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Haiku of Issa

SEAL Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) is renowned as a writer of endearing poetry.

Much harassed by his stepmother, unhappy Issa (1763-1827) was a continual butt of fate. He is considered less poetic but more lovable than Basho and Buson. His tender, witty haiku about his dead children, his bitter poverty, his little insect friends, endear him to a reader.

The humbled Issa got rather far out when it comes to concerns, farther than many a modern pet-owner. Such a focus makes his poetry interesting.

Under his gaze everyday subjects are treated with ordinary language, but take on a lyrical quality through sharp, inquisitive wit and overt sympathy too.

His way with words is of simple, unpretentious language. He often writes about moments and landscape elements, and captures isolation very well. His haiku poetry is called one of sentimental simplicity, and first and foremost endearing.

Poems by Issa

A sudden shower falls -

and naked I am riding

on a naked horse.

Summer shower -

naked horse

a naked rider.

A frog and I,

eyeball to eyeball.

My empty face,

betrayed by lightening.

Cool breeze,


in a grass-blade.

Step by step

up a summer mountain -

suddenly: the sea.

Cries of wild geese,

rumors spread about me.

Stillness -

clouds peak

in the lake.

Just by being,

I'm here -

in the snow-fall.


onto Mount Kiso,

the Milky Way.

What a moon -

if only my grumbling wife

were here.

In this windy nest

open your hungry

mouth in vain . . .

Issa, stepchild bird

On the death of his child:

Dew evaporates

and all our world

is dew . . . So dear,

So fresh, so fleeting

A gate made all of twigs

With woven grass

For hinges . . .

For a lock . . . This snail

Arise from sleep, old cat,

and with great yawns

and stretchings . . .

Amble out for love

Hi! My little hut

is newly-thatched

I see . . .

Blue morning-glories

Dim the grey cow comes

mooing mooing

and mooing

Out of the morning mist

What a peony . . .

demanding to be


By my little fan!

A nursemaid scarecrow . . .

frightening the

wind and sun

From playing baby

A saddening world:

flowers whose sweet

blooms must fall . . .

As we too, alas . . .

Hi! Kids mimicking

cormorants . . . You are

more like

Real cormorants than


Over the mountain

bright the full white

moon now smiles . . .

On the flower-thief

Good friend grasshopper

will you play

the caretaker

For my little grave?

Giddy grasshopper

take care . . . Do not

leap and crush

These pearls of dewdrop

Now be a good boy

take good care of

our house . . .

Cricket my child

Good evening breeze!

crooked and


Your homeward journey

The turnip farmer rose

and with a fresh-

pulled turnip . . .

Pointed to my road

I am going out . . .

be good and play


My cricket children

If strangers threaten

turn into fat

green bullfrogs . . .

Pond-cooling melons

Live in simple faith . . .

just as this

trusting cherry

Flowers, fades, and falls

Oh do not swat them . . .

unhappy flies


Wringing their thin hands

In the city fields


cherry-trees . . .

Strangers are like friends

Yellow autumn moon . . .


the scarecrow stands

Simply looking bored

Cruel autumn wind

cutting to the

very bones . . .

Of my poor scarecrow

I must turn over . . .

beware of local


Bedfellow cricket!

Visiting the graves . . .

trotting on to show

the way . . .

Old family dog

Before boiled chestnuts

cross-legged lad

is squatting . . .

Carved wooden Buddha

Nice: wild persimmons . . .

and notice how

the mother

Eats the bitter parts

What a gorgeous one

that fat sleek huge

old chestnut

I could not get at . . .

Oh former renter

I know it all, all . . .

down to

The very cold you felt

Plume of pampas grass


in every wind . . .

Hush, my lonely heart

Considerate dogs . . .

stepping off

into the snow

As I walk the path

Buddha on the hill . . .

from your holy

nose indeed

Hangs an icicle

The orphan speaks:

the year-end party . . .

I am even envious

Of scolded children


Haiku, Issa Kobayashi, Japanese poetry, Literature  

Beilenson, Peter, tr. Japanese Haiku. New York: Peter Pauper Press, 1955.

Bownas, Geoffrey and Anthony Thwaite. Japanese Verse. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964.

Dørumsgaard, Arne. Bak sorgens kyst: Issa i norsk gjendiktning (1762-1827). Oslo: Dreyer, 1966.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, i.e., Britannica Online.

Haugen, Paal-Helge: Blad frå ein austleg hage: hundre Haiku-dikt (Leaves from an Eastern Garden: A Hundred Haiku). Oslo: Det norske Samlaget, 1965.

Kobayashi, Issa: Bak sorgens kyst: Issa i norsk gjendiktning (1762-1827) (Behind Sorrow's Coast: Issa Rendered into Norwegian) by Arne Dørumsgaard. Oslo: Dreyer, 1966.

Sher, Gail. The Haiku Masters. Emeryville, CA: Night Crane Press, 2008.

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