Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011
Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Ireland
Vera Markova’s “Ten Haiku Lessons”
Vera Markova (1907-1995), Russian poet and academic, was renowned for her translations from classical Japanese poetry. She began translating Japanese tanka and haiku at the end of the 1960s, and less than ten years later published her translations from thirty poets, from Saigyô to Bashô to Kobayashi Issa, in the anthology Classical Japanese Poetry, which has since been regularly reprinted in Russia. A very interesting poet in her own right (and a life-long friend of the famous Marina Tsvetayeva), Vera Markova was a fluent Japanese speaker and travelled to Japan twice, on one occasion to receive from Emperor Hirohito an honorary medal commemorating her efforts in promoting Japanese culture abroad.
In her essay entitled “Hokku”, published in the afore-mentioned anthology, Prof. Markova analysed Bashô’s work, and in the following years used some of the topics highlighted in that essay in her lectures to university students. She taught them to appreciate Japanese tanka and haiku, but also tried to stir up their creativity.
Later, Prof. Markova wrote a short text offering a few suggestions for aspiring haiku writers. She added a few of her favourite quotations from Bashô, and at a later stage even included the opinion I gave while discussing the “Hokku” essay with her, making me the third partner in that imaginary conversation, which was most flattering. She arranged parts of the text, belonging to its three authors, in a manner resembling that of the old Japanese masters of renga, linked verse. Her students used to call the text “Vera Markova’s ten haiku lessons”.
These “Haiku Lessons” are reprinted here. I should mention that, as some readers may already have guessed, Vera Markova was the person who once introduced me to haiku, and so started me on an exciting and unpredictable journey…
MB – Matsuo Bashô
VM – Vera Markova
AK – Anatoly Kudryavitsky
(First published in Poetry Ireland Newsletter, November / December 2006)