On the cover: The Story of Issa, Japanese Haiku Poet (technically, this is not a subtitle, as it does not appear on the title page, but I think it should, and if it had . . . well, read on).
San Carolos, CA: Golden Gate Junior Books, 1970. Illustrated by Lydia Cooley; written “with the editorial assistance of Mark Taylor. Haiku translations by Hanako Fukuda”.
1970! Gosh, if I’d not come to Chatham Middle School and had some free time to roam their school library, I might never have seen this book.
Thank you, Chatham Middle School!
This is a gently illustrated prose narrative of Issa’s life, appropriate to elementary and middle school readers. In the course of the text, Ms. Fukuda includes numerous haiku that arose from some of the more personal aspects of Issa’s life, set in a frame story of the time Issa returned to his family home after establishing himself as a major haikai master. At the outset, old man Issa approaches a mountain village, and engages in conversation with a group of children who are singing a song he rememvers from his childhood. I do not now have time to read through the engaginly told story, but I notice that in this book, published in 1970, the haiku translations are not in 5-7-5. Rather, they use only the words the translator feels are needed to convey the poems’ meanings. For example, one of his more famous poems is offered as:
Come and play with me,
Unfortunately, because this book is a biography, no one scanning the poetry shelves in a library is likely to spot it. But the gentle telling of the story, the softly pastel or gray-scale spot and occasional full-page illustrations, and the simple, straightforward haiku translations make this a winner. I’ll be looking to find a copy for myself. If you’re the parent of a reader, or a teacher, or just enjoy children’s books yourself, you might like to get a copy of this one for yourself.