Book Report: A Few Flies and I: Haiku by Issa selected by Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert (1970)

Book coverThis is the first collection of poetry I spotted on my to-read shelves after Loveroot, and it was a good palate cleanser.

Issa was a Japanese poet from around the time of the American Revolution (he lived 1763 – 1828) who wrote in “haiku”–the translations in this book do not follow the common haiku pattern of 5/7/5 syllables, but the originals might. Some of the haikus were translated by R. H. Blyth, the source for Games Zen Masters Play. The volume is a Scholastic book, which meant it was sold in school book orders before I was born. When elementary school kids or their parents apparently bought collections of poems, simple as though they might be.

Well, the book is a lot of haikus, many about insects, and some breaths of insight from seeing flies alighting hither and yon. I read them all in one sitting, and that’s not the best way to enjoy a haiku. They should be savored one at a time, reflected on a bit. But I am a man in a hurry to make my annual book quota (70 books, of which this is the 73rd I’ve read this year, but the unofficial stretch goal is 100), so I gulped them down too quickly.

I have identified my favorite, though:

Just being here,
I am here,
and the snow falls.

I have started (long ago, but I have not worked on or completed) a military science fiction book where a space marine says, “I am here” before every action. Now I know where the quote comes from. Am I retconning? A little. Given that I have only a couple of pages of this book done, I am merely conning.

At any rate, a nice respite from more modern poems. Better if taken in moderation.

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