DailyHaiku - A Daily Shot Of Zen


Special Feature 8—Translating the Four Seasons

Translating the Four Seasons
Poems and Translations by Antonella Filippi

— March 12, 2011 —



ramo di pruno—
chi pensa oggi ai fiori
dell’anno scorso?

a plum branch—
who thinks today
about last year’s flowers?

ciliegi in fiore
tra i piedi del mugnaio
petali bianchi

cherry trees in bloom
between the miller's feet
white petals



luce del falò
la mia ombra danza
a mia insaputa

the light of a bonfire
my shadow dances
unknown to me

un guscio vuoto
consumato dal canto
rossa cicala

empty shell
consumed by its chirping
a red cicada



foglie raccolte
con il suo puntaspilli
piccolo riccio

leaves picked
with its pincushion
little hedgehog

foglia secca
sospinta dal vento
vecchia farfalla

dried leaf
pushed out by the wind
old butterfly



la luna piena—
fiori bianchi nascono
sul ramo secco

full moon—
white flowers grow
on dry branches

neve gelata
scricchiola sotto i piedi
luce lunare

hard snow
the moonlight
crunches underfoot

Translator's Note

Poetry (and generally art) is organic life in itself, because it is based on various rhythms, physical and emotional. Rhythm, the alternation of pauses and sounds, emptiness and fullness, is part of us since our first breath, is our numeric framework, is a principle through which a part is related to the whole. Language too is a question of rhythm.

When we translate into a language that is not our mother tongue, however well we know it, we go blindly on; the ear tells us if a word is “right.” This perfect adaptation between form and matter, word and idea, translates into musical harmony. Translation is a challenge to hear with other ears, to enter the flow of another rhythm and to perceive its pulse and voice. In a certain way, this makes us better know our own mother tongue.

In our thoughts there is always an effort, a striving to understand, solve, communicate, to fragment: poetry, like dreams and music, shows us the intuition of the whole. The translation of a perception into words is “spontaneous and natural” when we are able to welcome it without judgments, as it is, “here-and-now.” Haiku is the maximum possible linguistic condensation of a “here-and-now.” Classic poetry tells us a story and we follow it using rational functions—for example, verbal comprehension or the logical sequence of what is said—but haiku makes us use perception, creativity, and imagination before translating into rationality. What's more important in haiku is the unsaid, the void among the words, silence. Translation, both of one's own haiku and those of other haijin, should express this unsaid, possibly in the same way.

Antonella Filippi

Antonella Filippi

Antonella Filippi is a writer and poet living in Italy. Her haiku have been published in Italy, UK, USA, and Japan. Her last haiku book is Autumn rose (Italian, English, French, Japanese). She is member of the main Italian Haiku Association (www.cascinamacondo.com) and member of the jury of Cascina Macondo's International Haiku Contest in Italian. Passionate with science and literature, she also works as editorial director and scientific director for different companies and teaches in a school of complementary medicine.

Past Special Features

"What is a special feature?" you may ask. The DailyHaiku special features section is dedicated to innovative collections of haiku and related forms that work very well as a thematic unit, bring the reader a new perspective on the form, explore the seasonal nature of haiku, or push the bounds of haiku in novel directions. Special features will be posted throughout each year (usually as a surprise) and will also be included in the yearly print edition.