Kobayashi Issa (1762-1826)

Issa, whose name literally translates as 'cup-of-tea' is the third of the four haiku masters, and was a country bumpkin who wrote many haiku about smaller creatures like grasshoppers, sparrows and cicadas. When Issa was just two years old, his mother died, and was reportedly looked after by a very wicked stepmother.

Early in his life he was forced to move away from the country to the city, where he began his career as a poet. Thus his poetry also includes depictions of street life, and the poverty in the city at that time, his poetry is also often infused with a sentimental humor about human concerns.

In Japan there is a far greater interest in Issa than in many other haiku poets, an interest that extends to his life alongside his poetry. he might even represent a thoreau-like figure to many.

He also wrote an autobiographical haibun, titled My Spring. Haibun is a Japanese literary composition that combines Haiku with prose.

farewell! farewell!

hands waving

in the mist

on the flower pot

does the butterfly, too

hear Buddha's promise?

before the gate--

my cane makes a river

of melting snow

spring peace--

a mountain monk peeks

through the hedge

Come with me,

Let's play together, swallow

Without a mother.

Young sparrows, get out of the way!

get out of the way!

A great horse is coming by!

Thud Thud

Upon the flowers

Drops the horse turd

Hey! Don't Swat:

the fly wrings his hands

on bended knees

Puny frog

Don't give up

Issa's here!

Don't get alarmed

You Corner Spiders

I won't touch your webs

Under cherry-flowers

None are utter strangers.

Falling cherry petals say

Hurry, hurry

Thy preparedness for death

Don't get alarmed

You Corner Spiders

I won't touch your webs

people scattered

the leaves too scattered

and spread

Can China have

such a night as this

when the hototogisu sings?

After all, after all

I commend myself and mine to you-

Now at the year's end

visit haiku guy's Issa website

Issa is one of the four great Haiku Masters, for info on the others, click here

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