Category Archives: bpNichol

Translation: Matsuo Basho

To start, here is the original text of one of the most famous haiku ever written:


furuike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

— Matsuo Basho

(More background on and other poems by Matsuo Basho.)

Next, five of many ‘straightforward’ translations:

A lonely pond in age-old stillness sleeps…
Apart, unstirred by sound or motion…till
Suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps.

Pond, there, still and old!
A frog has jumped from the shore.
The splash can be heard.

Ah! The ancient pond
As a frog takes the plunge
Sound of the water

The old pond, yes, and
A frog-jumping-in-the-
Water’s noise!

old pond……
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

old pond
frog leaping

This poem also drew the more experimental efforts of bpNichol:


The Queerness of It All



Basho Update
as read in a newspaper

Frog Pond turns into
a gold mine


(“His last variation, apparently never published…the circle is the pond, and the tail is the frog’s diving board.”)


Following in bpNichol’s footsteps, here are some other experimental translations of this haiku.


So what do you like best? The traditional or the experimental? The textual or the visual? What’s the most faithful translation? How much should ‘faithfulness’ matter when translating poetry?


Sonnet by bpNichol

dear Captain Poetry,
your poetry is trite.
you cannot write a sonnet
tho you’ve tried to every night
since i’ve known you.
we’re thru!!
Madame X

dear Madame X

Look how the sun leaps now upon our faces
Stomps & boots our eyes into our skulls
Drives all thot to weird & foreign places
Till the world reels & the kicked mind dulls,
Drags our hands up across our eyes
Sends all white hurling into black
Makes the inner cranium our skies
And turns all looks sent forward burning back.
And you, my lady, who should be gentler, kind,
Have yet the fiery aspect of the sun
Sending words to burn into my mind
Destroying all my feelings one by one;
You who should have tiptoed thru my halls
Have slammed my doors & smashed me into walls

Cap Poetry

— bpNichol

More background, and other poems:

5 Poems by bpNichol

Commentary: “The poem implies that love evolves if you simultaneously go back to and repeate its sources and add something unique to them, not expecting completion, but leaving it implied. It suggests, lives on, and negates evil. Its axis is the letter e, exerting its transforming influence on another vowel while remaining otherwise unobtrusive in the single syllable ‘love’; but dominating the two syllable word ‘evol,’ creating a scream that tears the poem in half.” -Karl Young, “The Visual Poetry of bpNichol; a Brief Sketch”

Make sure to also check out bpNichol’s incredible collection First Screening: Computer Poems:

More background, and other poems: