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The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  724 ratings  ·  63 reviews
This unique collection spans over 400 years (1488–1902) of haiku history by the greatest masters: Bashō, Issa, Shiki, and many more, in translations by top-flight scholars in the field. Editor Faubion Bowers provides a foreword and many informative notes to the poems.
Paperback, 96 pages
Published September 24th 1996 by Dover Publications (first published 1996)
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Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haiku should be just
small stones dropping down a well
with a small splash

- James Kirkup (8)

Haiku or the complexity of subtlety
As a big fan of etymology, I was captivated by this book's introduction. It is a clear and detailed recount of the history of haiku. The present enthralling subject we are tediously discussing here—I suggest a considerable amount of coffee in your system or ignoring these couple of paragraphs—has its origin in 12th-century renga, a form of collaborative poetry. Poets, in g
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Haiku should be just
small stones dropping down a well
with a small splash”

Carrying on with my poetic education, I picked this lovely little anthology of Haiku poems. As the introduction explains, it is night on impossible to translate these short verses. The 5-7-5 syllables structure reflects the way Japanese ‘works’ - the same way the iambic pentameter mirrors the rhythm of the English language. Nevertheless, this edition gives the original verses followed by one or more interpretations into En
B. P. Rinehart
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to B. P. by: Florencia
"haikai no / kuchisugi ni / sakura kana

Cherry blossoms made for haikai poets to exploit
" - Kobayashi Issa

I came into this book with as open a mind as you can have. I had very little experience with the haiku before this book, beside learning the basics of it in school (the standard 5-7-5 syllable arrangement) and that it was from Japan. I knew that Sonia Sanchez wrote some, but not much more. When I finally became curious enough to go into the genre, I did a little self-study and then inquired
Cristian  Morales
Dec 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Mis favoritos:

(te o tsuite/uts moshiagaru/kawazu kana)
"Hands to the floor
offering up a song
the frog..."

(yado no haru/nani mo naki koso/ nani mo are)
"In my hut this spring
there is nothing
there is everything"

(furuike ya/ kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto)
"Old pond
frogs jumped in
sound of water"

(natsukusa ya / tsuwamonodomo ga / yume no ato)
Summer grasses
where stalwart soldiers
once dreamed dreams

(kojiki kana / tenchi no kitaru / natsu goromo)
"There a beggar goes!
Heaven and eart
Bernie Gourley
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the second haiku anthology that I've reviewed on my site. While they're both thin volumes of traditional haiku, each has it's distinct flavor. The previous volume was organized by season. This one is organized by author. The two books share several authors (e.g. the greats Bashō, Issa, and Buson), but diverge on many of the lesser known poets.

One nice feature of this book is that it offers multiple translations of many of the haiku. Poetry is notoriously tricky to translate as literal t
Melissa Chalhoub
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, classics
I'm in love with this edition. I normally don't like reading translated poems, as most of it is lost in translation, but this one was perfect for me. It starts up with an introduction to Haiku, from its origin to its evolution. Then you read in chronological order the most notable Haiku, since the 15th century till the 20th. Every poet is introduced, all poems are written in Japanese (so you can at least see the musicality of each one, even if you don't understand the language) then translated i ...more
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This slim and inexpensive Dover edition is a great introduction to the haiku masters as well as lesser-known poets. One thing that I particular liked is that editor Bowers presents multiple translations of the same pieces, so that you get a sense of just how difficult it is to translate haiku. The notes on the poems help, too, in grasping what the poetic images meant to contemporary Japanese. Proceeding chronologically, you can see how haiku develops, and you can also see how Western translation ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have seen thirty-six translations of one haiku.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fallen blossom
returning to the bough, I thought -
But no, a butterfly.
- Arakida Moritake (1472 - 1549)
My favourite Haiku from "The Classic Tradition of Haiku - An Anthology". This thin book covers the period from Sogi in the 15th Century to Shiki in the 19th Century. Multiple translations of the haiku, short biographies of the poets and explanations of the context make these "little drops of poetic essence" approachable.
This review also comes with my own Strand story. I bought this book
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it
From an educational POV, this is a great anthology with many footnotes and info and more often than not with more than one translation of a haiku. At the same time, though, exactly that takes away from the enjoyment of the haiku themselves, their beauty. This anthology is too technical to be beautiful.
Sep 23, 2020 rated it liked it
There are many wonderful images amongst this anthology of haiku.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mark by: Sara Q
This is a slim, yet excellent, volume. It has footnotes to many of the 48 authors and their poems which greatly helps a Westerner understand the significance/meaning of the haikus. It includes a short forward by the editor which provides context/knowledge and many of the poems are presented in multiple translations by several of the 43 translators.
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was not expecting much going in, but this is among the best collections of haiku out there (in English translation), personally in my top 3. If price is an issue, start with this one!
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Having read Cor van den Heuvel's excellent anthology of English-language haiku, I was interested to delve a bit deeper into the history and tradition.

This little, incredible value-for-money (US$3), edition provided some of that. It's a survey of the greats of Japanese haiku, beginning in the 15th century through to the 19th.

Like all poetry that appears in a language different from the one in which it was written, the subtext of this collection is about the art of translation, and about translato
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, read-in-english
I was pleasantly surprised by this, not because of fear I wouldn't like the poems (I very much like Japanese tanka and haiku and also ancient Chinese nature poems) but because it had more information on the poems that I expected. There's the Japanese text (in romaji) and the English translation, sometimes even two or more translated versions of the same haiku so you can compare them, and some haiku have short note explaining either words or context too.

I thought it was interesting to have so man
 Celia  Sánchez
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poems
' Oh the great temple bell
stopped from flight and sleeping
the small butterfly '

The book includes many Haiku from traditional Japanese masters. There are several translations by various scholars. So even under one Haiku, you might read 4 or 5 interpretations, each credited to the appropriate translator. For example, there are 5 different translations for the famous frog Haiku by Basho, some seemingly better than others. One translation is a bit longer in the English, but more appropriately cap
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't know Japanese. So, I cannot speak to the translation/transliteration/linguistics of the contents. However, I know that I enjoyed the collection of poems in this anthology - they seemed to be representative of a variety of eras/writers - traditional ones, though. Nothing in the modern era - which I appreciated.

The best part of the text are the copious, well-written and interesting notes that go along with the poems. These provide helpful and entertaining context, which otherwise most rea
Soumitro Roy
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Book 5 : The Classical Tradition Of Haiku, An Anthology, Edited by Faubion Bowers ( 78pg, 2 weeks, Ratings: 5/5)
‘Hai’ in haiku means ‘unusual’ and ‘ku’ means ‘strophes’ ‘lines’ or ‘verse’
Sometime a ‘haiku’ can be boring/incomprehensible/thick as they are just a snapshot of a deeper understanding. A ‘haiku’ reveals itself more when we know the ‘WHY-WHERE-WHEN’ of a ‘haiku’ . And it is at this point where this anthology is successful. The footnotes adds an extra value to the book. This book is tru
Rick Jackofsky
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haiku-tanka-etc
The interesting thing about translating Japanese haiku to English is how much can be lost, (or gained?) in the translation depending on not only who is doing the translating but also their contemporary poetic aesthetics. Translations made in the early twentieth century are wordier and more likely to stick to the 5-7-5 format than those made by poets influenced by modern freestyle English haiku. That being said, a big plus for this book is that along with phonetic versions of the Japanese there a ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
after they've fallen
their images remain in the mind --
these peonies

tell them
I was a persimmon eater
who liked haiku

I found the foreword helpful in my quest to learn more about the structure of haiku. Renga is also discussed briefly; as well as the nature of the Japanese language as it effects the poetry: so, some good stuff there. I read it last though. (As a habit I never read forewords, prologues, or introductions first -- been burned too many times.)
Ed Ashford
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is a really comprehensive collection of haiku! There are usually multiple translations for the various haiku, plus they're included in the original Romaji for anyone who may know a thing or two about Japanese. It was really fascinating to see the slight differences in translation from one version to the next. I don't speak great Japanese yet, but I feel like this helped me understand the original intent behind the haiku a little better without having to become completely fluent.
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
The notes difficult to follow at times though incredibly helpful and packed with information. (Within the Kindle edition of this volume) Numbered notes attached to poems of particular poets appeared to run into each other... extremely challenging to follow anyway when posted at a chapter’s conclusion in an electronic version, otherwise a solid anthology of classic masters.
Dorothy Mahoney
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What was intriguing about this anthology was the Japanese original before each haiku. The footnotes are informative and in the forward, Bowers maintains that " the most evocative part of haiku is 'when'." A thin volume easy to carry around, giving time to ponder.
Carolyn Page
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Short poems, and it's a short little book. It's excellent though, a really great job translating from Japanese. It's an introduction to a good art form that has the benefit of being accessible for those without an ear for rhyming.
rêveur d'art
These kinds of poems are the poetry I respond to the most: simplicity with hidden meanings that has a beautiful effect on the reader.
"setsugekka / ichido ni miyuru / utsugi kana
It lets one see
Snow, moon, and blossoms —all at once,
oh, utsugi! "
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haiku translated into English automatically loses its integrity but leaves us with an appreciation of the ideas expressed. This collection has some superb examples and good explanatory notes. I'd recommend it to anyone looking to dip their toes into the Haiku waters.
Nov 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2017, ebook
I especially liked the notes for each haiku, it made such a difference. There were subtleties and back stories I had no idea about.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
There were some really good haikus in there
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, asian-writers
Interesting selection of classic Japanese haiku...some of which are not what I would have expected.
Scott Durham Miao He
Fantastic - a great beginners anthology to some classic haiku styles - from serious to funny !
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