A Winter Renewal with Issa

| Haibun: Winter Renewal | Comments on Issa’s Haiku | More Haiku by Issa |

winter cottage at the end of shadowed moss wood creek : r rasmussen image

Issa and I have resided in this remote Ontario cabin for a month now. He speaks to me through his writing and accompanies me on my walks. I speak to him by writing about his poetry. Today, he’s lecturing me on compassion:

don’t worry spiders
I keep house

~ Issa

So instead of engaging in my usual spider mayhem by employing the broom as a weapon of web destruction, I try to keep spidy and friends at a comfortable distance as I write this haibun and commentary based on an excerpt from Issa’s travel journal, Oraga Haru.

Finished writing for the day, I don snowshoes for a walk. The wildlife tracks are numerous: fox, deer, coyote, porcupine, rabbit, squirrel, endearing tiny tracks, and for the first time in a long while, wild turkey . . . and I wonder how a wild turkey would taste . . .

don’t worry turkeys
I hunt
quite ineptly
~ ray rasmussen (after Issa)

Back in the cabin, the radio informs me about the corona virus pandemic. And Issa shares some of the angst of his era …

in this world
we walk on the roof of hell,
gazing at flowers

~ Issa

It’s winter, Issa, no flowers here. Will this leaf hanging from a small shrub do? Today I’m capturing images of the bluish tree shadows cast by the setting sun. I can’t help but feel remiss in my compassion for humanity while enjoying winter’s sublime beauty.

in this world,
a virus plagues our minds,
gazing at tree shadows

~ ray rasmussen (after Issa)

I look out at the maple, ash and oak trees, all stripped of their leaves, and see myself, self-isolated, stripped of friends and obligations, and yet some weathered leaves have remained through winter on the beech trees, just as warm memories of friends and family have remained in my heart while away.

And so Issa shows me a way through adversity:

what good luck!
bitten by
this year’s mosquitoes too

~ Issa

Thank you, Issa mentor-friend . . .

what good luck!
yet another day refreshed
by frigid winds

~ ray rasmussen (after Issa)

~ end ~


The haiku by Issa are translations by Robert Hass. My 3-line poems are modelled on Issa’s.

The commentary on Issa’s haibun that I referenced in the haibun above appears as a feature in A Hundred Gourds 3:3 June 2014.

Below is an excerpt (with a few modifications) about the life of Kobayashi Issa taken from David G. Lanoue’s Haiku Guy website. If you’d like to know more about the poet that many Japanese think of as their favourite haiku master or peruse many of Lanoue’s translations of Issa’s haiku, the Haiku Guy website is the place to visit.

Koybayashi Issa (1763-1828) practiced the art of haiku (then called haikai) as he wandered the length and breadth of Japan. Though his real name was Kobayashi Yatarô, he chose Issa (Cup-of-Tea) as his haiku name. He also referenced himself as “Shinano Province’s Chief Beggar” and “Priest Cup-of-Tea of Haiku Temple.” His work was imbued with Buddhist themes: sin, grace, trusting in Amida Buddha, reincarnation, transience, compassion, and the joyful celebration of the ordinary. ~ David G. Lanoue (modified a bit by Ray Rasmussen)

2 thoughts on “A Winter Renewal with Issa

  1. I especially liked the Haibun about the spider, made me laugh😊. I like the way you laid this out. Feels much like a journey, which I suppose is what a haibun is to be about. I also like the weaving together of past and present. I learned from this, thank you.


    Liked by 2 people

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