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August 01, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

RIGHT UNDER THE BIG SKY, I DON'T WEAR A HAT: The Haiku and Prose of Hosai Ozaki translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato (Stone Bridge Press: $12; 142 pp., illustrated, paperback original). After an unsuccessful career in insurance, Hosai Ozaki (1885-1926) became an important poet and author. He broke with traditional poetic conventions and helped establish the validity of the one-line, free verse haiku. Some of his earlier poems exhibit the delicacy Western readers expect from Japanese writers ("Each time she comes to dip water she disturbs the willow shadow"), but most of the verses focus on tiny fragments of existence. Available in English for the first time in Sato's spare translation, Ozaki's Spartan distillations of fleeting moments ("To one of the ears, she comes to tell a secret"; "This frost-packed morning I scold a dog") sound charming and oddly familiar.

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