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  • John McQuade

Old Pond and Deep Resonance



There is an interesting and fun book titled 100 Frogs that presents 100 different English translations of the Haiku Master Basho’s classic and iconic haiku: Old Pond. The translators are not so much working with the difference in the Japanese and English languages as with the many inflections of this haiku. This haiku is about what it is and so is a closed open circulation something like a mobius strip wherein the “outside” and “inside” are a continuous play.


Here are three translations. 1. Old Pond/a frog jumps in/Plop! 2. An Ancient Pond/a frog jumps in/ A deep resonance. 3. The Old Pond; a frog jumps in/ the sound of water.


The first translation displays the immediacy of the experience. The second translation is not good in literary terms because it is discursive in making a point. But it is a good point. The third translation is the strongest because it leaves open the possible readings.

However, the second translation makes a good point. The first translation registers an experience or perception. That is a good start. But a perception is always a perception of something rather than nothing and of something rather than something else. There is a play of surface and depth. How old is that Pond? Timeless. How deep is that Pond? A depth beyond depth. Yet it is just that pond, just so, just now. Surface and Depth/ something occurs/ a deep resonance.

The magic and madness of Haiku is to solicit and sustain reflections concerning Surface and Depth, Form and Emptiness, beings and being, phenomenal manifestation and Dao while systematically undermining and eluding such reflections.

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