Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English. This week’s poem was
Octopus pot— evanescent dreams of the summer moon — Basho, Haiku: An Anthology of Japanese Poems by Stephen Addiss and Fumiko Yamamoto
I’m somewhat wary of reading too much into a particular translation nowadays, so I decided to check out the kigo of this poem from Basho. In fact there are several translations of this haiku at Gabi Greve’s https://worldkigodatabase.blogspot.com, my preferred resource for kigo. As with much of Basho’s work this seems to have several meanings in the context of Japanese society. To me, however, L2/3 suggests the end of the life of this octopus but also the approach of the end of the summer fishing season, as well as the end of the summer itself for another year. ‘Evanescent’ touches on the fading colours of the octopus, and the circular pot mirrors the moon above the ocean which is perhaps foretelling this particular demise. The octopus is such an intelligent and alien organism it seems strange that it can be hoodwinked so easily. To me therefore it has a sad tone, and I do feel it’s a shame we harvest them in this way.
As this week’s winner, Mark gets to choose next week’s poem, which you’ll find below. We invite you to write a commentary to it. It may be as long or short, academic or spontaneous, serious or silly, public or personal as you like. We will select out-takes from the best of these. And the very best will be reproduced in its entirety and take its place as part of the THF Archives. Best of all, the winning commentator gets to choose the next poem for commentary.
Anyone can participate. A new poem will appear each Friday morning. Simply put your commentary in the Contact box by the following Tuesday midnight (Eastern US Time Zone). Please use the subject header “re:Virals” so we know what we’re looking at. We look forward to seeing some of your favorite poems — and finding out why!
late flowering the last bee disappears down a bright funnel — Ian Turner, Blithe Spirit 23/4 (2013)