Kobayashi Issa was born on this day in 1763 in Japan. One of the most loved Japanese poets, he studied haiku in Edo before spending much of his life traveling or living in his home village. He once characterized the style of his group as "countrified haikai." Robert Hass, editor of The Essential Haiku observes: "His poems teem with creaturely life, especially the life of the smallest creatures. He wrote hundreds of poems about flies, fleas, crickets, bedbugs, lice." Issa was a Pure Land Buddhist.


Here is a brief sampler of his work from The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa edited by Robert Hass:

  • Don't worry, spiders.
    I keep house
  • I'm going to roll over,
    so please move,
  • Even with insects —
    some can sing,
    some can't.
  • The flies in the temple
    imitate the hands
    of the people with prayer beads.
  • Goes out,
    comes back —
    the loves of a cat.
  • The wren —
    looking here, looking there.
    You lose something?