The Inspiring Frog

Whenever I come across a frog in my rambles through the forests and fields of Bruce County, I can never resist trying to get yet another photo of a frog. It’s usually not that difficult, since frogs (and toads) like to sit still. I am not, of course, the first haiku poet to be fascinated by the frog. The splash of an unseen frog in a quiet pond was the inspiration for one of the most frequently translated haiku in the Japanese tradition. Matsuo Bashō, 1744 – 1794, wrote:

old pond
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

(translation by William J. Higginson)

Many other haiku poets have written translations of Bashō’s old pond haiku both strict and loose, or composed their own old pond and/or frog haiku.

Two of my favourite old pond haiku:

old pond . . .
a leaf falls in
without a sound

(haiku by Bernard Lionel Einbond)

Th’old pond — a frog jumps in. Kerplunk!

(loose translation of Bashō’s old pond haiku by Allen Ginsberg)

Here are my own contributions to frog literature, so far.

* * *

HAIKU

From my WINTER WOODS artist’s book:

frog pond
snow falls
without a sound

* * * * *

HAIGA (image+haiku).

Three haiga:

1.

 

spring-rmittelholtz-wp

The photo was taken from the boardwalk at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, Port Elgin, Ontario.

The haiku on its own has been published at World Haiku Review, April 2012
https://sites.google.com/site/worldhaikureview2/whr/home/whr-april-2012/haiku-1—neo-classical.

2.

old-pond-rmittelholtz-wp

As I took this photograph in the Brant Tract near Paisley, Ontario, I was surrounded by the deafening  song of spring frogs – but I didn’t see a single frog. I embedded into the photograph Bashō’s old pond haiku in both English and Japanese. I think of this haiga as a collaboration across the centuries between Bashō and me.

It is one of the haiga in my artist’s book AHA!

3.

You can view my third frog haiga at Daily Haiga:
http://www.dailyhaiga.org/haiga-archives/1174/-camera-focused-by-ruth-mittelholtz-canada

The photo was taken at Dorcas Bay in the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario.

* * *

HAIBUN (prose+haiku)

From my handbound chapbook called FROG SONG,  a haibun called FROG SONG. Other creatures besides frogs inhabit the poems collected in this pamphlet-style book, but FROG SONG called.

FROG SONG

Frog song reverberates through the forest luring potential mates, and my camera. One step in the direction of a likely pond and I am instantly immersed in silence as if I’d flicked a switch. From my  vantage point on the boardwalk, I slowly, methodically, scan the pond’s unrevealing surface, smooth as silk, and wait. I know they’re there.

bare black branches
reflected in still water
my dark form

* * * * *

FREE VERSE LONGER POEM

Also from the chapbook FROG SONG  

PUDDLE

in a small spring puddle
lofty pines reach down to sky
touching wisps of cloud
and stony ground
beyond the drifting leaves of autumn

once I saw a frog
just its snout for a second
before it retreated to its secret sphere
leaving waves in rings
as if I’d thrown a pebble

* * * * *

PHOTOGRAPH

 

froginleaves-mittelholtz-wp

Taken in the Brant Tract.

So far I have not been able to write a satisfying (that is, “honest”) haiku for this image. Perhaps it’s just a mildly amusing shot of a frog.

But it’s always good to have a spare photo of a frog on hand, in case of sudden inspiration.

REFERENCES:

Faubion Bowers, ed. The Classic Tradition of Haiku, An Anthology, Dover Thrift Editions, Dover Publications Inc. 1996.
The classic Japanese masters with a romanized transliteration of the original Japanese and one or more English translations of each haiku. The first three haiku above are from this book.

Daily Haiga: www.dailyhaiga.org
More than 1500 haiga from more than 26 countries around the world.

World Haiku Review: https://sites.google.com/site/worldhaikureview2/whr/home
Haiku and haibun from around the world.

Jane Reichhold. BASHO The Complete Haiku. Kodansha International, 2008.
Reichhold’s close translations and explanatory notes. I scanned the Japanese text for the second haiga above from this book.

And, for seriously humorous homage to Bashō and the frog: 

Gary Baldwin & Derek Beauliew, frogments from the frag pool; haiku after bashō. The Mercury Press, Box 672, Station P, Toronto Ontario Canada. 2005. ISBN 1-55128-112-0. Wildly creative poems, word play and graphics.

Old Pond Comics at  www.oldpondcomics.com

 

© Ruth Mittelholtz 2016

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