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A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen by Robert…

A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen (edition 1982)

by Robert Aitken

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1263141,065 (3.95)1
Title:A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen
Authors:Robert Aitken
Info:New York : Weatherhill, 1982
Collections:Your library
Tags:poetry, haiku, Japanese literature, criticism, read 2018

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A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku & Zen by Robert Aitken



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English (2)  German (1)  All languages (3)
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The poetry was great, the translations interesting, the commentary was somewhat self-centered but okay. What drove me crazy was the zen lecture related to each poem, especially Aitken's comparing of Basho's wanderings to Aitken's students sitting around in a dojo. There are reasons zen practice makes me want to scream, "Wake Up!" ( )
  aulsmith | Dec 31, 2013 |
Robert Aitken's, A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku & Zen is an exceptionally fine book on two counts: it is a penetrating commentary on Zen as lived by the poet Basho, and it is an exemplary translation of Basho's poetry.

What makes A Zen Wave stand out? Translators of haiku, of which there have been many, have employed a variety of strategies in attempting to render the compact haiku form into English. In translating Basho, Aitken has adopted the only sensible strategies: he dispenses with the 5-7-5 syllable structure, for the simple reason that it doesn't work in English, and he resists any temptation to impose western poetic conventions. Instead, he focuses on capturing the Zen spirit of Basho. It is here, in conveying the spirit of Basho's haiku, that Aitken proves himself exceptionally adept.

For each poem, Aitken first gives his English translation, followed by a romanized version (romaji), and a literal, word-for-word transliteration of the Japanese. This allows the reader to appreciate both what the original poem looked like, and the liberties taken by the translator in 'creating' an English version. This format discloses the translation process with uncommon honesty. It allows and compels Aitken to explain and justify his translations. Here is an example: The Old Pond

(First Aitken's translation)

The old pond;
A frog jumps in—
The sound of water.

(Then the romaji)
Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

(Then the literal transliteration)
Old pond!
frog jumps in
water of sound

Then, in a section called "The Form," Aitken provides a detailed explanation of the pertinent grammatical features, such as the cutting word, "ya," and how the poem's structure creates its poetic effects. This section is then followed by the author's commentary: historical, poetical, and Zen-influenced. In his commentary, he provides critical evaluations of other translations, assessing their fidelity to the original, and provides a rationale for his own version. I personally found this commentary very helpful in appreciating Basho's haiku.

If you are interested in Basho, in haiku in general, in poetry, or in Zen, I think you'll find A Zen Wave an exceptional book. ( )
  melnicolai | Dec 7, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Aitkenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Merwin, W.S.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The old pond; A frog jumps in--The sound of water.

Furu ike ya Old pond!
kawazu tobikomu frog jumps in
mizu no oto water of sound
for Anne
First words
The Form Ya is a cutting word that seperates and yet joins the expressions before and after.
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