FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN! (or, "A Grass and Tree Pagoda")

I was thinking of translating a few of Taneda Sontouka's "free haiku", but then I discovered that MIURA Hisashi and James GREEN had already translated all of them and made them available for free. Awesome! The notes are a particularly nice touch.

Now some minor kibitzing. Sometimes I think their translations suffer from English-haiku-ese: the tendency to present the images one by one, discretely, even when the original flows normally as a sentence, and the related tendency to make everything a noun -- preferably a gerund. For example:


Stretching ahead -
The straight road,

I would have gone with something more like "On a long, straight road/ And lonely", which admittedly is not perfect (are there any adjectives more boring than "long" and "straight"?) but is 20% shorter and, I think, a bit smoother. But perhaps I am just flattering myself. Another example:


Not having a house -
Only the deepening of autumn.

The survey conducted exclusively within my head says: "Without a house/ Autumn just gets deeper".

I don't want to pick too many nits, though, I think they've done a great job overall, and this is poetry -- of course we're gonna disagree on interpretation and cross-language word-choice.

Plus, I honestly admire them for having the cojones to put the originals next to their translations like this. I wish more translators would. Perhaps in the Olden Days there were editorial issues, especially with non-Roman alphabet languages, but in this hyperconnected neon-plated post-pre-singularity world of the future -- today! -- that excuse is starting to look pret-ty lame, Milhouse.

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