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messages to Issa

on the 10th anniversary of his website in 2010

Dear Issa,

Sorry I can't be with you. How are you? Are your hands and legs still as thin as nails? Take care, won't you? Oh, and please give my love to the fleas.

—Gabriel Rosenstock and all your friends in Ireland

Mosquito Kingdom
Issa's portrait bigger
than Buddha's

—Fay Aoyagi

Hello Cup-of Tea,

Here I am talking to you not from a distant place as many would say, I mean those who place borders between their so-called properties, that today we call countries. You know, they are something like lands and waters which "belong" to some very rich persons or clans who dictate the world order. The names of those countries range from some stupid or simple and short to the very extensive, meaning nothing of interest to me and I am sure not to you as well. Well, what I want to tell you is just nothing. I'd love to meet you face to face. It could be dangerous as everyone has access to everything, especially via this device I am writing on. It's called a computer, and Oh my, it just crashed the other day leaving me without the means of communication. But I can still write on a leaf, if need be. Like you, I usually keep silent as there is nothing special I can say that has not already been said.

Perhaps you know that haiku has spread over the globe, leaving almost no country without it. People write haiku, oh yes, but not with a bamboo brush and ink. The letters are visible, but they are virtual, if you know what I mean. And they write all kinds of things calling them all haiku. I am sure you would be pleased with some, but also disgusted with the most. I also know that you are not interested in this fact. You have left us something to learn from and the value of that cannot be described by words nor copied. Some try, but luckily, to no avail. You were and are special and will remain to be. Thank you for your attention. Stay well and happy!

I'd like to conclude this virtual letter with a haiku, but I think it's stupid, as you would surely say. For one part, because it is virtual. So, good bye, see you! In this world there is no place for two cups of tea.

Yours truly,

—Saša Važic


even inside the temple:

(published in Simply Haiku Winter 2009)

—Kala Ramesh

Your simple, heart-felt, and gentle poems have been with me since I first purchased a book of selected poems, and read them back in the early 1970s.

For me, either attentively reading haiku, such as yours, or taking a few moments out of the day to write a haiku, is a little refuge of time, space, mind and heart, allowing us to appreciate something that we would ordinarily miss in the humdrum of our busy days.

A poor monk's poem,
stirs my heart, opens my mind
helps me see the new

—Mike Hebert

Issa, big man in my heart, you and Basho, oops another big man in my heart, and I have another man, a husband, who has taught me to be more tech savvy—but nothing can compare with you, Issa (and Basho), to help me appreciate "A Moment in Time." I am grateful.

—Carolyn Graetz

To Master Issa

I will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Issa every day. You and David sensei have led me to the Haiku world. It happened in 2004 April.

David's English translation is perfect, but I couldn't understand what do you mean in your haiku. The reason is related with two culture gaps. One is the language gap between English and Japanese. Another is the time gap between you and us. To get over those gaps I decided to paint your haiga. I have visited the towns that you had visited where you had many haiku friends. I could get plenty of image information there. Then I could paint your haiga and post them on the Internet.

Without a perfect coinciding of image involving you, David and Sakuo, your haiga would not exist for readers to enjoy. Dr. David has taught me the principle of your thinking. He said you stand on Buddha's wide and deep tolerance. Fortunately, I am a Buddhist; moreover you and I belong to same Pure land sect. We say Namiamidabutsu repeatedly, so we can be saved by Buddha. Buddha allows us [rebirth in the Pure Land] without any obligation. All is acceptable. Isn't this a mother's love for her child?

SNS, Facebook and Twitter are getting larger in the Web. Their principle is "We are for sharing." If so, it must be "We will allow you all." Sharing starts from Allowing or Admitting each other. Could we find the same concept in Web communication and Buddha's tolerance? Sharing is always mother's love.

I am very thankful to able to walk with you as well as David. You, David and Sakuo stand on Buddha's deep tolerance. Only Namuabidabutsu can save all human existence. What a wonderful concept it is!

—Sakuo Nakamura

Note: Sakuo is a Japanese artist who paints an Issa-inspired haiga every day. For this anniversary celebration, he dedicates the following image:

haiga by Sakuo Nakamura

Congratulations on the 10th-year anniversary. I enjoy the Daily Issa. I am a judge for a weekly haiku contest in the Weekly Student Times and your haiku is of great help to do the job.

(Student Times is a bilingual weekly newspaper representing student times, a part of Japan Times)

—Toru Kiuchi

pines and blossoms .....
the essence of Japan
alive with ISSA

—Gabi Greve

As part of her message to Issa, Gabi sends this photo:

haiga by Sakuo Nakamura

Twelve haiku by Issa in Portuguese (my translations).

Que bela peónia!
Implorando que a meça
com o meu pequeno leque. Japanese & English

Até a minha sombra
está cheia de vigor -
chegou a primavera. Japanese & English

Um besouro eleva-se
lindo, luminoso,
da cabana do mendigo. Japanese & English

O velho pinheiro
sonha preguiçosamente
como se fosse um Buda. Japanese & English

Imóvel, serena,
a rã contempla
as montanhas. Japanese & English

Cantam os insectos -
ontem não vi que havia
uma fenda na parede. Japanese & English

"Não quero mais nada
com este mundo" - diz a gota
de orvalho, caindo. Japanese & English

Para onde irá
no meio de tanta chuva
este caracol? Japanese & English

Estou velho mas sinto
vergonha de mim, até perante
o espantalho. Japanese & English

Ao nascer do dia
a bruma do Monte Asama
rasteja na mesa. Japanese & English

Muh! Muh! O que é? Onde
está? Pouco depois a vaca
emerge da bruma. Japanese & English

Olhai o sapo!
Parece que vai vomitar
uma nuvem! Japanese & English

All the best for you,

—Casimiro de Brito

in Fifth Month rain
tucked among bamboo...
farmhouse —Issa

here's my spin off:

in Fifth Month rain
tucked among the lingerie...
scented love letter

—Terry Ann Carter

flies, Issa,
yes . . .
but maggots?

Sincerely, gratefully, and Excelsior! A fan and admirer,

—Bill Pauly

thanks, Issa,
for making life better
for spiders, for me

Zeus is changing
into a ram . . .
warn the nymphs!

—Peggy Heinrich

"Down and Out"

by Issa, Richard Straw (rs), and Curtis Dunlap (cd)

even the beggar
has a favorite
wrestler (Issa)

fight night at the local
on each stool a regular (rs)

down for the count—
a bartender picks
the drunk off the floor (cd)

swatting a fly
but hitting the Buddha (Issa)

smoke-filled booth
a fat man trumps a heart
with a club (rs)

cheers and catcalls
for more sweat and blood (cd)

—Richard Straw and Curtis Dunlap

Growing up in New York City I would spend hours at my best friend Caroline's apartment. Caroline's father, an English teacher, collected books of poetry. A set of haiku books were within easy reach on his shelf. When Caroline's father wasn't home, I would read those little haiku books published by Peter Pauper Press. There I discovered your haiku, Issa. Looking back on my Woodstock days, I see how much I welcomed the calming effect of your haiku.

A few years ago Caroline gave me the Peter Pauper Press haiku set, the books still in their original dust-jackets. My favorite is titled Cherry-Blossoms. Whenever I open it, I am back in Caroline's apartment and her father, the first to die, is alive and well.

Issa, when my own father died, I found myself turning to page 51 of Cherry-Blossoms, taking comfort in this haiku of yours:
my old father too
looked long on these white mountains
through lonely winters
Here is a haiku I wrote about my father:
winter dusk
when dad
would phone
These days I have so many haiku books that I find myself giving them away. But Cherry-Blossoms remains on my shelf, just within reach.

—Roberta Beary

Je t'envoie trois haïkus que j'ai écrits sur la route au cours d'un pélerinage dédié aux sept saints fondateurs de la Bretagne (venus au VI ème siècle évangéliser cette partie de la Gaule romanisée qui s'appelait Armorica). Je pense que l'esprit de ces trois haďkus correspond un peu à l'esprit d'Issa:

I send you three haiku I wrote while on a pilgrimage devoted to the seven saintly founders of Bretagne (who came in the Sixth Century to convert this part of Romanized Gaul which was then called Armorica). I think that the spirit of these three haiku relates a bit to the spirit of Issa:

Fileuse de nuages
une hirondelle
délivrée du bleu

Spinner clouds
a swallow
released from blue

Papillon dans la boue
silencieuse lumière
à l'agonie

Butterfly in the mud
silent light
on its agony

Grenouille parcheminée
aplatie sur l'asphalte
ce monde est-il le seul?

Dried-up frog
flattened on the asphalt
is this world the only one?

English translations by D. G. Lanoue

—Alain Kervern

eat Mount Fuji
little snail
ice cream sundae

Well, Issa, it's been a long haul, hasn't it? We started working together back in the 1980s. I remember puzzling over your Japanese as early as 1984, when I was working on my first essay about you—about your frog poems, remember? That would be 26 years of me poring over your words and flipping through dog-eared dictionaries in search of those damn elusive kanji that don't seem to have a clear radical. Yes, in my frustration I've yanked out plenty of hair, what's left of it, thanks to you. But I'm not complaining. You've given me far more than I have given back—or could ever give back to you—by translating your haiku or writing essays and books about you. Thanks, Issa, for teaching me a way of seeing and being in the world. Thanks for your humor and your spiritual depth ... and all that you have shown me: how to notice, how to appreciate, how to love. (Even fleas!) Every translation of every haiku over these 26 years has taught me something important about art and life. In this way, though neither of us planned it, you have become my master, Issa, my sensei. I could never have hoped for a better one. Once the dust of this ten-year celebration of our website settles (and after my summer travels), we'll get back to work. You left over 20,000 haiku for the world and we're not quite at the halfway mark, putting them on the Web. Onward we'll go—together!

—David G. Lanoue

Dearest Issa,

Admittedly, at first I was not sure what to make of you. In fact, I'm not even all that sure I liked you. But over the last couple years as I have studied haiku more in-depth, I have grown to appreciate, if not adore you. I even recommended you to a student the other day. Thank you for a wealth of poems filled with Pure Land and critters that evoke a sense of connection with all life. Over the last year, a number of haiku through the Daily Issa have shown up in my inbox that are striking and breath-taking, but out of all of them, these two are the ones that resurface in my thoughts:
even the nightingale
gives orders

in the fallen blossoms...
I cannot say why exactly these, aside from your classic snail haiku, call out to me, but I enjoy and find inspiration each time I revisit them.

Kudos, Issa, on your attitude throughout life, despite being one of the most unlucky souls I've ever read about. And thank you for bringing that attitude to your haiku.


—Aubrie Cox

Flowers on the Roof of Hell

in this world
we walk on the roof of hell
gazing at flowers —Issa

Today Issa came over for dinner.
Nothing fancy, just Thai take-out from the place down the road.
He came on foot, carrying a satchel.
I welcomed him at the door, and he removed his sandals.
The low evening sun sparkled
through the tall glass of water I gave him.
He admired it before he drank it in one go.
I showed him to the living room, where he sat on the couch,
almost delicately. Then, as if conscious
of his bare feet, he curled them up under himself.

We talked of poetry all through dinner,
stray noodles landing on the plain wooden table as we ate.
We talked of favourite poets and poems,
and the challenge of writing freshly about old subjects.
We talked of writing one’s joy in a fiercely crushed world,
of flowers on the roof of hell.

When he told me it was time for him to go,
I asked if I could give him a ride
but he declined, as I knew he would.
He had a long way to travel,
but held a finger to his lips and gently shook his smile.
Then Issa took his sandals in hand
and padded off into the dark.

I opened the satchel he left behind.
Inside it bloomed white asters.

—Michael Dylan Welch

I feel silly directing a message to you Issa, but not to your spirit which I feel is present even today. The lightness, depth, honesty, sincerity, wisdom, and kindness that can be found in your haikai have really touched me. Perhaps more than other poets, your work has reached out to me in different ways through the different stages of my life, and I expect of others'. The ability to write a poem that can be read and experienced from different angles at different times and mean different things is a mark of a true master.

—Stanford M. Forrester

so far away
from Mount Fuji –
a dead snail

—Petar Tchouhov

こんにちは老人有名な詩人Issa Kobayashiであるか。

Hello old man
Are you the famous poet
Issa Kobayashi?


May I sit with you?
We can listen to the rain
as we drink green tea


You seem pale tonight
is it the light of the moon -
perhaps, some sake?


Whose white horse is that
tied to the sansanqua bush
does it belong to you?


Here comes the hostess
isn't she beautiful tonight
the scent of jasmine


well, old friend
I must be on my way
will you give me a poem?


on the long road home
a hennagaijin said hello
in an old inn

hennagaijin = "a strange foreigner"

—Howard Lee Kilby

Issa, you loved nature. And I am sure that you would like our garden in Oberhausen (Germany). Below a photo of an apricot blossom in our garden (photographer is my son, Martin G. Wienert).
apricot blossom

—Angelika Wienert

through a child's eyes

Happy Birthday Issa! May we always see the world through a child's eyes.

— Johnette Downing

I walk along the river bank. The wind brings a sharp smell of hay and bitter herbs. I see moths. Their wings are dark like the tree's bark and they are almost unnoticeable. But when they are flying I can see that they are bright red inside – a startling light.

I'm approaching a bend in the river.
where will my star
stop for the night?
Heaven's River (Issa)

—Ludmila Balabanova

and what will happen now? For years I have tightly embraced Basho!

but, I just now found Issa's last haiku under the pillow :
on my comforter
snow of paradise—
I thank you
Shhh... no words, he will wake
Shhh... no tears, drowning follows
Shhh... no butterfly dust
never a full stop
I only place exclamation points
for Issa

—Zoe Savina flower

Dear Issa . . .

I'm so pleased that for the past 10 years this website has shared the intimacies of your daily life, observations, perceptions, and interractions with me and so many others.

I don't think I've told you before that it was YOU who invited me to view my surroundings in a new way and to develop my haiku spirit.

Mhm, about 12 years ago I was in a bookstore and happened to open a book of haiku. Among those I read was this:
don't worry spiders
I keep house
lightly -Issa (translator unattributed)
I literally gasped aloud.

Since then I can only find a similar translation using the word "casually" . . . so I've always felt this one unique translation was meant for me alone, to call out to me and ask that I begin paying attention.

I did. And to you, dear Issa, I am forever grateful.

To your master translator and devotee, Dr. David Lanoue (who was also my first mentor and is my lifelong friend) I also give thanks and a hearty HUZZAH with congratulations.



I have to admit you have always been problematic to me. Certainly you wrote in the haiku vein, but your excesses—talking to animals as though they might respond, presenting yourself in the first person in a manner that might induce pity from the reader—always struck me more as the content of tanka. In fact, I have gone on record as stating that you wrote 5-7-5 tanka. Also, your humor and pathos appealed less to me personally than that of Basho and Buson and Kikaku, not to mention David G. Lanoue.

Nothing of this has really changed much, but I have found that with repeated exposure, primarily from the offices of Dr. Lanoue as well as Gabriel Rosenstock of Ireland, I have been able to embrace your gestalt, Issa, and more, even recognize in it a more purely human face than that presented by the spiritually inclined (though earthy) Basho. I think my preferences speak more to my own circumstances than to the achievements of these poets, who, in any case, are far beyond the need of my commentary. I see haiku as a poetry of aspiration, a recording of some sort of alignment between our own best selves and the structuring of moments, what Kurt Vonnegut used to term the synclastic infindibulum. Your poetry is a corrective to that notion—it's not about any sort of apotheosis, but rather the human realities that populate nearly any moment, though of course only a few of these are expressed well enough to become available to others meaningfully.

Blyth suggested that we consider human behavior in an epistemological fashion, and, viewing the totality of this behavior, we might arrive at some sort of general notion of what it means to be human. I believe that you present a great deal of breadth to haiku that would not be there if you had not written. A haiku that had not known you would be too lopsided in the direction of the numinous, and it would have been necessary to invent you to ground us back in the real (that is, in the real that points to the real, just as the real of Basho points us to something beyond itself). This is a great deal for such a short poem, but of course not quite so daunting for 20,000 such poems, as you wrote.

So, thanks, Issa—haiku is rounder and more capacious for your practice. I've often averred that for something to be worth doing, it must be capable of leading to everything else in the universe. Your haiku helps us approach much in the universe and in ourselves that would be difficult to connect with without your example. That is a very great gift.

—Jim Kacian

and yet
hold my hand and smile –
old photograph
It's May again, but I no longer ask why. That moment you slipped away without a murmur returns each first light and in the last trace of sun on the ridge.

Early monsoon shower drips off the pane. No mantras I recite, no prayer flags I raise, no prostrations I offer in your name can ease this torment. My lament of words not said, moments lost in small talk and thoughts I dare not express, drown in the monks' chant and the chorus of thighbone trumpets and longhorn.

Relatives, old and young, squeeze my hand and whisper:

"Tears shackle, obscure the path to the bardo, deter the dead from seeking new rebirth."

I nod
and yet . . .
in the full moon
your empty bed
(a haibun inspired by Issa's haiku, written on my father's death anniversary in May 2007)

—Sonam Chhoki

Happy 10th anniversary to one of finest sites on the Web. The little green frog of "Haiku of Kobayashi Issa" sits up on my tool bar reminding me where to go to simultaneously get grounded and transported. Congratulations on an amazing accomplishment that is a true gift to the haiku community in general and fans of Master Issa in particular.
mountain village—
even the swallows sing
in celebration

—Don Wentworth

Dear Issa,

Thank you for haiku full of compassion for every living creature and for your humor regarding the puffed-up-ness of the rich and mighty. I love how you remind me to laugh, to give thanks for the little blessings that come my way, to not take social status and political fusses too seriously. Thank you for the gift of celebrating being warm near a cozy fire. Thank you for the art and music we find and create out of even the most meager supplies, such as sooty paper. Thank you for grannies who drink under a full moon.

Happy 10th year on the Web!

—Randy Brooks


Of all the projects I've worked on in a decade of such work at the University, one of the very first remains one of the very best. I'm talking of course about the website, Haiku of Kobayashi Issa. Through this project I learned plenty about scripting search queries and managing Japanese character encoding. But more importantly I was introduced to haiku and to you, Issa. It has been a great honor to be involved with this project. When David translates his 10,000th haiku, perhaps it will be his turn to don the party clothes.

With much respect and affection,

—Bart Everson

Dear Kobayashi Issa san,

Greetings on the tenth anniversary of your haiku life on the web. Congratulations to your devoted friend David for presenting your work to us.

You have captivated me each time I read any of your haiku. I am amazed at the simplicity of your observation.

Yes, indeed, you compel us to look anew at every little thing that we are surrounded with, however, I must say you have made me feel guilty about killing flies ... each time I pick up the fly swatter I am reminded of you.
shall I swat it
the wasp over
the bald stranger's head

(This haiku was performed in Japanese dance at the Haiku North America conference in New York by Sachiyo Ito san)

—Angelee Deodhar

As it is the beginning of summer here in SoCal, I've acquired something appropriate for the occasion:
in honor I wear
this ankle bracelet
of mosquito bites
Issa, my deepest gratitude for your tender reminders of what it means to be alive.

and THANK YOU, David, for 10 years of Issa in the ethers! The site is a treasure.


—Eve Luckring

Dear Issa,

SMALL world
after all...

Omedetou Issa sama