Homage: Frog-age . . .

tree frog by larry kelly/haiga by margaret dornaus

Recently, Melissa Allen of Red Dragonfly posted a string of brilliant “afters” inspired by some of the master Bashō’s haiku.  As a translator, I know how difficult (impossible?) it is to translate either French or Spanish poetry into English, but Japanese . . . that’s a whole different kettle of, well, frogs.  Even so, I (like thousands of other haiku enthusiasts) have given more than a little thought to how I would interpret Bashō’s signature frog haiku.  You know the one: The old pond–/a frog jumps in,/sound of water.   That translation by Robert Hass is, I think, a pretty good one.  But believe me there are many others!  (Jump in here to see 30 similar froggy versions.) What I like most about Hass’ interpretation is, ironically, what he left out of his translation: a note explaining the choices he made, including the one for the last phrase (mizu no oto), literally “sound of water,” which other translators have tried to capture variously with plop, splash, glub . . .

I toyed with the idea of leaping into that frog pond of translations myself, but I just couldn’t do it, and, anyway, it’s already pretty crowded.  Instead, inspired by haiga artist (and ku-me buddy) Rick Daddario of 19 Planets, I decided to have a little fun with an image my husband captured several years ago when an unexpected visitor came to call. 

Forgive me, Bashō-san . . . won’t you?

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About Margaret Dornaus

I’m a writer and a teacher, as well as a haiku-doodler. I live in a beautiful woodland setting, surrounded by native oak forests, that inspires me to record haiku snapshots of luna moths and our resident roadrunner, and even an occasional black bear as it hightails it across the top of my road, my mongrel dog barking at its heels as I watch with wonder. My work as a travel writer has appeared in publications from The Dallas Morning News to the Robb Report. You can find examples of my travel writing–as well as excerpts from a travel memoir I’m working on–at my other WordPress site, Travelin’ On. What more than that do you need to know? Only that I started this blog with an eye toward collaboration. Got a haiku? Send it my way. . . . I’m all about new visions & voices. Best, Margaret
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14 Responses to Homage: Frog-age . . .

  1. Eric says:

    I think Bashō-san would forgive you, since you’re promoting the spirit of haiku.

  2. Van K. Brock says:

    A most impressive post, Margaret, and all the links. Excellent treatise on haiku.

  3. Wonderful meditation on this famous haiku, and I love all the links too! I gave a paraphrase a shot (I don’t call them translations because I don’t read Japanese):

    An old pond
    A frog leaps in…
    Ah, the sound of water.

    And this is my rather irreverent tribute:

    When the frog leaped in
    Basho’s venerable pond
    Which one made the sound?

    • Thanks, Abigail. Good to hear your voice again. I love the addition of the “Ah”–perfect. I definitely think it captures the idea of the water’s mystical qualities. And as to your “irreverent” one, it continues in that vein with your question. Lovely.

  4. MLA says:

    I love your version, Margaret (and the haiga!). And thanks for the kind words about my stabs at Basho. 🙂 For some reason the idea of tackling the frog haiku really intimidates me …

    • Thanks, Melissa. Obviously, the frog haiku intimidates me too . . . given that so many others have already gigged it. So, I just thought I’d have some fun. Besides, I couldn’t pass up that frog picture! It was screaming for a haiga!

  5. bwahahahahahaha – gotta like the haiga Margaret. way fun. i thought that frog was plopping on my window for a moment… or was that in my memory? thanks for the 19 Planets note, it’s a treat to be a muse. …of course sometimes it works both ways you know…

    water ballet
    the frog and i swim
    in the pond

  6. Pingback: Across the Haikuverse, no. 4 « Red Dragonfly

  7. Pingback: Toad Suck . . . | Haiku-doodle

  8. Very nice haiga. I like that you put a little heart on the frog.

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