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Robert Hass Reads "Selected Haiku" by Issa

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With support from: Lowell Institute
Date and time
Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hass reads "Selected Haiku" by Kobayashi Issa from his book of translations *The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa*. Issa, who was born in 1763 to a farming family in rural Japan, is considered one of four great masters of Haiku. This 17 syllable poetic form is known for its ability to squeeze astonishing beauty and depth of feeling out of plain language and direct observation. Issa's poems are remarkable for their "pathos and humor," especially in light of the string of tragedies that marked each stage of his life.

Translating haiku seems like a natural fit for Robert Hass, a US poet laureate (1995- 1997), and recipient of the 2007 National Book Award for poetry. Hass says he likes poems that "get to the point," citing beat poet Lew Welch's classic "Raid Kills Bugs Dead."