“I have nothing to declare except my genius,” Oscar Wilde supposedly once told an American customs officer. The same could be said of Santoka Taneda (1882-1940), Japan’s beloved modern haiku poet.

But Taneda was too humble to make such a boast. “I’m nothing but a panhandling priest,” he said of his life as a mendicant monk, wandering the backroads of Japan, constantly composing free verse haiku. “It’s because I’m without talent or genius that I’ve been able to single-mindedly devote myself to the path of making verses. I’ve been incapable of doing anything else.”

He was a flop at running his father’s sake brewery, and a failure as a husband and father. He even considered himself a fraud as a Zen priest.