Deep North (1993)
On the platform at Sendai
And were close readers
Wood stakes at Yamadera
But I would be obliged to wait,
Robinson’s note to ‘Deep North’ as it appeared in Enlightened Groves: Essays in Honour of Professor Zenzo Suzuki, ed. E. Hara, H. Ozawa, and P. Robinson (Tokyo: Shohakusha, 1996):
Professor Zenzo Suzuki is the ‘you’ in ‘Deep North’. The poem’s occasion was a visit we made to Yamadera with Yasushi Saito, and the Tomlinsons. My version of Basho’s haiku from The Narrow Road to the Deep North tries to preserve an ambiguity about the number of cicadas and (my own confusion) whether it is the sound or the silence that penetrates the rock. The second verse alludes to William H. Epstein’s ‘Counter-Intelligence: Cold-War Criticism and Eighteenth-Century Studies’ (ELH 57, 1, Spring 1990) which Prof Suzuki had given me to read. The theory that Bashô was spying on his visit to Tohoku also appears in ‘Yamadera’, the fourth part of ‘Zipangu’ (Jubilation , OUP: 1995, 36-8), Charles Tomlinson’s account of our day out, as does what he calls ‘a whole army / of automatic scarecrows’. The ‘someone’ in my final verse is Vittorio Sereni, an Italian poet whose work we had been discussing on the mountain.
‘Deep North’ was first published in Stand Magazine 35.1 (1993-94) and is collected in Lost and Found (1997), available from Carcanet here. As Robinson’s Enlightened Groves note points out, the ‘Yamadera’ section of Charles Tomlinson’s ‘Zipangu’ recounts the same visit to Yamadera. Robinson re-visits Yamadera after an absence of ten years, and alludes to ‘Deep North’, in Silence Revisited.
For a note about Peter Robinson and his titles in print see At New Year.