translated by
Nanao Sakaki


by Inch

45 Haiku
by Issa

96 pages

6 x 7 inches

ISBN: 1-888809-13-2




Buddhist hipster
beat poet wanderer

article from vancouver


Beetniks in Japan


Yaponesian Global Guerrilla Poet
Nanao Sakaki by Taylor Mignon at with links (see excerpts of Nanao or Never at Jack


This selection of haiku by Issa Kobayashi (1763-1827) is translated by contemporary, and legendary, Japanese poet Nanao Sakaki. Widely regarded as one of the four greatest haiku poets of Japan, Issa is much loved for his inherent compassion and humorous sense of equality with the natural world.

Don’t swat the fly 
          who begs your pardon
                wringing his hands and legs

Each poem is rendered in Sakaki’s handwriting in both English and Kanji and includes Romanji text as well. Other translations of Issa are often labored or misguided, here are some of the freshest and concise, if not most accurate, versions of his haiku around. Also included in the book is a delightful and extensive interview with Sakaki about the life, wanderings, and work of Issa as well as the ongoing tradition embodied by his poems. Beautifully designed, this book is a treasure for admirers of both Issa and Nanao Sakaki.

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) was born in Kashiwabara village, Shinano, Japan. His family members were middle class farmers and serious Buddhists of the Pure Land Sect. Most of the time living in Edo (old-time Tokyo), occasionally traveling as a vagabond poet, he lived a rather sad life. Not gifted with genius, but honestly holding his experience deep in his heart, he kept his simplicity and humanity. Very skeptical of authorities, either political or religious, he (after Basho’s revolutionary break-through) opened the democratic trail for common people.

— Nanao Sakaki

Born in a small village near Kagoshima, at the southern tip of Japan's Kyushu Island, Nanao ("Seventh Son") Sakaki has lived a remarkable life. He was drafted into the navy during WWII and observed farewell parties for young Kamikaze pilots leaving at dawn for their deaths. After he was spared a military mass suicide order when Japan surrendered, he became a wandering scholar and poet, walking the length and breadth of Japan. An early leader of Japan's counterculture, he befriended American poets Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder in 1964, an association which continued for decades. His work has been described as bringing the classical zen tradition of Basho and Ryokan into the 20th century.


Three by Nanao
Peter Warshall
(Whole Earth, Summer 1997)

Inch by Inch (La Alameda Press) is translations of Issa's haiku. Very invertebrate (snails, cicadas, crickets) and contraposed to those many other very serious academic haiku translators. Nanao's special sport: a disarming hayseed humor. Let's Eat Stars (Blackberry Books)is his second compilation of poems and plays, after Break the Mirror. Nanao or Never (Blackberry Books) is a backpack full of stories by friends who love him.

Once a Buddhist monk lathered Nanao with the monk's long, honorable lineage. Nanao answered: "I have no lineage. I am desert rat." Nanao's poetics cut through the clutter, chatter, and the misplaced concreteness of modernity. He is Japan's ninja Earth walker, tripster, spirit warrior, and elder poetic voice; haunted by Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Disarming poetics, deceptively "simple" subversions and word carvings crafted from Ainu, "primitive," and other ancients' merriment. (Think of the best breeze at the best dawn of your life).

Upon the blooming plum twig
     a warbler
               wipes his muddy feet

How lovely
         through the torn paper window
                — the Milky Way

Grasshopper, good singer!
         Take care of my tomb
                when I die


Believe me, children!
God made
Sky for airplanes
Coral reefs for tourists
Farms for agrichemicals
Rivers for dams
Forests for golf courses
Mountains for ski resorts
Wild animals for zoos
Trucks and cars for traffic tragedies
Nuclear power plants for ghost dance.
Don't worry, children!
The well never dries up.
Look at the evening glow!
Sunflowers in the garden.
Red dragonflies in the air.
A small child starts singing:
"Let's eat stars?"
"Let's eat stars!"

COPYRIGHT 2000 Point Foundation