With this book of translations, the importance of the contribution of Takashi Ikemoto's professional knowledge and advice becomes quite evident. The quality of Stryk's translations has obviously suffered without Ikemoto's valuable in-put. The haiku reading public deserves better than another mediocre book of Japanese haiku translations. The book was not published on the merits of the translations, but rather, on the merits of Stryk's past achievements and accomplishments. The book is heavily flawed in nearly every aspect. Lucien Stryk's translations fall far short of the previous accomplishments made in this field by other translators prior to this project and difficult undertaking. There are many technical flaws, actual errors, and omissions in this book of translations. Here are a few examples from his book to back up my accusations:
In my new robe this morning- someone else.
This is the first haiku in the book, so Stryk gets himself into deep trouble from the onset. First of all, someone else is not wearing Basho's robe. Basho has just put on the new silk robe given to him as a gift from his beloved disciple Ransetsu. This should have been footnoted, especially since it ties in with Stryk's main theme. It is the first day of spring (according to the old lunar calendar) which was celebrated as New Year's Day. It is therefore not just any morning as suggested in Stryk's translation, but a special one that haiku poets and the people of Japan have been fond of for many generations. The literal translation of the last line is: Who do I look like? Basho is being both humorous and playful, light-hearted with his disciple. It is a display of affection and Basho is saying that he feels like a new man and does not want nor expect a serious response from his haiku pupil. It is not a question at all; it's a compliment, a way of saying thanks, a way of expressing complete satisfaction and comfort!
Since Stryk decided to name the book On Love And Barley, I feel that he has a responsibility to his readership to emphasize and stress the theme of love whenever appropriate, and like the example given above, he failed to do this. Because of his neglect, there is a conspicuous lack of unity and cohesion in the overall presentation. The order of the haiku as they appear in the book seems arbitrary, as if the haiku were randomly tossed together without much fore-thought. Many of the haiku are taken out of context (haiku that were originally part of a renga or haibun). These should have been footnoted, but weren't. It seems in every possible area where Stryk could have gone wrong, he did go wrong!
Another example from the book:
Parting, straw-clutching support.
All Lucien Stryk says about this haiku in his footnote is that this haiku is another parting poem meant for Basho's friends. This book, unlike many books of Japanese haiku translations, does not include the Japanese (Romanized) versions. But the above haiku is very well known, so I took the time and looked it up. The Japanese word mugi does not mean straw. Guess what, it means barley! The word barley should definitely have been used, especially in view of the fact that the word is part of the title that Stryk assigned to the book, and he didn't use it! Shame on him! The cat/love/barley haiku previously quoted is the ONLY haiku in the book with the word barley in it. This haiku should have included the word too. It is my opinion that the love/barley theme is stronger in this haiku than it is in the cat/barley haiku if it is adequately translated and properly footnoted. The Japanese phrase chikara ni tsukamu (the second line) means more accurately than clutching, clutching convulsively or with great intensity. Basho was departing on what was to be his last journey, from the outskirts of Edo (Tokyo) on the way to his birthplace (near Ueno outside of Kyoto) three months prior to his death. Stryk's translation is ambiguous. To many readers it appears that Basho is doing the clutching and that is simply not true! He was departing from his friends on a dirt path next to a field of barley and out of an involuntary and spontaneous nervous reaction due to the intense grief of parting, his friends (not Basho) were intensely grasping the barley stalks by the pathway as they were saying their final farewells to him. Basho noticed this subtle anxiety of theirs, was deeply moved, and out of mutual love and affection for his friends and disciples, wrote the above haiku for them in their honor, thus immortalizing the tender and deeply felt emotions of their strong and close friendship. Another example:
Orchid - breathing incense into butterfly's wings.
A woman of high society by the name of Miss Butterfly (as in Madame Butterfly) owned a teahouse and requested that Basho compose a haiku for her on his return from Ise shrine. It was the custom in those days for the upper class women to perfume their clothing in the smoke of sandalwood or with other aromatics. The haiku is obviously in praise of her beauty, (not just her physical beauty, but her grace and beauty in natural surroundings or perhaps the tea-house) and once again Lucien Stryk failed to footnote this haiku that so appro-priately ties in with the book's main theme. A better translation might read something like this:
perfuming her wings in the orchid's fragrance oh beautiful butterfly!
There are many more examples that I can give where Stryk made serious omissions and errors, but in 1,000 words I cannot give any more examples. I do suggest that readers interested in good Basho haiku translations look elsewhere. At $7.96, this book is no bargain.