This is very exciting for haiku readers and writers–sort of as if a dozen or so sonnets by Shakespeare suddenly appeared or a handful of paintings by Rembrandt that had been hidden away. It makes me think, on a personal level, about my relationship to the four haiku masters. There’s Basho, who inspires an almost religious awe–he’s kind of a demi-god, the John Lennon of haiku. And then Buson, the painter, who gives the impression of being a real person in the real world. Issa–the humorist who suffers unbelievably from the loss of his family, poverty, and illness. And Shiki, the modernist, dying of a paralyzing spinal tuberculosis, limited to his garden and later to what he can see from his window.
When I was a teenager, I loved Issa best, for his insects, his details, his diary. After I’d survived a devastating illness I began to identify with Shiki. And Basho–well, I’ve always loved the Beatles, but that isn’t exactly an individual taste.
Truth is, Buson is my favorite these days. He’s got the eye, he truly sees, and he’s not afraid to try a variation, putting things next to each other, testing the line. A poet’s poet–an artist–an ordinary person.
By KEIJI SATO/ Staff Writer
NARA–More than 200 previously unknown poems by leading Edo Period (1603-1867) haikuist and artist Yosa Buson have been found in an anthology at the Tenri Central Library here.
Shinichi Fujita, a professor of haiku in the early modern era at Kansai University in Osaka Prefecture, said, “Buson is someone who we thought had already been thoroughly researched. It is a shock to find a compilation of his poems unknown until now.”
Buson (1716-1783) is considered one of the three great haiku masters of the Edo Period, along with Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) and Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828).
The anthology contains 212 previously unknown haiku poems.
For such a large number of poems to come to light in one go is singularly rare.
One poem goes: “Large-eyed dragonfly/ flies from here to there/ while wearing glasses.” Another reads: “Paper umbrella/ with holes poking through allows/ moonlight to shine down.”
The poems are contained in two volumes that are copies of an anthology put together by Buson’s disciples while he was alive.
Tenri Central Library, affiliated with Tenri University, purchased the volumes four years ago from a bookstore.
Researchers cross-referenced the poems found in the anthology with the nine-volume complete works of Buson published by Kodansha Ltd. Of the 1,903 poems arranged by season in the anthology, 212 were confirmed as having been never seen before.
The anthology was known to exist even before World War II. A specialty haiku magazine published in 1934 introduced 35 poems said to be contained in that anthology. However, the whereabouts of the anthology became unclear.
A total of about 2,900 haiku poems have been attributed to Buson.
The latest find will be on display at Tenri Central Library between Oct. 19 and Nov. 8. Admission is free.
The red arrows mark poems of Buson’s.