Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rocks Scattered Here and There

This week I have discovered for myself a wonderful connection between an 18th century Japanese poet, Yosa Buson(与謝蕪村), an 11th century poet/ philosopher Su Shih (蘇軾), and the 11th century novelist Murasaki Shikibu (紫 式 部).

Murasaki Shikibu wrote Genji Monogatari, a 54 chapter novel, possibly the first novel of its kind ever written (~1000 A.D.), and certainly the single most important piece of classical Japanese literature to this day.

And…for a thousand years, Japanese renga and haikai poets have borrowed phrases from, and been inspired by the prose poems Murasaki wrote into Genji Monogatari. In fact, her novel was a revered store-house of poems often consulted by master Japanese poets.

Seven hundred years later, Buson was one such poet inspired by Genji Monogatari.

But…Buson was also inspired by Su Shih’s Prose Poems on the Red Cliffs, written 700 years before Buson picked-up a writing brush.

The Su Shih passage Buson liked most was:

“The mountains rise high,
the moon looks small,
and water falls between the rocks”.

Reading this passage very slowly, I only then become aware of how much I love the imagery Su Shih conjures in this brief poem. I am a mountaineer and that poem simply and beautifully captures a scenic moment in time, a moment I have experienced many times while climbing in the Olympic Mountain Range of the Great Northwest.

Buson had penned a very similar poem, Rocks Scattered Here and There, actually a haiku painting, many years before reading Su Shih. Please enjoy his poem and haiku painting shown below.

Title: Rocks Scattered Here and There
Written By 立圃書 (Yosa Buson)

Willow leaves are gone,
the fresh brook has now run dry--
rocks scattered here and there.

Yanagi chiri
shimizu kare ishi

Picture is Buson Haiga for Rocks Scattered Here and There

References I relied upon on for this article were:
The Sights and Sounds of Red Cliffs: On Reading Su Shi

The poet-painters: Buson and his followers

Haiku Painting

The Tale of Genji

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ducks in Reeds

I believe “Ducks in Reeds” is beautiful in its simplicity and minimalism - it has started me on a path to exploring more of the Japanese master painters/ poets from the Edo era.

Title: Ducks in Reeds
Written By 立圃書 (Ryuuho)
Haiku Poem:

Within the withered reeds
the turquoise feathers
of wild ducks

Kare-ashi no
Naka ni aoba no
Magamo kana

Calligraphy is:
枯葦の 中に青羽の 真鴨

For me, the poem lends a peaceful dynamic to the painting. I can almost feel the quiet isolation of ducks feeding on minnows, as the stream slowly drifts through the marshy islands and a gentle wind bends the reeds.

As I admire the painting, I notice that the calligraphy in the upper left of the painting frames a curving space in the river stream. From this curve extends three small, marsh- like islands stretching across the center of the painting; notice the small black dots on each island are ducks grazing there. In the foreground near the bottom are two detailed pictures of the ducks.

Second Translation:
Withered reed
within --  blue feather
wild duck

This poem, along with its translation and depiction are published in the excellent book :
Haiku and Haiga: Moments in Word and Image

I invite your comments on this work of art.