Thursday, May 12, 2011


I returned to Japan last year in part to finish a translation project on the Edo period poet and painter Yosa Buson which I had originally started sometime in late 1999 or early 2000 while living in Chiba.  Over the intervening space of years, I have been working on it as time and inspiration has allowed. As I've gotten to know Buson better, my admiration and respect for him has grown. His mastery of ambiguity and sleight of hand within a few short lines makes me shake my head at my own clumsiness.

Well, I'm happy to report that today (or yesterday now) I completed translating the last of his haiku from a selection of 868 to very little fanfare. The quiet that surrounds me now is my reward.

One thing realized in working on the project was the importance of making the work a part of my daily routine. It's like running or doing yoga or writing novels. No days off! You have to keep doing it to get better, to go deeper or farther. You have to bring a quiet mindfulness and devotion to the task.

How many times did I say to myself — "No! I don't feel like reading that note or looking up that reference. Its too obscure." But then I would upbraid myself — "Just do it. No one else will do it for you. If you want to understand you must." So I go deeper and learn something new about Buson's world and myself.


                                                                              how many shortcuts
                                                                              to the Pure Land
                                                                              cold prayer to Amitabha