History, Poetry, and Misattribution

Igo_haiku_v1A couple of weeks ago, I received a comment on this classic haiku that I had featured and illustrated a while back. Mr. Michael Dylan Welch, who runs the excellent poetry website Graceguts, let me know that there has been a long (and interesting) history of misattribution of the authorship of this haiku. He referred me to his essay detailing this history (which you can find here and is worth a read).

I was glad he let me know for several reasons.  I do my best to make sure the information I present is accurate and always gives complete credit to the authors and artists – so this gives me an opportunity to fix it. There have been a number of instances where I abandoned illustration of a poem or a post draft because I could not find credible authorship information about the poem to share with you. But also, I find these tales of attribution and misattribution to be important – they are a social commentary and experiment. When our art and words are let loose in the world, what happens to them? How do we credit artists and authors? What sources do we trust? What happens when legacy or tradition eclipses accuracy?

The internet has added an extra variable and the possibility of misattributions to go viral, but in cases like this one, it also allows for correcting them. For the “Two Autumns” haiku, I had used a source no less authoritative than an edition of X.J. Kennedy’s college poetry textbook (which Mr. Welch’s essay does specifically mention as one of the guilty parties). The New York Times had a recent op-ed about the misattribution of quotations. It was authored by a woman who had a quote from her blog misattributed to a much more famous designer.

So here is “Two Autumns” once again, with the correct authorship. I can say with great confidence that the ink drawing is by me! Enjoy!



  1. beautiful image, Marcy. (nice way to bring ’round the discussion, too; attribution really can be difficult, and yet… what is most remembered is the heart song that lifts and carries us. i think it is so cool that this affirms the value of artists, altogether… it’s like a grace/


    1. Thank you, Jilanne! I agree, Hass’ translation of this haiku (and most of the others he has done) is definitely my favorite. Mr. Welch’s essay featured quite a few different translations but this one still wins!

      Liked by 1 person

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