Review: Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson; trans. W.S. Merwin and Takako Lento

What a masterpiece. At the end of the book it’s noted that the poems were assembled by Buson’s followers against Buson’s wishes because he says a collection of poems diminishes great artists. Buson is a great artist, though, and as far as I’m concerned better than Basho and better than even Li Po. Rare is the artist who can pull so much out of so little. The translation is mighty fine, too.

Every poem I read in this book gives me a feeling of being closer to 18th century Japanese life and of being closer to nature itself. It’s a good thing too because regularly I’d like to keep the relationship professional, but these poems always make the subject matter seem brilliant and beautiful in its own way. Buson was also a master of humor as well as the descriptive arts and those sides come together brilliantly to make a nuanced voice in the haiku world. It’s almost impossible to read a poem in this book and not feel like you came away with something.

Final Grade: A+

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