Chen-ou Liu's Translation Project: First English-Chinese Haiku and Tanka Blog

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Insect Haiku

one by one
fireflies escape my glass jar...
starry night



(Editor's Comment: The narrator in this ku, possibly a child, has been collecting fireflies in a glass jar. What child has not participated in this activity on an early, twilight summer eve? Such an activity permits a close up inspection of these mysterious, luminescent creatures—an up close experience of the microcosm. Later, the narrator releases the fireflies, and one by one they escape their "glass" confinement returning to the larger world. They become indistinguishable in the clear night sky as as their tiny, glowing lights become intermixed with the canvas of the night sky filled with stars. The transformation of views is dramatic—moving from a microcosmic view to a macrocosmic view. It is this shift of view point that captures my attention. The child like act of capturing fireflies as specimens for display in a glass jar is commonplace, but allowing them to escape and mingle as points of light against the large canvas of a sky on a starry night leads one to speculate on the larger questions about life. What is life? Is there life in the vast and mostly unexplored, distant universe? Are the life forms of the "firefly", a "human", and a distant "star" related? What is the origin of life? These are large questions—all of which invade my mind upon reading Chen-ou Liu's interesting haiku?

Some readers may object to the selection of this haiku as a Choice example. Both "firefly" and "starry night" are commonly listed kigos—haijin purists will hastily point out that only one kigo should be used. Yet, the vastness of the questions that arise in my mind from reading Chen-ou Liu's haiku lead me to persist in this choice)

French Translation by Serge Tome, Tempslibres Editor

une par une
les lucioles s'échappent de mon bocal en verre...
nuit étoilée

(Haïku archetypal majeur. La Lumière dans la Nuit. Mais aussi la Lumière en opposition avec la Nuit. La Lumière qui s'élève. On trouve aussi une analogie (courante) entre lucioles et étoiles partageant les sèmes de points de lumière dans la nuit. Je en peux aussi m'empêcher de penser au mythe de Pandore avec la boîte contenant les maux qu'elle a la curiosité d'ouvrir. Ici cependant, les lucioles sont l'opposé des maux (car elles représentent la Lumière). Un haïku tout en contraste.)

published in the July / August 2011 "bugs / insects" Haiku Thread of Sketchbook (Editor's First Choice Haiku)