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Frogpond 44.3 • 2021

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Essay 1 - "Waterfalls"

Essay 2 - "Poetry of Pain"



Book Reviews

From the Editor

Haiku Society of America



by Charles Trumbull

"Waterfalls" from A Field Guide to North American Haiku
(complete PDF version)

Here is a sample excerpt from the opening page of this essay:

When it comes to waterfalls, what most impresses Japanese haiku poets, both classical and modern, is their sound and, to a lesser extent, their physical appearance and refreshing coolness. 滝 taki in Japanese refers to cascades and rapids as well as full-fledged waterfalls. Taki is a kidai (seasonal topic) for all summer and has spawned a number of daughter kigo, such as 滝見 takimi (waterfall viewing); 滝見茶屋 takimi chaya, a teahouse for waterfall watching; 滝風 takikaze, breeze from a waterfall; and 滝の音 taki no oto, sound of a waterfall.

Under the headnote “Nijikō” — the name of the rapids on the upper reaches of the Yoshino River, known for its torrential current over the rocks—Bashō composed this hokku:


horohoro to    yamabuki chiru ka    taki no oto

petal by petal
yellow mountain roses fall —
sound of the rapids

This translation is by Makoto Ueda in Bashō and His Interpreters. Three of the five interpreters Ueda cites suggest that, in one way or another, the sound of the rapids caused the petals to fall. Three commentators believe that Bashō actually witnessed falling petals, while two think he was just exercising his imagination. One lauds the master for “putting something lovely and delicate in the foreground to screen a powerful, violent force of nature,” yet “nevertheless succeeded in giving full expression to that force.”3 Note that 山吹 yamabuki (Japanese globeflower or kerria), a late spring kigo, overrides 滝 taki, and so provides the seasonality of this haiku. Bashō wrote similar haiku about other things going over the falls, such as green pine needles and moonlight, borne on the surface of a cascade.

[essay continues for several more pages] . . .

. . .

Trumbull, Charles. "Waterfalls." Frogpond 44.3, Autumn 2021, 106-128.

This excerpt inclues the first page of the essay: page 106. The complete essay includes pages 106-128. To read the complete essay, click on the link to the PDF version:

"Waterfalls" from A Field Guide to North American Haiku
(complete PDF version)