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Haiku in Spain: Basque


The Basque Country is an autonomous community that was granted nationality status within Spain in 1978. The term “Basque Country” also refers to the Basque language and cultural community that comprises parts of southwestern France as well as northwestern Spain. Euskera, the pre-Indo-European Basque language, is a language isolate, that is, it is unrelated to any other language in the world. In 2016 Basque had 751,500 active speakers. Juan Kruz Igerabide was the first to produce a book of haiku in Basque, Sarean leiho (Window in the Net; 1994).

Prominent poet Juan Kruz Igerabide (1956– ) has compared haiku to the native Basque genre of kopla zaharra (old coplas). In his essay “El haiku como vivencia” (Haiku as a Life Lesson) he cited the following example:

Hor goian-goian izarra, 
errekaldean lizarra. 
Etxe honetako nagusi jaunak 
urre gorrizko bizarra. 

A star up above,
and an ash tree by the river of old.
The man of this house
has a beard of gold.

One of the first Basques to evince an interest in haiku was writer Joseba Sarrionandia (1958– ). Even after 1985, when he was forced to live underground and eventually in exile in Cuba because of his membership in the Basque nationalist organization ETA and his political activism, he continued to compose and translate haiku into Basque. Sarrionandia included versions of classical Japanese haiku in his anthology Izkiriaturik aurkitu ditudan ene poemak (Poems that I’ve Found; 1985), but most of his versions appear to be taken from the Spanish translations of Mexican poet Octavio Paz (who in turn relied on assistance from native speakers of Japanese).

In 2007, Ibon Uribarri published a study including annotated translations of Bashō, Buson, Issa, and Shiki into Basque for The EIZIE (Basque Association for Translators and Correctors).

Juan Kruz Igerabide is arguably the most prominent Basque haikuist. He was the first to produce a book of haiku in Basque, Sarean leiho (1994; Window in the Net). He later published Poemas para la pupila (Poems for the Pupil), a book for children in Basque and Spanish; the trilingual Hosto gorri, hosto berae / Hoja roja, hoja verde / Feville rouge, feville verte (2005; Red Leaf, Green Leaf), Ilargia ezpainetan (2006; Moon on My Lips), and La luna sabe a coco (2008; The Moon Tastes of Coconut).

In 1997 François Aillet, a poet who resided in the French Basque territory, published Kaiku Haiku: Euskal haikuak (Milk Pail Haiku: Basque Haiku). Karlos Linazasoro (1962– ) came out with his first book of haiku, Hamabi titare (12 Thimbles), which he followed up with Eguzkia ateri (Sun without Rain) in 2001, Hamazazpikotan (17 [in reference to 17 syllables]) in 2010, and Todo lo adentro (Everything Inside) in Spanish in 2018. A book of haiku by Josetxo Azkona (1953– ), Ez naiz Fujin izan (I’ve Never Been to Mount Fuji), appeared in 2011. In 2015 the politician Jean Lissar published Haikuak (Haiku), a collection of his haiku.

Josu Jimenez Maia (1967–  ) was especially active in popularizing haiku in Basque, be it speaking and writing about Japanese haiku in his native language or Spanish, or composing his own poems. Jimenez Maia also posts haiku and haiku-related materials on Twitter.  He has published four volumes of poetry, two of which are haiku books: Gerezi garaiko haikuak (2011; Cherry-time Haiku) and Orbel azpiko haikuak ( 2013; Haiku Under the Leaves). At a haiku meeting at the Yamaguchi Library in Pamplona in 2017 Jimenez Maia gave a presentation titled “Brief Panorama of Basque-language Haiku.” He bemoaned the situation of poets in the Basque Country as follows: “despite being made of flesh and bone, those of us who write poetry in Basque are transparent, invisible … writing in Basque makes us invisible.”

AUTHOR: Danny Blackwell

ADAPTED FROM: Blackwell. Haiku from Iberia and Beyond.


  • Aillet, François. Kaiku Haiku: Euskal haikuak (Kaiku Haiku: Basque Haiku). Bayonne, France: Maiatz, 1997.
  • Azkona Garcia, Josetxo. Ez naiz Fujin izan (I’ve Never Been to Mount Fuji). Navarra: Pamiela, 2011. Haiku.
  • Blackwell, Danny. Haiku from Iberia and Beyond. Valencia: Mono Ya Mono Books, 2018.
  • Igerabide, Juan Kruz. Begi-niniaren poemak (Poems of the Puppet of the Eye). Donostia, Gipuzcoa, Spain: Erein Argitaletxea, 1992. Haiku for children.
  • Igerabide, Juan Kruz. Hosto gorri, hosto berae / Hoja roja, hoja verde / Feville rouge, feville verte (Red Leaf, Green Leaf). Madrid: Centro de Lingüística Aplicada Atenea, 2005. Haiku for young people.
  • Igerabide, Juan Kruz. Ilargia ezpainetan / La luna en los labios (The Moon on My Lips). Donostia, Gipuzcoa, Spain: Erein Argitaletxea, 2006.
  • Igerabide, Juan Kruz. La luna sabe a coco (The Moon Tastes of Coconut). Madrid: Anaya Infantil y Juvenil, 2008. Haiku for children.
  • Igerabide, Juan Kruz. Sarean leiho (Window in the Net). Irun, Guipuzcoa, Spain: Alberdania, 1994.
  • Jimenez Maia, Josu. Gerezi garaiko haikuak (Cherry-time Haiku). Bayonne, Spain: Maiatz, 2010.
  • Jimenez Maia, Josu. Orbel azpiko haikuak (Haiku under the Leaves). Berriozar, Navarre, Spain: Denonartean, 2013.
  • Linazasoro, Karlos. Eguzkia ateri (Sun without Rain). Tolosa, Guipuzcoa, Spain: Privately published, 2001.
  • Linazasoro, Karlos. Hamabi titare (12 Thimbles). Bilbao, Spain: Aizkorri, 1999.
  • Linazasoro, Karlos. Hamazazpikotan (In 17). Bilbao, Spain: Elkar, 2010.
  • Linazasoro, Karlos. Todo lo adentro (Everything Inside). Madrid: Polibea, 2018.
  • Lissar, Jean. Haikuak (Haiku). Baigorri, Navarra: ZTK, 2015.
  • Membrives, Eva Parra, editor. Traducción, mediación, adaptación: Reflexiones en torno al proceso de comunicación entre culturas (Translation, Mediation, Adaptation: Reflections Regarding the Process of Communication Between Cultures). Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2013.
  • Sarrionandia, Joseba. Izkiriaturik aurkitu ditudan ene poemak (Poems that I’ve Found). Pamplona: Pamiela, 2006. First published in 1985.
  • Uribarri Zenekorta, Ibon. “Haiku japoniarrak. Lau maisu: Baxô, Buson, Issa eta Xiki” (Japanese Haiku: Four Masters—Bashō, Buson, Issa, and Shiki). Itzulpen aldizkaria (Translation Magazine) 32 (2007), 9–35.


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Updated on May 2, 2024