Reviews: Cherry Blossom Epiphany --  the poetry and philosophy of a flowering tree  home       or, in japanese  waparaverse     paraverse press      new books        cherry errata      cherry description


" It is pure water! " says the First Review.  What does that mean?  Read and see!

first published at by sw. All italics and most explanations in brackets are by rdg

This book is exceedingly delightful -- what word could be more accurate I cannot say! Here is a guide to allow every reader to play with their own translations of these poems -- indeed all the important ingredients -- are amply included:

For each poem --

(1) the original Japanese
(2) a word by word Romaji [
Latin alphabet = phonetic] version
(3) a word-by-word literal English translation [
including syntax, e.g. that a word is the [obj] of the sentence]
(4) several possible translations
(5) a paragraph of fascinating history and interpretation.

Here is part of a sample entry for a poem by Chiyo-ni so that you can check out the Japanese and Romaji (the book includes 40 !! never before translated poems by Chiyo) -- see: [Chiyo is the best known female haiku poet]

Two possible translations offered by Robin D. Gill for this poem are below -- but again these are working ideas for YOUR translation -- your lineation and punctuation -- nothing in this book is cut in stone -- it is pure water, ever-flowing -- and that is what is so inspiring about it, its generosity and delightful creativity!

things unseen
delight more than the seen
cherry blossoms!                                   or                                           cherry blossoms!
                                                                                                 the unseen delights me
                                                                                                      more than the seen

See Robin D. Gill's homepage at

- sw

i -- author-publisher -- wrote sw to say i was delighted with the stone and water metaphor but that it seemed a better description of the art of paraversing ( described here ) in general, and what i did (many readings, expanding on Alan Watts) to the first six characters of Lao Tse's Road-no-road  in particular ( take a peek! ), not to mention Issa's fart-bug ( why not? ) and wondered if she had seen it.  Here is part of her reply:


I just wrote from my heart on your Cherry Blossom Epiphany -- without any idea that you might have touched on anything I was saying -- but all your ideas, the whole dynamic of paraversing is so fluid -- like a Vivaldi Sonata -- or an invention perhaps of some Venetian gondolier !    Thanks!   i have long thought of myself as a mangrove pen writing on water . . .  rdg

The next comments by Professor Lewis Cook of CUNY, were on a haiku-related blog run by Dr. Gabi Grebe. I will try to get the date and web address soon.  While responding to a question about this book, some comments are  more general, so I may make a new page for comments touching upon all my translations elsewhere.

> Let me be the first to second Norman's recommendation.

> _Cherry Blossom Epiphany_ is a lot more fun to read, and far more

> informative, than anything since R.H.Blyth (perhaps) that purports to

> render Japanese haiku (or haikai, or hokku) into English (excepting

> _Rise, Ye Sea Slugs!_ and _Fly-ku!_, also by Mr. Gill). One reason is

> that Robin Gill does not pretend to have the last word on

> translation. Instead, he gives, as a rule, two or three alternative

> versions of each haiku he translates (in addition to the text of the

> original with a word-for-word gloss), thus allowing the reader who is

> not (as they used to put it) 'in possession of' pre-modern Japanese a

> rare opportunity to see what is going on behind the scenes when a

> conscientious translator is at work: how deep the ambiguities and how

> wide the range of choices to be made in the effort to wrench a poem

> from its mother tongue and make it speak another (forgive the

> metaphorics). In doing so, he provides the reader with the equipment

> (and an invitation) to make her / his own choices.


>  (One of my > favorites is on p. 375, where no less than seven translations are

> proposed, but four of them "sous rature," or _misekechi_ ['erasures

> shown,' literally]: in old Japanese, words crossed out in a

> manuscript but left legible enough that the reader can see what was

> discarded, and imagine why. Publishers with accountants are not

> likely to tolerate this kind of haikaiesque mischief. Gill gets away

> with it only because he is his own publisher.)

> And (another reason, if needed) in his commentary Gill distances

> himself from the conventions of pedantry just as effectively as the

> haikai poets he translates departed from the venerable (and staid and

> eventually stuffy) traditions of classical linked verse to make

> something new.


> It was bad old Ezra Pound, acknowledging his heavy debt to haiku in

> translation, who affirmed that the first rule of poetry was "Make it

> new." This is something Gill has done more effectively, as far as

> remaking haiku in English goes, than anyone else around.

> (Note to Norman: don't worry about reaching the last page. At the

> rate he's been publishing, I suspect Mr Gill will have another volume

> out by the time you get there.)


> Lewis Cook

Coming from the sharpest scholar of Japanese literature I know, I was thrilled to read the kind words.  Do not think the good professor is praising all I do. In private correspondence, he has given me the most ferocious criticism I have ever received.  Cook was right, The Fifth Season was just about to come out.
The next is from an Irish haiku-zine of exquisite style is reflected in its marvelous name which right now I forget! Something like Haiku Spirits and the editor's name had my last name in it.  I'll try to get back with the names soon. . . Ah, maybe Fabre Gillian? Is that right?

This fascinating book, celebrating the poetry and philosophy of a flowering tree, which is at the source of metaphysical experience in Japan, opens with this great announcement: Dedicated to all who have sat in the bloomshade of the sakura under a blue sky and shivered, though not from the cold.

This major work features a selection, translation and lengthy explication by Robin D. Gill of 3,000 haiku, waka, senryû and kyôka about this major theme. It will satisfy poets and haiku lovers and could become a must for linguists, translators or any one interested in Japanese culture and in learning how and why Cherry Blossoms have become such a symbol. One can only admire the work and translations of Robin D Gill and his dedication and commitment to share his research.

If the solemn yet happy New Year’s is the most important celebration of Japanese culture, and the quiet aesthetic practice of Moon-viewing in the fall the most elegant expression of Pan-Asian Buddhism=religion, the subject of this book, Blossom-viewing – which generally means sitting down together in vast crowds to drink, dance, sing and otherwise enjoy the flowering cherry in full-bloom – is less a rite than a riot (a word originally meaning an “uproar”). The major carnival of the year, it is unusual for being held on a date that is not determined by astronomy, astrology or the accidents of history as most such events are in literate cultures. It takes place whenever the cherry trees are good and ready. Enjoyed in the flesh, the blossom-viewing, or hanami, is also of the mind, so much so, in fact, that poetry is often credited with the spread of the practice over the centuries from the Imperial courts to the maids of Edo. Nobles enjoyed link-verse contests presided over by famous poet-judges. Hermits hung poems feting this flower of flowers (to say the generic “flower”=hana in Japanese connotes “cherry!”) on strips of paper from the branches of lone trees where only the wind would read them. In the Occident, too, flowers embody beauty and serve as reminders of mortality, but there is no flower that, like the cherry blossom, stands for all flowers. Even the rose, by any name, cannot compare with the sakura in depth and breadth of poetic trope or viewing practice. In Cherry Blossom Epiphany, Robin D. Gill hopes to help readers experience, metaphysically, some of this alternative world.