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?