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a stink-bug haiku & fart senryu

If haikus first-poet Basho's friend, the Rabelesian Kikaku introduced the fart as a phenomenon of wintering-in, Issa found ways to extend it into other seasons.   He wrote a baker's dozen of stink-bug haiku (Fall).  In Japanese, the bug is called the farting-bug and a transliteration of  the correct usage of the Chinese characters which Issa didn't always use is "cut-fart-bug." I do not know if it is a certain beetle or a much smellier smaller bug.  But it does not matter.  The metaphor is what counts.  Eight paraverses of just one of those haiku follow:


ore yori wa haruka jouzu zo he-hiri-mushi

(me, more than far better! fart-cut-bug)


To Mister Stink-bug


you are indeed

true master of the art

i concede


-- an Old Fart 



i lose!


you cut the cheeze

far better than me




in praise of the bombardier


my farts

are nothing to your art

o beetle!



the contest


stink-bug art

has nullified my fart

 you win again!


In Japan, there was a famous picture-story scroll (Nara e-hon) about a farting contest between bonzes. It was called the He-ho-gasen, or "fart-cut-battle."  A more common term for such competition was he-kurabe, or "fart-comparing."


to a certain beetle


you cut them so well

and whenever you please!

if i took the cake

then you take the cheeze!



an old fart conceeds


i fear i can not hold a fart

to you the master of our art

oh, stink-bug!



a flatulent old poet impressed


in fall thou art

a veritable spring of fart




fall letter


Dear Stink-bug,


I grant you are my master at this woeful art!


Signed, with warm regards,

Issa, an old fart.



The main reason I began to paraverse my haiku and senryu (5-7-5 poems that tend toward black-humor and stereotype) translation was my inability to carry the punning ambiguity that marks Japanese poetry into English in a single piece. The following might best be called complementary paraverse. Taken together, they convey the information --- and I hope the wit --- found in the original.  Verses need not be obvious rhymes, so long as they pack enough punch to be witty.


he-o hiite okashiku-mo-nai hitorimono

(fart-cut even if, funny-not singleman)


a sorry sight


looking for all the world

like he would sooner fart than not

a single man



the recluse


what good is breaking wind

when you've no one there

to shoot it with


Even as I retype this for the PARAVERSE site, I discover (or invent) two more minor nuances:




a single wino

whenever he cuts the cheeze:

his empty life





single life

even farts are never

a surprise


And, speaking of paraversing, it so happens that there is a haiku (?) well-known in part for being exceptionally short, to the effect that a cough is worthless to a single man (seki o shitemo hitori (?)) which may well combine this senryu with another pointing out that coughs have many uses.

robin d. gill paraverse press


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