Day 3

old pond--
here the frog leaps in
water's sound

The form of haiku in Japanese is, as we all learn in kindy-garten, 5 syllables first line, seven syllables second line, five syllables last line. I've read somewhere that English ought to put it into 3-5-3, which I've done here. 

My personal experience with this rhythmic translation was in Japan: a friend suggested I write a haiku for the emperor's annual competition, which I did, packing as much nature imagery as I could into a 5-7-5 haiku in English. It was full to the brim with asyntactically allied cranes, bike rides and roadsides, and when I brought it to my friend to have her help me translate it, she read it and laughed at me--she said there was no way to translate all of that into the Japanese form. (crane=tsuru=2; bike=jitensha=3; ride=noru=2; roadside=robou no=4; total=14 syllables already...). 

The 3-5-3 form seems to work fairly well with the old pond poem, compacting experience and occasion into a linguistic glimpse of that moment. I think I like the here of the above translation, as it locates us and provides the intensification/focus of the ya, the "cutting word" in the original. It reminds me of the "AND!" in Hopkins' line "AND! the fire that breaks from thee then," which provides an ecstatic resituation of the reader, of the poet, of the attention. I think the "here" gets us close to that idea of satori, the hope that the poem will provide a sudden ah ha! moment in us. 


So, three days in, and I'm already realizing that, as much as I love this little poem, I don't know that I want to carry it around with me for a whole year (especially when there are so many other poems whose company I would miss). I originally intended to "come up with" a new translation every day, with or without commentary--I think I'm going to carry a little notebook and just let inspiration strike when and where it may. Also, there are supposed to be 365 unique translations, and some days I just want to say "old pond / frog jumps in / splash," and a notebook full of reimaginings might mitigate against too many of those...

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