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messages to Issa

on the 20th anniversary of his website in 2020

Dear Issa,

Don’t tell the others but you’re my favorite of The Fab Four.

I'm glad you wrote, back in the day! The world is a better place for your having done so. I so appreciate your haiku of wonder, compassion, affection for animals, and the full gamut of human experience.

And thank you for your influence on David so we can have greater access to your poems, what they mean, and the cultural contexts in which you were writing. I look forward to his sending your poems and commentary along daily.

One of my favorites:

snow starts melting
and the village overflows
with children

P.S. The next time I adopt a cat, I’m naming him for you.

—Mary Stevens

savoring still
steam from twenty cups of tea ...
so grateful

— Kim Burns

You have been in the Pure Land for many years, Issa (by the way, there is certainly no time there).

Did you find your beloved Kiku and your little Sato? Are your dragonflies, sparrows, frogs and snails there?

You may not be interested, but we still enjoy your haiku. Now it's very easy, thanks to new inventions and David Lanoue.

Thank you, Issa!

Thank you, David!

—Ludmila Balabanova

Dear Issa,

Did you ever dream that many decades after you were dead & gone, a poet living on the other side of the world from you would read one of your poems, (in translation, no less!), & that this poem would ring so true for this poet that they would quote it to other people at every opportunity, & secretly wish that they had written it themselves?


* Issa. "Congratulations." The Four Seasons. Translated by Peter Beilenson, The Peter Pauper Press, 1958.


Dear Issa, As Editor-in-Chief of Naad Anunaad: An Anthology of Contemporary World Haiku - I included four of your beautiful poems with David G. Lanoue's translations in this volume.

In my haiku & haibun workshops in India, I always include this haiku of yours:

this world
is a dewdrop world
yes ... but ...

It never fails to engage the fresher's curiosity. We've had long discussions on it - with young people joining in, airing their views on what that 'but' could mean!

but ... the world is so beautiful
but ... so what?
but ... even after knowing the world is transitory, why do we cling on to it?
but ... shouldn't we learn to let go?

but ... because!

this world
is a dewdrop world
yes ... but ...

I wish you were here to answer us.

the iceberg
of thought —
she begins to voice her mind

Your admirer,

—Kala Ramesh


Goodness! Has it really been twenty years? Why, that means that you've been here on the World Wide Web for the better part of the Web's existence — two-thirds to be precise! I'm honored to have played a role in helping to establish your home here. Sometimes I peek under your robe to gaze at your source code and reminisce. Hope you don't mind.

—Bart Everson

Thanks to you, David - and thanks to Issa - I have been experimenting with my own versions of Issa in the Irish language:

Issa in Irish

I have also attempted to bring the joys of Issa to the attention of young readers in a book, originally written in Irish:

Issa for children

Issa just keeps on giving, doesn't he?

—Gabriel Rosenstock

Happy 20th!

a tip
of the HAIKU GUY hat...
snowflake symmetry

Ciao dude,


dear issa-sama,

your work has continued to inspire me after over three decades of reading your haiku. the deepest of bows to you.

your haiku seem to be the same, yet different each time i read them. i never grow tired of them and am amazed how they always stay fresh.

the depth of your haiku while maintaining a certain humor enables us to journey through the human condition and towards the pure land with you.

Namu Amida Butsu!

—stanford m. forrester/ sekiro

Dear Issa,

Isn't it a miracle that ink stains on paper, across vast expanses of time, space and cultures, can communicate the experience of the infinite in a handful of words?

Your name, "Cup of Tea", reminds me of the Zen story of a western professor visits a Japanese Zen Buddhist monk to ask about zen. The monk hosts the professor at a Japanese tea ceremony. The monk begins to pour tea into the professor's cup, until it begins to overflow, when the professor, exclaims, "stop! It's full!" The monk says, "How can you learn anything about zen if you don't first empty your own cup?!" Your haiku is a gentle invitation to empty my own "cup" of experience, and be present to the sharing of an experience of another human being.

I don't know if you, as a Buddhist, were a student of the Chinese Taoism that snuck into Japan with Zen Buddhism. The Taoists talk of seeing the value of things that have no use. Like the gnarly, knotted tree that the woodcutter leaves alone, or the usefulness of a pot, entirely dependent on the emptiness within it. To me a haiku poem is like that pot, a few terse lines of poetry that contain the timeless experience of a moment.

To quote the words of the 21st century CE polymath, philosopher & sci-fi author, Rudy Rucker, in his blog, "The Central Teachings of Mysticism" [1]:

All is One.

The One is unknowable.

The One is here.

—Mike Hebert

take me to the person in charge
is it you? who left
the whare empty
the teapot hot

—Janet Charman

Issa, you old fleabag — you still around? I would have thought you would have been done in by one of those spiders you coddled, or by getting crosswise with a daimyo who didn’t feel you showed the proper humility in his presence. So good on ya for your persistence. What’s new with you? Has the world come to seem any less ill-fated? Is kindness readier to hand in your sphere? Has compassion overcome greed as the go-to aspiration? Doesn’t seem much in evidence here, I’m sorry to say. And yet, in spite of terrible people receiving big rewards for their contemptible behavior, and many of the young keen to emulate them, I do find folks who perform small acts of empathy every day. These moments of redemption, that offer no reward other than knowing one has behaved honorably, and often go unnoticed by others, are nevertheless inspirational to some of us. So it is good sometimes to preserve them, to write them down, to bear witness. And this is exactly what you have done, using your own life as the source of your meditations. Such witness flies in the face of our coarser natures, challenges us to something loftier. Will we rise to meet it? At least you have made us consider it. So thank you, Issa, for helping us to confront ourselves. And to you, too, David Lanoue, for giving us a way to encounter this most human of poets despite our own insularity. I hope this inspires me to live closer to the ideals that Issa embodies, even as many of my species seem determined to go in quite the opposite direction. All the same, watch out for those spiders!

—Jim Kacian

Some haiku dedicated to Issa:

écoute écoute
ces voix emportées
par le torrent

voici la nuit
tout y est
profondeurs devinées

accouru du fond
de l'horizon
un vent rageur

dans les brumes errantes
posées sur le lac
quelqu'un appelle

au fond des nues
les cris de guerre
des mouettes querelleuses

derrière les courbes
de la pelouse rase
on devine la mer

—Alain Kervern

U always flower,
As similar hell on ground
Catches times, Issa

—Nana Kwame Anthony

Ten pines stand fragrant
In the gentle autumn rain
Where do you dwell now

—Robert Zelenka

An inadequate thank you to Issa and yourself for so many bright dawns.

lifting mist
an Issa poem
on my doorstep

—Ed Grossmith

Happy 20th Anniversary, Issa!

Your love of nature
and gentle humour bring us
joy every day.

Kind regards,

—Jenny Shepherd

I'm lucky, says Issa.
David Gerard
spreads my words around

I'm lucky, says Barbara.
Issa is there
to start my day

—Barbara London

a scratching dog
gifts a flea

honouring him
am old dog pays respects
to the gatepost

Kind Regards,

—Sara Winteridge

Dear Issa,

Oh, you’ve written about bugs again. Your child dies
your wife dies, your house burns down
and you write about bugs.
Is there no consolation anywhere? Is it just
the small and downtrodden
who share with you
the same burning heart?

Did you know that Issa is the name of Jesus in Arabic?
Are you a savior of a different sort? Or were you
always in search of a savior,
if that savior wasn’t poetry, or a warm cup of tea?

—Michael Dylan Welch

strong bones and veins~
Issa’s haiku

—Ingrid Bruck

Congratulations Dear Issa:

you have now become
everybody's cup of tea
thanks to haiku guy

—Jan Walls

cup of tea

still walking the walk
promising more than mere talk
my mind awakening to his

—Laura DeBernardi

I'm a better poet and more importantly a better person for all the Issa poems and associated insights provided by you, David, thank-you.

—Chuck Kellem

sugery waiting room
a woman prays
I translate Issa

Edo to Shinano –
I retrace Issa’s steps
on a bullet train

Basho rests
under a gentle rain
Issa, deep in snow

thank you, Issa
for twenty-two thousand

autumn surf
is that Issa laughing
in the wind?

With deep gratitude, deep bow,

—David G. Lanoue

Want to see the comments posted ten years ago on the tenth anniversary of the website in 2010? Here they are.