the first day in spring –
a wind from the ocean
but no ocean in sight
Tr. Makoto Ueda
© Nobuko Katsura (1914 – 2004) (Japan)
Reminds me of hurricane season… before the storm reaches land, and seagulls flying inland to avoid the storm.
– Robert Gillette (USA)
For me, this translation by Makoto Ueda of this haiku by Nobuko Katsura illustrates the dichotomy between the Japanese and English (or non Japanese) haiku branches and the problems of trying to unify them. The crossing of language, culture, and time.
Ueda is undoubtedly one of the leading translators of Japanese haiku, his English is natural, but I find this translation clunky. As a non-Japanese, I am dependent on the translator for my initial evaluation of the piece. This translation will affect my willingness to reread the haiku, my understanding and my interpretation of it.
I suspect that this translation was done in the early 2000s. It has the feel of a more traditional Japanese haiku rather than a contemporary English one. This raises the question, for me, when translating from a Japanese haiku, do you stay with the cultural style, or adapt to the market for which you are translating, in this case, English Haiku readers?
“the first day in spring –”
a contemporary English version would possibly pare this down to:
“first day of spring” without the article or the punctuation.
May I recommend a book edited by David Cobb “The British Museum Haiku” in which he has used original translations from the Japanese by renowned translators like R.H. Blyth. He has also collaborated with more contemporary translators to give some of the haiku a more contemporary feel. See what you think?
– Patricia (Switzerland)
In the first line with “立春” the first day in spring”…
It is the season word.
“立春” is still cold in the capital of Japan.
So “the wind from the ocean” is chilly wind.
I imagine that it’s wind that carries the smell of the sea, and the foreign cargo ship’s whistling sound.
– Norie Umeda (Japan)
The first thing I noticed was the clear juxtaposition between the first day of spring, and the “taste” of something to come, or something far away—in this case, the ocean. It shows a dichotomy of being and not-being, and maybe the enigmatic between.
On further introspection, we can understand that whatever we perceive may represent what is to come, or a potential. This is closely aligned with the feeling on the first day of spring. It is a warm and exciting emotion of suspense for what beauty is to appear.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)
What do you think or feel about this haiku? Let us know in the comments.