Three Haiku Master Bronzes by Roger Arvid Anderson

From the Catalog: Tabula Rasa, Sculpture 2003-2007

I regard this sculptural trio as symbolic portraits of the great haiku poets: Basho, Buson and Issa. They span a century and a half of Japanese poetry.

Basho (1644-1694) came first and was a respected teacher as well as sincere ascetic. Buson (1716-1783) on the other hand was just as famous as a painter of screens as he was for the visual acuity of his poetry. Issa (1763-1827) was a humble country crackpot with an eccentric flair for observation. His humor is what we call wry.

I may be a sculptor but I also like to write poetry, especially quatrains, four line poems whose tight construction owes a nod to the haiku form and its sense of intense economy. I’ve applied that sensibility to these abstracted portraits, which also have a quality of heightened gesture that brings to mind the concentrated brushwork that goes with the writing of poems. I call it calligraphy in three dimensions.

Once again these reliquaries of spirit are stations on a journey as any poet is indebted at some point to some great master. When the student is ready, the master arrives.


         A crow
Has settled on a bare branch—
         autumn evening.

         Another year gone—
Hat in my hand,
         sandals on my feet.

         The old pond—
A frog jumps in,
         sound of water.

         Summer grass—
All that’s left
         of warriors’ dreams.

         You could turn away,
I’m also lonely
         this autumn evening.


Basho, 2007 mixed media
BASHO, 2007
mixed media


the sound of the bell
         as it leaves the bell.

         Lighting one candle
with another candle—
         spring evening.

         Field of bright mustard,
the moon in the east,
         the sun in the west.

         on the temple bell.

         A tethered horse,
         in both stirrups.

  Buson, 2007 mixed media sculpture
BUSON, 2007
mixed media


         The man pulling radishes
pointed my way
         with a radish.

         A dry riverbed
         by lightning.

         Even with insects—
some can sing,
         some can’t.

         One human being,
one fly,
         in a large room.

         Visiting the graves,
the old dog
         leads the way.

  Issa, 2007 mixed media sculpture
ISSA, 2007
mixed media

Selected poems from: The Essential Haiku, Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa;
Edited and with verse translations by Robert Hass, The Ecco Press, 1994.