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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
News & Announcements
About the Poets
Additional Reading

Self-portrait - Issa
Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) - original name Kobayashi Nobuyki, also called Kobayashi Yataro.  He used the simple pen name Issa and is probably the best loved of the haiku masters. 
As a poet Issa was more robust and subjective compared to austere, priestly Matsuo Basho (1644-94) and worldly, sophisticated Yosa Buson (1716-83). By confessing his doubts and loneliness in highly personal haiku, Issa's poems also have given consolation to generations of readers. 
Kobayashi Issa was born in Kashiwabara, Shinano province (now part of Shinano Town, Nagano Prefecture), a son of a farmer.  He began writing haiku as a young child, and in 1777, at the age of fourteen, he was sent by his father to Edo (Tokyo today), where he studied haiku under the poets Mizoguchi Sogan and Norokuan Chikua. Issa was a prolific writer of both poetry and prose. He treated his subjects with humor, excelling particularly at affectionate portrayals of such creatures as fleas, frogs and sparrows.
During his lifetime Issa wrote over 20,000 haiku. Close observations of nature and passing but meaningful personal incidents depict his feelings.

Visit the Links Page for Issa web sites  

Kobayashi Issa
(1763 -1827)


        New Year's Day-- 
everything is in blossom! 
        I feel about average. 

        Don't worry, spiders, 
I keep house 

        Goes out, 
comes back-- 
        the loves of a cat. 

        Climb Mount Fuji, 
O snail, 
        but slowly, slowly. 

        Children imitating cormorants 
are even more wonderful 
        than cormorants. 

        Under my house 
an inchworm 
        measuring the joists. 

        Moon, plum blossoms, 
this, that, 
        and the day goes. 

        O flea! whatever you do, 
don't jump; 
        that way is the river. 

        In this world 
we walk on the roof of hell, 
        gazing at flowers. 

on a naked horse 
        in pouring rain! 

        I'm going out, 
flies, so relax, 
        make love. 

        O owl! 
make some other face. 
        This is spring rain. 

        Even with insects-- 
some can sing, 
        some can't. 

        The moon and the flowers, 
forty-nine years, 
        walking around, wasting time. 

        Full moon: 
my ramshackle hut 
        is what it is. 

        What good luck! 
Bitten by 
        this year's mosquitoes too. 

        Red morning sky, 
        are you glad of it? 

        Napped half the day; 
no one 
        punished me! 

        That gorgeous kite 
        from the beggar's shack. 

        Not very anxious 
to bloom, 
        my plum tree. 

        We humans-- 
squirming around 
        among the blossoming flowers. 

        Crescent moon-- 
bent to the shape 
        of the cold. 

        I'm going to roll over, 
so please move, 

        The holes in the wall 
play the flute 
        this autumn evening. 

        These sea slugs, 
they just don't seem 

          Cuckoo singing: 
I have nothing special to do, 
        neither does the burweed. 

        Summer night-- 
even the stars 
        are whispering to each other. 

        The world of dew 
is the world of dew, 
        And yet, and yet--