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The River of Heaven: The Haiku of Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki
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The River of Heaven: The Haiku of Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  32 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
Known to many as the study of quiet stillness and introspection, Zen Buddhism distinguishes itself through brilliant flashes of insight and its terseness of expression. In River of Heaven these concepts and pillars lend themselves to an exploration of Haiku, one of the most delicate and interpretive poetic forms in the world. The haiku verse form, with its rigid structure ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Counterpoint (first published May 1st 2011)
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Sean the Bookonaut
Aug 08, 2015 Sean the Bookonaut rated it really liked it
The variance in translations of the four Haiku masters usually makes any book on their best pieces interesting.

Aitken’s, River of Heaven, adds to this interest the insight of a western Zen teacher, so the reader has not only the pleasure of reading old favourites (perhaps slightly altered) but of reading a Zen infused short commentary on each.

While I found some of these commentaries a little light on content and some of them drew what I feel was a long bow in terms of interpreting the poets inte
Dec 29, 2014 g026r rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, 2014
Poem selection is average. Aesthetically, the translations are merely passable. (At one point he quote's Amy Lowell's version of a Buson poem, which only serves to have his appear inferior.) But the real problem here are the notes.

Whether it requires it or not, each poem is accompanied by a paragraph or more of only marginally useful notes. Well, notes is probably not entirely correct, as that would suggest that they help to explain the meaning of obscure terms or references. Sometimes, perhaps
Patti K
Feb 01, 2013 Patti K rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This volume of haiku is very enjoyable. Aitken provides short
notes after each poem to describe context and custom which enrich
the reader's appreciation. A good selection from each of these
haiku masters. I recommend it highly.
Whole And
Mar 24, 2015 Whole And rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
After listening to a Mary Pope Osborne story which included Basho, the Japanese Haiku writer and teacher, we sought out books with his poetry. This book is a wonderful collection of poems with commentary providing context and explanation of what we are reading and how it came to be.
A lovely collection with wonderful guidance.

Zack Rock
Jan 04, 2012 Zack Rock rated it it was amazing
The selections themselves are wonderful; as evocative and stirring as you would expect from these masters of the form. But the real treat here is the commentary. Aitken's selections are personal, and he treats their exegesis with similar subjectivity. Much is given in the way of historical and literary context (of which Aitken displays expert familiarity), but many of his comments are related directly back to his own situation. I found these moments of critical candor, rather than distracting fr ...more
David Grant
Jan 18, 2015 David Grant rated it really liked it
I wanted to know Aitken Roshi's thoughts since he was returning to his initial impulse, so long ago.
Thomas Dolan
Aug 07, 2011 Thomas Dolan rated it liked it
Shelves: favorites, poetry, haiku
I really want to get this book...will give review once I finallly have had the immense pleasure of reading the haiku of the masters.


The selection of haiku was average, and the commentary just reworded the haiku. THis destroyed the "moment" for me. The only useful aspects of the author's intrusions was to provide a biography of the poets. Too biased...I din't care how the poems relate to Mr. Aitken, I bought the book for haiku.

I would recommend buying Haiku: An Anthology of Japanese Poems i
Stuart Estell
Jun 25, 2011 Stuart Estell rated it liked it
Wonderful poetry of course, but I found the commentary very variable. At its best it explicates the background to Japanese terms that don't translate well. At its worst it's irritating: Haiku as a form is all about suggestion - to offer a paragraph of fanciful extrapolation from the poem's conceit is rather missing the point.
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Robert Aitken is a retired master of the Diamond Sangha, a Zen Buddhist society he founded in Honolulu in 1959 with his late wife Anne Hopkins Aitken.

A lifetime resident of Hawai‘i, Aitken Rōshi is a graduate of the University of Hawai‘i with a BA degree in English literature and an MA degree in Japanese studies. In 1941, he was captured on Guam by invading Japanese forces, and interned in Japan
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