do better going forth.)