Places, Images, Times & Transformations

Kobayashi Issa

(1763-1827). Haiku poet. Often referred to as simply Issa, which means "a cup of tea." Born as the first son of a middle-class farmer in Kashiwabara, Shinano Province (now Nagano Prefecture), he was educated by a village teacher who wrote haiku. In 1790, Issa decided to live the life of a poet-priest, which he did for the next ten years. His poetic style is characterized by a bold acceptance of down-to-earth language, by the introduction of animal images, by the use of personification and the free exercise of a comic spirit, and by the frequent expression of a stepson mentality based in the difficult relationship he had had since childhood with his stepmother. These unconventional elements, however, combined with a high seriousness that Issa inherited from Bashō. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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