Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) is often listed as the last of the haiku masters, following Basho, Buson, and Issa. Still, Shiki remains distinct in his modernist approach, taking influence from Western writers and artists while reflecting changes within his own society. 

In his Outline of Haikai, Shiki stresses “copying things as they are,” foreshadowing Imagism’s “direct treatment of the thing.” In the same text, Shiki writes about the importance of combining “reverie (kūsō) and realism (shajitsu),” allowing for a kind of reflective minimalism - sketches, both exterior and interior.

     I go
you stay
          two autumns

In recent years, Shiki's work has found several critics (especially when set beside Basho, Buson, and Issa). But while Shiki certainly took influence from those who went before him, his goal was not to tread the same ground.

three thousand haiku
          two persimmons

With the twentieth century looming, people everywhere were coming together and being pulled apart. Watching smoke hang in the night sky, Shiki doesn’t write about the beauty of fireworks, but rather:

after the fireworks
          it's dark

Poems of Masaoka Shiki is a short and varied collection of Shiki’s haiku. Each translation is accompanied by the original Japanese text and English transliteration (romaji).

Author: Masaoka Shiki
Translator: Anthony Opal
Booklet, 12 pp, 7 x 5.25 in
Language: Japanese / English
ISBN: 978-1-7375909-9-6
Published: May 12, 2023