the great lord
forced off his horse…
the great lord’s wood firerisesfirst
by Kobayashi Issa,
translated by David G. LanoueSteve Minor of SW Va Law Blog salvaged a far-too-serious Saturday night for me, with an email concerning our 43rd President’s love of haiku.It may already be widely known, but it was news to me that George W. Bush studied haiku at Yale and shared his interest and expertise in a commencement address there in 2001. This is not a Yalie prank, ala Ann Landers. The source is a White House Press Release (May 21, 2001). Here’sthe relevant excerpt (hear the entirety here):Remarks by the President in Commencement Address Yale University New Haven, Connecticut
. . . . I loved history, and pursued a diversified course of study. I like to think of it asthe academic road less traveled. (Laughter.)For example, I took a class that studied Japanese Haiku. Haiku, for the uninitiated, is a15th century form of poetry, each poem having 17 syllables. Haiku is fully understoodonly by the Zen masters. As I recall, one of my academic advisers was worried aboutmy selection of such a specialized course. He said I should focus on English. (Laughter.)I still hear that quite often. (Laughter.) But my critics don’t realize I don’t make verbalgaffes. I’m speaking in the perfect forms and rhythms of ancient Haiku. (Applause.)I’m thinking of sending the President a copy of Global Haiku: Twenty-Five Poets World-Wide,(George Swede & Randy Brooks, editors, 2000), one of my favorite anthologies, which containsthe work of some of the best English-language haiku poets, plus an essay on haiku history andits definition. Have I discovered a reason to vote for G.W.?p.s. to the President’s Speech Writers and Fact-Checkers: If your boss wants to talk abouthaiku again during the campaign or once retired, please remember:
- It wasn’t until the second half of the 17th Century that haiku as we know it — stand-alone poems of5-7-5 “syllables” was established in Japan. See The Classic Tradition of Haiku. (Ed., Faubion Bowers, Dover Press, 1996).
There may be a pop quiz before the first debate.
September 5, 2004
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