We got back from our camping trip last week and I’ve been busy every since, not in a bad way, but busy all the same. My holiday read was The Essential Haiku – versions of Basho, Buson and Issa by Robert Hass (Bloodaxe Books 2013, f. pub. 1994). It’s a very readable book and Hass offers some clear and concise versions/ translations. Here’s one by Buson, picked at random:
Calligraphy of geese
against the sky –
the moon seals it.
Of course, one poem can’t represent the whole book, but I don’t want this post to be a review, so I’ll move on to my main point, which is that it’s been wonderful to be able to borrow this from the local library. As the ticket on the front cover says, ‘Borrowing from your library is the greener alternative to buying and you’ll be amazed by the selection.’ I’ve been trying to thin out the amount of books on my shelves over the last few months and the last thing I want to do is fill them up again, so for me, borrowing is a good way of saving space. It’s also a great way of trying a book without the commitment of purchasing it. With this in mind, I’ve also borrowed Travels with a Writing Brush by Meredith McKinney (Penguin 2019).
I’ve only read part of this so far, but it shows how the writings of Basho emerged from a long tradition of writing about journeys (I hesitate to use the term ‘travel writing’ because that implies something slightly different). What I like about this book are the short introductions at the start of each section, which give an excellent context to the writings.
In terms of my own writing, I’ve found some inspiration in the Hass versions and if time allows, I’ll go back to his book and reread some of the poems. The books are on loan until the end of this week, so I’m relying on being able to renew them. I suppose this is the slight drawback to borrowing, although the plus side is that it does give you a gentle push to read them within a time frame, rather than putting them on book pile (as I’m prone to do) and then taking months to get round to them.
I’d just like to add that I was quite surprised to find these books in stock, particularly Travels with a Writing Brush. Looking at the date stamp, it’s only been taken out by one other person in the last 18 months. Obviously the pandemic might have had something to do with that, but libraries need borrowers, so please do what you can to support them.