Poetry vendors

This is the 6000th post at Via Negativa — and also, by a strange coincidence, the fourth anniversary of Luisa’s incredible poem-a-day project! I had to do something by way of commemoration, so I made this video. The haiku (technically, a hokku — and one that was used to lead off a 36-poem linked verse sequence with Basho in 1682) is difficult to translate because much is alluded to rather than stated outright. But with the help of Earl Miner’s notes from The Monkey’s Straw Raincoat and Other Poems of the Basho School (Princeton, 1981), I gave it my best shot. Kikaku was arguably Basho’s greatest disciple.


we’re poetry vendors
life’s too short to worry about money
let’s drink the year out

Takarai Kikaku (1661-1707)

Miner says that Kikaku was alluding to a verse from the famous Chinese poet Du Fu:

I leave debts for drink wherever I go
Since few in any age live to be seventy.

So let us pay homage to the ancient masters who, just like us, longed to live in the moment but worried about money, and diverted themselves with poetry and alcohol as best they could. The footage is from Berlin, but what could be more Japanese than a vending machine or a solar-powered animatronic toy?


  1. Dave, I love the poem and the (brilliant footage!) video. As a fellow poetry vendor who has enjoyed drinking with you a few memorable times, as well as reading most of those 6,000 posts, I’m really happy to congratulate you and Luisa on your achievement. No stopping now! Thanks for all you do on behalf of poets and poetry, and for your own poems that I’ve enjoyed so much over the years.


    1. Thanks, Beth. That means a lot to me. I think it’s safe to say we’ll keep going for a while longer.


  2. This is wonderful – thank you! Congratulations on your 6000 posts, and thanks to you and Luisa for making every day a bit better: sometimes spectacularly better!


  3. really, what a great video! so glad you do what you do, that you share the way you share. i feel new again. congratulations on 6000 posts and to luisa’s 4th anniversary.


    1. Thank you. I’m very glad to have your company in the ever-shrinking literary blogosphere.


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