Monday, May 25, 2015

Carpe Diem #741 wrapped in a straw mat

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Today we are continuing to follow Basho. Yesterday in our "a clam" episode we finished our "Narrow Road", but Basho didn't stop with his journeys after "Narrow Road". After his "Narrow Road" he made several short journeys to several places and today our haiku wrapped in a straw mat he wrote somewhere in the near of Kyoto.

To create this episode I used a post from my archives, this post was published in 2012 at

In the old Japanese culture, and maybe even now, the year had five seasons. Next to spring, summer, autumn and winter they had the New Year season (this was the last week of the old year and the first week of the new year). This of course was when they used the lunar calendar, which is more bound to nature.
In the Western world we used the lunar calendar a long time ago. When we look at the lunar calendar one year has thirteen months instead of twelve as we now use. For example autumn in the lunar calendar starts in august instead of September. So when we talk about the lunar calendar New Year starts on February the first.
According to the lunar calendar 2012, New Year starts on January 9th. According to this, I can place the next haiku by Basho at the beginning of February, halfway our winter, because as I wrote earlier in this episode we have to go to a month later. So this haiku could be written in February.
Straw raincoat (ancient Japan)
komo wo ki te   tare bito imasu   hana no haru

wrapped in a straw mat
who can this great one be?
flowers of spring

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)
With this haiku came a preface: “Welcoming the New Year near Kyoto”. In winter plants and trees are wrapped in mats of woven straw to protect them from freezing. People also wore straw raincoats so it seemed that a person was wrapped in the mat. This is an example of the riddle technique, because it is the tree that is wrapped but it is done for the protection of the flowers which have no physical shape at this time. In our time we also try to protect plants and trees from freezing by 'making the garden ready for winter'.

winter garden
colorless and ugly -
spring flowers

© Chèvrefeuille

The riddle is probably one of the very oldest poetical techniques. It has been guessed that early spiritual knowledge was secretly preserved and passed along through riddles. Because poetry, as it is today, is the commercialization of religious prayers, incantations, and knowledge, it is no surprise that riddles still form a serious part of poetry's transmission of ideas.The 'trick' is to state the riddle in as puzzling terms as possible. What can one say that the reader cannot figure out the answer? The more intriguing the 'set-up' and the bigger surprise the answer is, the better the haiku seems to work. As in anything, you can overextend the joke and lose the reader completely. The answer has to make sense to work and it should be realistic. Here is a case against desk haiku. If one has seen plastic bags caught on cacti, it is simple and safe to come to the conclusion I did. If I had never seen such an incident, it could be it only happened in my imagination and in that scary territory one can lose a reader. So keep it true, keep it simple and keep it accurate and make it weird.

Oh, the old masters favorite trick with riddles was the one of: is that a flower falling or is it a butterfly? or is that snow on the plum or blossoms and the all-time favorite – am I a butterfly dreaming I am a man or a man dreaming I am a butterfly. Again, if you wish to experiment (the ku may or may not be a keeper) you can ask yourself the question: if I saw snow on a branch, what else could it be? Or seeing a butterfly going by you ask yourself what else besides a butterfly could that be?
One famous haiku with this "riddle technique" I had to share here with you all. I think you all will know this haiku by Arakida Moritake (1473-1549):

A fallen blossom
Returning to the bough, I thought --
But no, a butterfly.

© Moritake 

 This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until May 28th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our next episode, under the tree, later on.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Carpe Diem #740 a clam

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

It's my pleasure to bring another wonderful episode of Carpe Diem's On The Trail With Basho in which we are following Basho in his footsteps. Today's episode a clam is about the last haiku in his Oku no Hosomichi and I love this haiku a lot.

hamaguri no   futami ni wakare   yuku aki zo
a clam
torn from its shell
departing autumn

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

This is the last verse in Basho's 'Oku no Hosomichi' 'The Narrow Road to the Far North'. Because there are several word plays at work here, the Japanese maintain that there is no way for the poem to be rendered into another language. So here goes: hama (beach); hamaguri (a clam) however 'guri' is also (a chestnut) or (a pebble). And that is only the first line! 'Futami' (place name of the port where the famous Wedded Rocks (two large rocks considered to 'married' which are considered to be sacred) are such an attraction) is made up of the words 'futa' (lid, cover, shell) and 'mu' (body, meat, fruit, nut, berry, seed, substance, contents). The word 'wakare' can be either (to part or to split) or (to leave). Added to the last line (departing autumn) 'wakare' can mean either that it is autumn which is leaving or a person who is departing. In Ogaki, Basho was met by many of his disciples, including Sora who rejoined him, for the end of the trip back to Tokyo. This verse, and the second one in 'Oku no Hosomichi' are considered the 'book-ends' of the work with partings of Spring and Autumn.
Awesome! Isn't it! This haiku is a masterpiece.

Wedded Rocks
I love to write a haiku with the same words, but with the other meaning. That will be the challenge for this episode of Carpe Diem On the Trail with Basho. Of course I have to try it myself.

a pebble-stone
taken from the Wedded Rocks
a farewell gift

autumn has gone
the only thing that remains
a chestnut

a jackstone
broken of the Married Rocks
a farewell gift

Wedded Rocks (at sunset)
a chestnut
fallen into the grass
departing autumn

on the seashore
the shell of a hermit crab

© Chèvrefeuille

Well ... it wasn't easy, but I think I did well. Are these my masterpieces? Or in Basho's Spirit? I don't know. You, my dear readers, may tell me.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until May 27th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our next episode, wrapped in a straw mat, later on.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Carpe Diem #739 a lovely name

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

First I have to apologize because I am a bit late with posting and second, as you can see in the title of this post, I have decided to use another haiku than I had planned. I had planned "tonight my skin", but I recently used this haiku in another post here at CDHK in which I told you all a little bit more about Basho being interested in man. Another reason why I use another haiku for this post is the following. The haiku "tonight my skin" wasn't (isn't) part of his haibun "Narrow Road" which we are following these days. So therefore I have chosen the haiku which I will share hereafter.

As you all know (maybe) the most haiku known by Basho were once part of Renga, a chained poem. During his journey "into the Deep North" (Oku no Hosomichi) he was invited several times for renga-parties.
The haiku for today is the greeting verse to the host, Kosen, the chief priest of the Hiyoshi Shrine at Komatsue (which means "Little Pines"), who held a party to write a yoyashi ("a renga of forty-four links"). at a place called "Little Pines". Basho's greeting verse was the "hokku" (starting verse) of this yoyashi.

Credits: Hyoshi Shrine

shiorashiki na ya komatsu fuku hagi susuki

a lovely name
at Little Pines blows
bush clover and thatch reeds

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

A wonderful verse in my opinion. As I read it another time I can see the scene in front of my eyes and I can feel the sphere of renga-party. Awesome.

what's in a name?
Mother Nature cherishes
young green leaves

© Chèvrefeuille

What a joy and what a scene ....

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until May 26th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our next episode, a clam, later on. For now .... have fun, be inspired and share your haiku inspired on this post with us all ....

Friday, May 22, 2015

On The Trail With Basho Encore (2) fragile twigs

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Last week I introduced a new feature here at Carpe Diem to honor "my haiku master" Basho and his haiku. I realized myself that I had forgotten to write an all new episode of "Encore" yesterday (Thursday May 21st) so here it is a new episode of our new feature "On The Trail With Basho Encore" and I think I have a nice haiku for you all.

The given haiku Basho wrote when he was 33 years old, a mature man, and he had contributed it, together with 19 other verses,to a colossal poetry contest arranged by Fûko (a rich daimyo patron). The contest was entered by over 60 poets. Kigin and Saiganji Ninko were the referee-judges.

After the contest father and son Ninko created an Anthology of the results called Roppya kuban Haikai Hokku awase (The Hokku contest in Six Hundred Rounds). It was shown that of the twenty verses Basho entered nine were published, placing him as one of the best of the participants and that made him an established master.

That's for the background ... now back to the given haiku for this week's “On The Trail With Basho Encore” episode. First I will give the Japanese verse in Romanji followed by the English translation.

eda moroshi   hi toshi yaburu    aki no kaze

fragile twigs
breaking off the scarlet papers
autumn winds

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

'Toshi' refers to a very fragile paper made in China. The idea of the poem was that even a fragile twig could tear the paper or the twigs were too fragile to hold on to the Autumn leaves.

autumn colors

I can picture this scene in front of my eyes. A stormy Autumn day, the fragile twigs, elastic as they are, ruining the scarlet papers or the soft skin of the tree, but can't stand to hold up their leaves. Fragile as the twigs are they finally break taking with them in their fall the fragile paper or skin of the tree.

To write a haiku inspired on the one by Basho, in his Spirit so to say, isn't easy, but I have to try it of course ...

autumn winds -
colorful leaves struggling
their end is near

© Chèvrefeuille

I think this one is a wonderful one (how immodest). It's for sure in the Spirit of Chèvrefeuille, but is it also in the Spirit of Basho? I don't know ..., but I think ... yes it is.
!! I am behind with commenting I hope to catch up a.s.a.p.

This episode of "Encore" is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until next Thursday May 28th at noon (CET). Have fun!

Carpe Diem #738 not permitted to tell

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

During his journey into the deep north (Oku no Hosomichi) Basho visited famous places known from poetry and literature or known from religious meaning. He visited also Mount Yudano (meaning "bathroom") a very sacred (and secretive) Shinto place. Today's episode not permitted to tell is written after his visit to Mount Yudano.

According to Jane Reichhold, Basho wrote the following haiku on Mount Yudano (bathroom). On this mountain was a spectacular waterfall which had been a Shinto place of worship since early times. Only men could visit it and only after a rigorous climb with several rituals and services in various temples. At the gate, after purification rites, they must remove their shoes to climb the rocks barefoot. In addition, before being allowed to view this wonder, each men had to swear never to reveal what he witnessed there. In modern times, in interests of disclosure, the secret of Mount Yudano has been revealed.
Due to the wearing away of the rock and the reddish minerals in the thermal-warmed water, the waterfall looks exactly like the private parts of a woman complete with sounds and gushing water. The practice can be thought of as worshiping the reproductive aspect of the feminine earth.
The priest Ekaku had asked Basho to write some poems on his visit to the three holy mountains of Dewa. Basho couldn't do that because it was an awesome experience for him and so he couldn't find the words. Also it was forbidden to talk about what he had witnessed on the mountain.

katara re nu   yudano ni nurasu   tometo kana

not permitted to tell
how sleeves are wetted
in the bathroom

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Mount Yudano

It's a strange story, but it has also something ... spiritual. To write a haiku in the same tone and sense as Basho did ... looks like climbing a mountain barefoot, but I will try.

what has happened?
petals of red roses around
the morning glory

© Chèvrefeuille

another haiku inspired by the one of Basho:

secret admirer -
petals of red roses around
my morning glory

© Chèvrefeuille

A little bit of humor. Why? ... "my morning glory" refers to a certain male body part.

Blue Morning Glory

As I created this episode I didn't need time, because on one of my other personal weblogs I revisit haiku by Basho and this haiku (with a slightly different first line) I used several years ago on that weblog. So this episode comes from my archives so to say. (That weblog is titled "Basho Revisited")

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until May 25th at noon (CET). I will (try to) post our next episode, tonight my skin, later on. For now .... have fun, be inspired and share your haiku with us all.

Carpe Diem Tan Renga Challenge #86, Basho's "this autumn"

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Time flies ... it's Friday again so time for a new Tan Renga Challenge in which I challenge you to write the second stanza towards the (incomplete) Tan Renga which I will give the first stanza (hokku) of. In this "Basho-month" all the Tan Renga Challenges are starting with a "hokku" by Basho and this week I have a nice haiku for you to start with. It's one who Basho wrote in the last months of his life. That feeling of death is very well described in this haiku, I easily could sense that feeling of dying ...

this autumn
why getting older is like
a bird into clouds

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

I think you all can see, feel, sense that feeling of departure, the feeling that death is closing in .... It will not be an easy task I think to complete this Tan Renga by putting the second stanza (two lines following 7-7 syllables) towards it, but .... well that's the challenge ...

Credits: Clouds
And here is my attempt to make this Tan Renga complete by putting the second stanza towards it:

this autumn
why getting older is like
a bird into clouds

colorful leaves swirl
cover up an old grave

I have tried to associate on the feeling of death and dying with this second stanza and I think it makes the Tan Renga complete.

This Tan Renga Challenge is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until next Friday May 29th at noon (CET). Have fun!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Carpe Diem #737 since the cherry blossoms

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I haven't enough time today to write a long episode so this time I have chosen to create a small piece. I think you all know that I love cherry blossoms, I have written a lot of haiku about them, so the haiku for today is just great to make, because it's about cherry trees.

As Basho started with his journey into the deep north he got a lot of gifts from his friends and he also got a few wonderful haiku to encourage him to see special places worth seeing. One of them friends was Kyohaku. Kyohaku gave him a farewell gift in the form of a haiku:

pine shows him
late cherries

© Kyohaku

The pine of Takekuma was famous in poem and fact because it was split into two trunks. In an earlier version of this poem the first five sound units were: chiri-useru "cherry blossoms have completely fallen away.

since the cherry blossoms
I've waited three months to see
the twin-trunk pine

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

I wasn't inspired enough so I just leave you with this (short) episode.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until May 24th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our next episode, not permitted to tell, later on. For now ... just have fun, be inspired and share your haiku with us all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Carpe Diem Special #148, Ransetsu's "the childless woman"

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

As we are on the trail with Basho we cannot forget his students/disciples. He had several disciples and during his life he gathered a group of followers around him of more than 1000 disciples. It's going to far to tell you something about his disciples, but his most close friends and disciples were only a ten poets. One of those ten poets was Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707).

I love to share a haiku written by Ransetsu with you all to inspire you to write an all new haiku in the same spirit as the one given by Ransetsu, as is the goal of this CD-Specials. In my opinion this haiku his gorgeous ... taken right from daily life and from the heart ... this haiku could even be used to honor all mothers.

umazume no hina kashizuku zo aware naru

the childless woman,
how tender she is
to the dolls!

© Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707)

Credits: Basho's Ten close friends and disciples (Shoomon school)
I wonder .... how close were they to Basho?

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until May 23rd at noon (CET).

Carpe Diem #736 one patch of a rice field

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

As I was preparing this month's prompt-list I have made a certain choice for the haiku I loved to use. One of those reasons was that I would try to give you all a kind of overview of the haiku by Basho. My choice was based on beauty and balance. I think I have done the right choice, but there will be of course a few haiku which you already know.
Today's haiku is a haiku which I have used earlier, because of Basho's love for the poetry of Saigyo. In today's episode we will see (again) a waka by Saigyo which I have used earlier. Saigyo (1118-1190), was Basho's great role-model. Basho modeled his life and poetry, in many ways, on Saigyo. Basho's poems (haiku) often contain references either to a poem Saigyo wrote on one of his journeys or to Saigyo's memorial home, which Basho visited several times.

In one of his haibun Basho wrote: "Heels torn, I am the same as Saigyo, and I think of him at the Tenryu ferry. Renting a horse, I conjure up in my mind the sage who became furious. In the beautiful spectacles of the mountain, field, ocean, and coast I see the achievements of the creation. Or I follow the trails left by those who, completely unattached, pursued the Way, or I try to fathom the truth expressed by those with poetic sensibility".

In "Oki no Hosomichi" or "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" Basho is anxious to see a certain willow tree at Ashino on which Saigyo has written a poem:

along the way
where water is running
in the willow shade
I have stopped to rest
for a little while

© Saigyo (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Saigyo's Willow
With the haiku for today came a preface:

"The willow tree with "clear water flowing" was in the village of Ashino, by a paddy path. Ashino Suketoshi, the local lord, had written to me from time to time to say, "I'd like to show you the willow", so I had wondered in what kind of a place it would be. Today I was able to stop in the shade of this willow".

one patch of a rice field
when it was planted I left
the willow tree

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold).

Well .... I will leave you with this, because why would I say more? It speaks for its own.

finally I saw
the willow at the crystal stream
sung by Saigyo

(c) Chèvrefeuille

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and it will remain open until May 23rd at noon (CET). I will try to post our next episode, since the cherry blossoms, later on.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Carpe Diem #735 even woodpeckers

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

We are still on the trail with Basho and at the moment we are on the trail with him to the deep north his most famous journey. In "The Narrow Road into the Deep North" (Oku no Hosomichi) he visited famous places on the Northern part of the Southern Isle Honshu. Today we have a wonderful haiku which Basho wrote at the place were his Zen-master Butcho has lived for a while. In this haiku he reverses to a "waka" by his Zen master:

less than
five foot square
grass shelter
not needed
unless there is rain

© Butcho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

With this haiku came a preface:

"I understand that the Priest Butcho composed this poem about his home here. Seeing this place is so much more impressive than hearing about it, and I feel my heart is purified".

Basho's poem/haiku could be saying that, for him, a grove of trees is enough of a hut. Because trees constantly renew themselves, a woodpecker could not inflict the same damage it could on a building. Basho reveres the priest so much he equates his hut with a temple. It is said that Basho pinned this verse on the post the hut.

even woodpeckers
do not damage this hut
a summer grove

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

There is another similar haiku which is known by Basho. Basho wrote, a while after his "Narrow Road" as he was staying somewhere at Lake Biwa, a haibun which is known as "Genjuan no Fui" or "The Unreal Hut". I love to share that haibun here with you including the haiku.

The Unreal Hut

My body, now close to fifty years of age, has become an old tree that bears bitter peaches, a snail which has lost its shell, a bagworm separated from its bag. It drifts with the winds and clouds that know no destination. From the lofty peaks descends a fragrant wind from the south, and the northern wind steeped in the distant sea is cool. It was the beginning of the fourth moon when I arrived, and the azaleas were still blossoming. Mountain wisteria hung on the pines. Cuckoos frequently flew past, and there were visits from the swallows. In this hut where I live as a hermit, as a passing traveler, there is no need to accumulate household possessions. ... But I should not have it though from what I have said that I am devoted to solitude and seek only to hide my traces in the wilderness. Rather, I a m like a sick man weary of people, or someone who is tired of the world.. What is there to say? ... I labor without results, am worn of spirit and wrinkled of brow. Now, when autumn is half over, and every morning and each evening brings changes to the scene, I wonder if  that is not what is meant by dwelling in unreality. And here too I end my words.

among these summer trees,
a pasania *--
something to count on.

© Basho (Tr. Burton Watson)

(* The pasania is a majestic and ancient tree with spreading trunk and splendid canopy, hence "something to count on.") 

A wonderful story I think. It fits this episode so well. In my opinion these two haiku you cannot see without each other, but that's just my opinion.

high in the sky
in my tree house -
the spring breeze

© Chèvrefeuille

Not a strong haiku I think, but I love to give another idea to the "hut" as mentioned in the haiku by Basho. And the first thing which came in mind was a tree house, so I just had to use that.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until May 22nd at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, one patch of a rice field, later on.