Haikus of despair

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Haikus of despair
By Eric Margolis • Issue #12 • View online
The darkness is upon us.
September is here. Summer is over.
Winter is coming.
Or so you would think, reading some of the depressing haikus that are out there. Poetry is a vehicle for angst, and haikus are no exception. And while it’s still sunny and gorgeous here in New Haven, let’s look at a few haikus of despair–and get them out of the way before the weather actually turns depressing!
Despairing Haiku No. 1: Kobayashi Issa recounts his depressing childhood.
名月を とってくれると 泣く子かな
Get me out of here!
I cried all autumn under
the black sky, blood moon.
We get it, Kobayashi. You had a very sad childhood. Since haikus are usually about the subject observing a distant object, I decided to turn this haiku on its head in the translation, and interpret (which is grammatically viable) the subject as the author. It makes a quite despairing poem even more despairing.
Transliteration: Meigetsu o / Totte kureru to / naku ko ka na
Literal: The harvest moon / take it for me! / cries a child, I think…
Despairing Haiku No. 2: This time Kobayashi projects his angst on to an innocent frog.
やせ蛙 負けるな一茶 これにあり
Say that you won’t die—
Not here, not now, grab a leaf—
Old frog, see the sky.
Transliteration: Yase kaeru / makeru na issa / Kore ni ari
Literal: Thin frog / Do not lose a single leaf / existing here
Kobayashi begs that the old frog will not die… that it will cling to life. Don’t give up!, Koba says! But alas. The frog dies. The end.
Now that all that despair is out of the way, let’s enjoy a beautiful autumn.
-Eric

 

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Eric Margolis

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