a thousand

acres of silence
one red squirrel


[12/16/21] My old friend David Groff, an American translator living in Japan, came up with a Japanese version. I’m grateful for his continued interest in my haiku — this is his third go at one of them — so I thought the least I could do was find a Japanese-font-on-photos app and make a proper shahai out of it:

shinkan no jūman tsubo ni aka risu ya

Dave wrote on Facebook:

OK, I had a crack at it, or rather a couple of cracks:

The first does not scan as a haiku in Japanese at all (4 lines at 4-6-5-4), but is very faithful to your English original, and I think rather nice.

森閑
shinkan “silence”
十万坪
jūman tsubo “a hundred thousand tsubo”
一匹の
ippiki no “one [small animal]”
赤栗鼠
aka risu “red squirrel”

There is no traditional Japanese equivalent to “acre” and using the katakana for the English word felt very clumsy. 100,000 tsubo is pretty close to 1000 acres. (Tsubo is the standard measurement for property.)

The second scans perfectly as a haiku in Japanese, but adds some locational inflection not present in your original, and leaves out the specificity of the squirrel being single (although it’s basically implied, I think).

森閑の 
shinkan no “of silence”
十万坪に
jūman tsubo ni “in a hundred thousand tsubo”
赤栗鼠や
aka risu ya “ah, [a] red squirrel”

“In a hundred thousand tsubo of silence — ah, [a] red squirrel”

There are a number of words for “silence” in Japanese, but this one (shinkan 森閑) seemed perfect, as the first character is “forest”, directly implying the silence of a vast woods. It literally means something like “forest peace”.

The kanji for “squirrel” are “chestnut-mouse”.

David Groff

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