José Juan Tablada 
(1871 – 1945) 

So far I have only chosen poets that write/wrote haiku in the English language. This month I have selected a very important Mexican poet who lived in New York for about 20 years but is not very well known and rarely discussed in most haiku circles. José Juan Tablada introduced haiku and tanka to the Spanish language. The Nobel Prize winner in literature, the Mexican poet Octavio Paz, has said that Tablada is one of the most overlooked and underrated poets of the twentieth century. Tablada, for many reasons, deserves to be better known amongst haiku poets. I hope to make a dent in this vacuum with this month's poet profile.

José Juan Tablada came to the United States in 1914, spending a few weeks in Galveston, Texas, before traveling on to New York where he then more or less became a permanent resident. He sought exile in the U.S. due to political persecution in Mexico. Tablada supported the re-election of the despised dictator Porfirio Diaz and his equally hated vice-presidential
candidate, Ramón Corral. Tablada severely offended Francisco Madero (who became president in 1911 but was shot to death by order of General Victoriano Huerta shortly after rebel forces had staged a coup in 1913) and other politicians with his stinging political satire from about 1909-1913, at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. In his satirical play, Madero Chantecler (published the year before Madero was elected president),
Tablada insulted Madero and this drew a lot of criticism and anger in the country. Tablada's home in Coyoacan (a well known district in Mexico City) was ransacked by an angry mob incited by the military under orders from the government. The only copy of the manuscript of his first novel, Nao de China (China Boat) which contained several haiku and tanka interwoven throughout (an idea from Shiki?), was destroyed along with 100 Japanese woodblock prints, paintings and other art objects, and part of his library, lost forever. 

It appears that Tablada had had a difficult time in trying to find a
publisher for this unusual first novel. It was written in 1902, shortly after his first trip to Japan in 1900. A friend of his, a millionaire by the name of Jesus Lujan, paid for his passage and living expenses. In Japan, Tablada was introduced to Okada Asataro. They quickly became friends and Tablada was thus initiated into the art of haiku and tanka. At the Bluff Gardens in Yokohama, Tablada wrote a poem containing 19 three-line
stanzas, "Japanese Muse", his first obvious attempt at haiku, in the autumn of 1900. The poem ends with this three-line stanza:

A white peacock
opens its crystalline fan —

In 1904, the expanded 2nd edition of his book Florilegio (Selected Poems) was published. This book contains several poems about Japan and its culture, translations from the Kokinshu and waka (ancient tanka written in the early part of the tenth century), and some of Tablada's early poems, including the poem Japanese Muse mentioned above. It is significant that
Tablada made no attempt at translating any contemporary or classical haiku while he was in Japan.

Tablada made a second trip to Japan in 1910 and stayed for about a year. At the time of Tablada's first trip, a reform movement led by Shiki (who was on his deathbed) had already been set in motion and was steadily gaining momentum. When Tablada returned to Japan in 1910 this reform movement was nearing its end. It was roughly around this time that Tablada
began studying Zen Buddhism which he practiced for about 8 or 10 years. 

The Japanese haiku poets: Hekigoto, Kyoshi, Seisensui, Ippekiro, Soseki, and many others were experimenting a great deal with haiku. Free-meter haiku, haiku without the traditional season word, widespread use of imagination, and even the use of metaphor were revolutionary changes and experimentation that had become acceptable in some of the leading schools 
of haiku at the time. Even the sacred 5-7-5 pattern had been deviated from by some. Seisensui serialized an article entitled "Comments On The Trends In Haiku". In this article Seisensui traces the history of haiku and explained that the Neo-Tendency Movement (the reform movement) had arrived and stabilized itself in a distinct 5-5-3-5 pattern style.

Tablada never mentioned Shiki nor any of the reformers in this
important movement in Japan. Instead, it appears that Tablada's attention was focused mainly on the experiments of the modern French Imagist poets and was influenced by a great many writers such as: Apollinaire, Andre Breton, Blaise Cendrars, Paul Claudel, Paul Fort, etc. in his poetry. With an adequate basic preliminary foundation in Japanese haiku and tanka: their
elements, mechanics, structure, and essence and with the exposure to the new work of the French Imagist poets, Tablada thus had a framework and background that later led to collections of haiku and haiku related poetry. This should not be misconstrued as imitation. Tablada was an innovator, though he did borrow ideas like most writers do. His haiku are original,
and even though he spent a lot of time away from his homeland; his poetry and haiku generally have a distinct Mexican flavor containing local references to flora, fauna, Mexican culture, etc. in many instances. Tablada also wrote many travel haiku and kept a diary, both of which are intricate parts of the ancient and modern haiku tradition. 

From Japan, Tablada then went on to Paris where haiku had already been introduced into the language, was becoming popular, and was being appreciated and written by an innovative circle of some of the leading French poets. Tablada lived in Paris for about a year from 1911 to 1912. He quickly became familiar with the works of Apollinaire, Louis Cochoud, Paul Eluard, Jean Breton, Jean Paulhan and many others. He studied their poetry, discussed haiku with some of them, and translated some of the work of these and other French poets into Spanish. 

Due to Tablada and a few Spanish poets, such as Nobel Prize winner in literature Juan Ramón Jiménez, Antonio Machado, and Rámon Gómez de la Serna, other poets in the Spanish-speaking world became seriously interested in haiku long before haiku became popular amongst poets in the United States, with the exception of Amy Lowell (who like Tablada and Rafael Lozano was translating French poets); and possibly a few others such as Adelaide Crapsey, Hilda Doolittle, and John Gould Fletcher, (please read Jane Reichhold's Those Women Writing Haiku -Chapter Two ) none of whom ever wrote a collection of haiku. 

* * * *

Notes: Adelaide Crapsey invented a new poetic form, the cinquain (a word of French origin) written in five lines in the following syllabic pattern: 2-4-6-8-2 (all even numbers – while traditional Japanese haiku and tanka are written in a 5-7-5 and a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern – all odd numbers) Some literary critics consider the cinquain a unique American hybrid that combines some of the elements of both haiku and tanka poetry. Her cinquain were written between 1911 and 1913. The Cinquain form has survived and is still being written by a few American poets such as  Jeanne Cassler, Alan Reynolds and  Tom Greer. Crapsey also spent some time in Paris and was there about the same time as Tablada, sometime between 1909 and 1911. 

John Gould Fletcher was heavily influenced by the French Symbolist poets, especially Guy Charles Cros, who he admits having "imitated faithfully" which I interpret as being just short of plagiarism. 

* * * *

I'd like to digress here for awhile if I may, before returning to
Tablada's life and work, to say that although it has been written in several places that Ezra Pound's Imagist group of poets were influenced by haiku and tanka, the truth of the matter is that they did not accomplish very much at all. A lot of talk and very little output. Their discussions were mainly barroom conversations in Soho taverns. Similar and more important discussions were taking place in cafes and taverns in Paris and Madrid which inspired activities that produced real results. 

A few literary critics love quoting Ezra Pound's poem, "In a Station of the Metro" as proof of the influence haiku had on Pound's group, but a lone example is certainly not very convincing to say the least. The group's discussions probably centered around Oriental symbolism and charm, the simplicity and brevity of haiku and tanka and how these and other qualities
might possibly be applied to English language poetry which is quite different from considering the possibilities of actually adopting and adapting the poetic forms (haiku and tanka) like Amy Lowell was contemplating. Fletcher admitted to his own failure saying (in his Preface to Japanese Prints), "Good hokkus cannot be written in English." He blamed academic prosodists for foisting an undignified welter of ex parte theories upon English verse for 300 years. He also said that English language poets had lost the instinct for nature and were unwilling to acquire it through discipline. Fletcher mainly used Oriental images in his poetry in trying to illustrate the charm found in Japanese poetry and art. This is especially apparent in his book titled Japanese Prints published by The Four Seas Company in Boston in 1918. The closest he came to writing a haiku (it's a haiku without the add-on) is in this three-line stanza:

Late summer changes to autumn:
chrysanthemums are scattered
behind the palings

But he ruins it by tacking on a short two-line stanza followed by another three-line-stanza (neither add very much) to end the eight-line short poem. 

Amy Lowell, a good friend of Fletcher's, wrote "Twenty-Four Hokku on a Modern Theme" (please read Jane Reichhold's  Those Women Writing Haiku - Chapter Two ), but had very little else to show. Actually, I think that it was Pound and Fletcher and the academic writing establishment in general that blocked the development of haiku in the English language. They are at least partly to blame due to their dissuasion and discouragement of Amy who wanted to venture deeper into the possibilities of writing American haiku and tanka at the time. The Imagist group should have given Amy their full support and
let her be and paid attention to what the French poets (unfortunately an all male group) such as Paul Eluard, Paul Couchoud, Rene Maublanc, Jean Paulhan, Julien Vocance, Jean Breton, Albert Poncin, Paul Valéry, Jean Cocteau; a number of Spanish poets (more males) such as Juan Ramón Jiménez,
Antonio Machado, José Juan Domenchina, and Ramón Gomez de la Serna and the Mexican poets (still more males) such as José Juan Tablada, José Ruben Romero, Rafael Lozano, and Francisco Monterde were doing at the time, writing haiku and introducing it into their own language, not by using Japanese imagery in an attempt to capture the Oriental spirit in their
poetry, nor by trying to write haiku like the Japanese (a few Japanese imitations and Orientalism are apparent however in Mexican and French haiku), but rather, by expressing the humor, spirit, uniqueness, and intricacies of their respective cultures, personal experiences within their own environment and locales, descriptive intuitive expression of local fauna and flora, and life as it was lived in the villages, towns, and cities at the time. These poets, French and Spanish, produced short works
of haiku and their haiku became anthologized, whereas the English-speaking poets were unable to produce even a single slim volume. 

Perhaps the Hispanic poets had an advantage over the English language poets in that Hispanic poets could draw upon their own literary history where at least some of the roots of Hispanic haiku lie (this subject is a separate essay) and did not have to depend so heavily upon the Japanese for direction, structure, definition and content whereas in English, there were no models other than the Japanese to draw from. 

I believe that Pound and some of the members of his group did a great disservice to American literature by not having taken haiku more seriously at the time. They should have supported and encouraged the front runner Amy Lowell, instead of doing the very opposite. They should have been more conscious and alert as to what was being discussed in important literary
circles at the time in Paris and Madrid instead of playing the "Orientalism game" of faking the imagery in their poetry for awhile and then moving on to something more interesting after the novelty had worn off. As a translator, Pound's main interest was in ancient Chinese poetry, not Japanese. None of the members of his group, or the group itself for that matter, ever published a single small volume or chapbook or even a
broadside in a privately published limited edition of either haiku or tanka. They were not serious. Instead of being given credit and glorified for being the first poets to experiment with haiku or to be influenced by it, with the possible exception of Amy Lowell who became victimized by circumstances due to the oppressive male hierarchy and possibly her own timidity, they should be seen as poets who missed out on a great opportunity due to their lack of vision and failure to see what was happening around them (in France, Spain, and Mexico). Because of their
failure to produce a body of work that could be considered as the true beginning of haiku in English, they delayed the development of haiku in the language by about 40 years! 

As a result, translators of Japanese haiku and others, such as Asataro Miyamori, Lafcadio Hearn, Harold G. Henderson, R. H. Blyth, Kenneth Yasuda, Alan Watts, D. T. Suzuki, (more males again), etc. came along later and began introducing Japanese literature, religion, and culture to the American public. In the 1960s and 1970s most American poets learned of haiku from one or more of the above sources. It is therefore natural that in the beginning, American haiku often tended to align somewhat with Japanese haiku in form and content. It took some years before American haiku could liberate itself from some of the unnecessary Japanese characteristics and misunderstood concepts, often due in part to poor and deficient translations, misinformation and erroneous information, omissions and irrelevancies, a tremendous lack of up-to-date contemporary information and material, etc. to stand freely on its own as a truly legitimate and unique literary genre in American literature today. The academic community and top-ranking poets have looked down upon haiku from the very beginning partly because it was considered an inferior form of poetry, poetry associated with amateurs and school children, not professionals; partly due to the lack of interest and ambition of previous famous poets like Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams in pioneering and initiating the development of American haiku (or something similar called by another name) as a new literary genre, perhaps partly due to its fairly strong connection with Zen Buddhism in a predominantly Christian
country, and perhaps primarily due to the inability to understand and deeply appreciate the power of simplicity and directness and the lack of initiative in learning a new way to read a poem, learning how to become an active participant as a reader. Neither Stevens nor Williams understood the haiku form very well. Their experiments were limited, a passing fancy, thus they never seriously considered the possibility of dedicating themselves to the development of this genre which had not yet been clearly defined in English. Nonetheless, they are given credit by some writers as being forerunners when they were actually dabblers at best, barely getting their toes wet so to speak. A few poems is hardly proof of any really serious interest or intent. A small volume of American haiku at the very least would have been a start. 

Very few famous American poets have written haiku, or at least don't admit that they have, and this unfortunate avoidance and reluctance is due largely I believe to a prejudice against haiku as a result of many misunderstandings, fear of loss of reputation, and a number of other interrelated complex factors. If Pound and the Imagist group or any of the other leading poets at that time had been successful in introducing and bringing haiku (or something very similar to it) into the English language, like Couchoud was able to do in French and Tablada in Spanish, the history of haiku in English would be very different than it is today. 

Getting back now to my main discussion on Tablada, in 1914, the same year that he was forced into political exile, Tablada was decorated with the Zuijo-Sho Medal and Distinction of the Fourth Order by the Emperor of Japan for his journalistic contributions in promoting interest and understanding of the culture, arts, and people of Japan. His monograph Hiroshigué was published in Mexico that very same year.

Tablada remained single for a good part of his life. At the age of 45, he met Nina Cabrera in New York City in the spring of 1917 in the home of Mrs. María Luisa Fernández de Velazco, a woman who owned a boarding house close to where Nina was living with her family in an apartment located on Central Park West Avenue. Nina often dropped by to see one of her friends,
Estela, at the boarding house and they then went out to visit museums in the area and the public library on the corner of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street to borrow books. One day Estela's mother mentioned to Nina that there was a well-educated Mexican fellow who was giving private French classes to some of the youths in Hispanic-American families. Nina wanted to
learn French at the time, so she was interested. A meeting was arranged and Tablada became her private tutor in French. Love grew out of a friendship that developed and about a year-and-a-half later they got married in New York in October, 1918. They spent sort of a "honeymoon" in Esperanza, Colombia, for four months, from February to May, 1919, where Tablada wrote (and painted) the first collection of original Western haiku ever written by a single poet and published outside of Japan 

* * * *

Note: Au fils de l'eau was the first collection of Western haiku. It was published in 1905 and included 72 haiku by the three French poets: Paul Louis Couchoud, Albert Poncin, and Julien Vocance. 
* * * *
Un Día . . . (A Day . . .) is a small collection containing 37 haiku, about the average size of many of today's haiku chapbooks, but very good and important, especially considering the time when it was written. It was Tablada's intention to introduce haiku (and tanka) to the Spanish language with this collection and he was quite successful in his attempt. It
influenced poets in Spain and all over Latin America for many years to come, especially Mexico. Like the great haijin in Japan, Tablada supplemented his haiku with haiga (haiku illustrations – see February's Poet Profile on John J. Polozzolo ).Tablada's haiga are exquisite miniature oval-shaped watercolors, one per page. All 200 copies of this collection of haiku contain original watercolors, not reproductions! Doing a little quick math that comes out to 7,400 original paintings! Tablada takes the reader through an entire day of sights, sounds, and other sensations in four parts: morning, afternoon, dusk, and night to the dawn of another new day. It is a poetic experience that lingers with the reader for a long time afterwards. Tablada was a multi-talented person, being a very good watercolorist, an excellent poet and prolific writer, a fairly good French translator, a Western expert on Japanese and Mexican art and culture, and was one of Mexico's leading experts on mycology. He did watercolors of over 200 varieties of Mexican mushrooms and wrote a book on the subject. 

A large group of journalists in Caracas, where his haiku collection A Day . . . was published, held a banquet in his honor on the day of the book's release. A very long article on the art and life of the Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco had been published the day before, so the banquet was given in Tablada's honor to commemorate both of these works. The world was at war, but Tablada had found the eye of the storm, pointing the way to peace, love, tranquility, harmony, and beauty with these works. Here are a few examples from his first haiku collection: 

Distinct melodies;
the musical aviary
a Tower of Babel 

Note: Some of these haiku, like this first one which is the opening haiku in the collection, have never been translated and published in English before now. Remember, you saw it here first, at AHA Poetry!

it rained all night 
vultures still combing their feathers
in bright sunlight

* * * * 

honeycomb dripping
each drop 
a bee 

* * * 

long cane skyrocket:
bamboo arcing in the rain
shower of emeralds!

* * * 

/of the Andes are swift,
The clouds /of mountains within mountains,
/in wings of the condors

The haiku above is one of my personal favorites. The phrase, "The clouds", written once but read by the reader three times, once for each line, is a very creative innovation that I have never seen repeated by anyone else. 

midday heat —
not a single fan
of the palm tree moves

* * * 

cicadas clickity-click
their little timbrels
chock-full of pebbles 

The haiku above is another one of my personal favorites. This translation was previously published in Modern Haiku in Fall, 1991. Humor differs greatly from country to country and from one period to another. Japanese humor is very different from English humor and American humor. This is a very good example of Mexican humor in haiku.

Precisely, in the arrow
of its beak and feet,
the heron rises . . . 

The above translation was also previously published in Modern Haiku in Fall, 1991. 

expecting night soon
the bougainvillea's flame-thrower
burning in the sunset

* * * * 

crossing over its web
this perfectly clear moon
keeps the spider wide awake

The above translation was also previously published in Modern Haiku in Fall, 1991. 

The pure white swan
with its neck questioning the lake 
silence and shadows

* * * *

the black night is the sea
the cloud a shell 
the moon a pearl 

* * * 

When President Venustiano Carranza came into power in México, Tablada was officially pardoned. Tablada was given a diplomatic post by the new administration. His job took him first to Colombia in 1918 and then to Venezuela in 1919 and part of 1920, but his health failed due to the high altitude and he had to resign his post. Carranza was assassinated shortly afterwards so Tablada could not go back to Mexico and was once again forced into exile. He and his wife returned immediately to New York City where he opened up a bookstore at 118 East 28th Street.

After the publication of A Day . . ., Li Po and Other Poems
(ideographic poems somewhat similar to the work of Apollinaire) was published in 1920 and A Vase of Flowers, Tablada's second and much larger collection of haiku, was published in New York City in 1922. This is the first collection of haiku to be published in the United States! 

* * * *
Note: The first collection of haiku in English to be published in the United States was More Power To You – Poems Everyone Can Make by Paul Reps published 17 years later in 1939 – (see October's Poet Profile - Paul Reps ). 

* * * *

The artist's illustrations in A Vase of Flowers are very similar in style to the illustrations contained in Apollinaire's Bestiary published in Paris in 1911. These three books (A Day . . ., Li-Po and Other Poems, and A Vase of Flowers) stunned the Spanish-speaking literary world and Tablada's influence spread like wildfire. Haiku became very popular in Mexico throughout the 1920s. Even though Tablada was gaining in popularity, his
haiku were not immediately understood or appreciated by all the critics, but were well received in both Paris and Madrid where the popularity of haiku had been advancing at a relatively rapid pace. Some of the criticism rubbed Tablada the wrong way and he wrote the following haiku in reply:

To A Bogota Critic:

Who knows more
about the frog by the well
the sea and the sky
you or I?

Tablada's fondness for the haiku even extended to his home life. He lived in a Japanese-style house built by Mexican carpenters in the Catskill Mountains in New York where he had a haiku carved on both his front and back doors. He also had a Japanese-style house, his home in the Coyoacan District of Mexico City, where he often wore a kimono which was an
important part of his wardrobe. He decorated the interior with fine Japanese art objects and spent many an enjoyable hour in his Japanese-style rock garden. He was especially fond of the bamboo that he had planted on his property.

In order to fully realize just how astonishing Tablada's achievements were as a haiku poet, it is necessary to view his work from an historical perspective. Introducing haiku into another language as an original form is no easy task. The French seem to have done a pretty fair job, but English-speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, and England
have had a much rougher time. Even today haiku is still considered taboo territory by upper echelon poets in these countries, a second or third class art form written by amateur poets or those who write poetry as a hobby with nothing else better to do. They can't say that anymore though because there are now English language haiku masters (including women –
Japan has some catching up to do now!) with more than 25 years of writing experience and knowledge under their belts who have received international awards and whose work has been translated into various languages, long-standing haiku publications, and national and international haiku and tanka societies and associations. But the big name publishers keep those presses rolling, cranking out thousands of copies of "new" Japanese haiku translations of the Big Four: Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki (haiku that were written 100-300 years ago) by academics who have made a name for themselves within the name-game buddy-buddy system (no outsiders or "unknowns" allowed) giving them grants and publishing their work via subsidies instead of publishing the best work of living haiku poets who have paid their dues but are still continued being shunned and ignored by those in power with the purse-strings. Haiku is still not considered as true literature in the English language, whereas in Spanish, Nobel Prize winning poets such as Juan Ramón Jimenez and Octavio Paz and other great internationally known poets such as Rafael Alberti, Jorge Luis Borges, Javier Sologuren, Rosa Nuñez, and many other very well-known and highly respected Hispanic poets have written haiku. The acceptance of haiku in Spanish has a lot to do with how Tablada introduced it to the Spanish language.

Many of Tablada's haiku reflect current or past trends in
modern haiku written in English today! For instance, Tablada did not make the very big mistake of adhering to a strict 5-7-5 syllable count. He never even once mentioned it! He did not stipulate that haiku must be written in three lines, rhyme was acceptable but not required, nor did he require the season word, but often included some seasonal reference or mood. Tablada's haiku images are usually sharp and vivid, crystalline; his language creative and fresh; he avoided worn or hackneyed phrases; he used assonance, alliteration, rhyme, meter, and onomatopoeia very effectively without distracting the reader or distorting the moment; he indicated instead of explaining and drawing conclusions and avoided abstraction and intellectuality, he was subtle and suggestive, and many of his haiku were left open-ended. Many of his haiku are still a joy to read today and have universal appeal even though some readers may consider them a bit old-fashioned, perhaps like some ancient Japanese haiku seem today? 

Tablada often wrote about nature, but also wrote urban haiku and haiku on social themes. He made it very clear that his haikai were not haikai in the strict Japanese sense of the word, although there is a definite affinity. He did not even want to use the term haikai at all, but his other designations, "synthetic poems" and "disasssociated lyrics" didn't stick, so he was resigned to calling them haikai and gave up on trying to gain
acceptance of another word or phrase to describe his compositions. Besides creating haiga and keeping a diary where he occasionally wrote down a haiku as I have already mentioned, he also wrote haiku sequences (this idea probably came from the French Imagist poets who were writing them), created several visual haiku (often called eye-ku in English), understood the importance of pauses and silences (often effectively using the ellipsis), frequently used the metaphor (perhaps too often), and realized that a haiku should make the reader or listener smile a little (thus many of his haiku contain humor or irony). He returned joy and enthusiasm to the Spanish
lyric which was suffering at the time due to the encumbrance of
sentimentalism and melancholy in the overwrought style of versification.

Besides studying Zen, as I have mentioned, he also studied theosophy. A certain tranquility is noticeable in some of his haiku; reminiscent of Zen, Taoist, and theosophical principles. He had a deep love and respect for all living things. Humans, plants, birds, animals, fish, and insects shine and are celebrated in his haiku and poetry. Although Tablada was obviously enamored by things Japanese, his own haiku were not Japanese
haiku imitations. Haiku was more than just a new form of poetry, for Tablada, it was also a way of life, a way of living, thinking, feeling, and most of all, being and self-expression. 

In 1923 a group of young Mexican writers, mostly poets, named Tablada at the age of 51, as the most representative poet of the youth! Many of these Mexican writers and poets such as Francisco Monterde, Rafael Lozano, Ruben Romero, Carlos Gutiérrez Cruz, José D. Frias, José María Gonzalez de Mendoza, and several other poets, applauded Tablada's many achievements and soon followed in his footsteps with their own collections of Hispanic haiku. Thus the haiku movement was born in Mexico, became relatively widespread over the years, and is still thriving there to this day.

I'd now like to end with a selection of José Juan Tablada's haiku. Again, some of these haiku have never been translated and published in English before and are being presented to the readers of this AHA POETRY column for the very first time.

Turquoise blue plumage
and a long bill 
this huge hummingbird! 

* * * 

Over and under the ground
undulating like a snake
the rubber tree root

* * * 

Silver rivulets at my feet;
stones on the mountain road 
glistening in the sun and rain

* * * 

crystal clear water:
on the shore the same
gray alligator

* * * 


a woman of letters 
has a feather in her blue hat
like a quill in an inkwell 

* * *


women passing by,
so close to my eyes 
so far from my life

* * *

for each thorn of the thistle
on the mule's rump 
a star-shaped scar

* * * 

loaded down 
the fly tormented burro 
dreams of an emerald paradise

* * * 

Cocktail glasses clink;
the cracks between our teeth
tinted with grenadine!

* * * 

Come to me rain, sun rays,
put your rainbow 
in my heart 

* * * 

The smells
of gasoline, tobacco
and mignonette!

* * *

Flying Fish 

The sea's glassy surface
bombarded by golden sunbeams
explodes into splinters!

* * * * 

weeping willow river
reflecting the crosses
of a country cemetery

* * *

between the whitecaps:
arabesques of blue waves 
and rolling dolphins

* * * 

Hot and humid hamlet —
the sound of locusts
whirring and rattling

* * *

Green jasper gourds,
cinnabar squash flowers
and alabaster tubers

* * * 

The meadow at dawn:
sunlight replaces starlight
in the wet daisies

* * * 

Waves pound the shore;
splotches of spume 
chasing seagulls away!

(Forest Hills, New York,
September 28, 1924)

All translations from the Spanish were done by Ty Hadman and are copyrighted.

It has been said that Tablada's haiku and Hispanic haiku in general are not very good. Most of the above haiku were written about 70 or 80 years ago when very little had been written outside of Japan on how to write good haiku, techniques, critical studies, etc. Tablada had no examples in his
own language with which to compare his haiku. I would be interested in the opinions of the readers of this column, do you agree or disagree with the assessment in the first sentence above? And secondly, do you think his haiku are worthy of re-publication today? 

Column Copyright © Ty Hadman 2001.
Page Copyright © AHA Books 2001.

Read past Poet Profiles:
Helen Chenoweth.
Paul Reps

Beatrice Brissman Jane Andrew Evelyn Tooley Hunt Ana Takseena Roberta Stewart Magnus Mack Homestead Steve Thompson Viola Provenzano
, Mentor Addicks, Harvey Hess, Mary Truth Fowler. Alan Pizzarelli, Ana Barton, Margaret G. Robinson, Mary Dragonetti:
Richard Wright

Janice  Bostok

John J. Polozzolo ZOLO