Saturday, April 25, 2015

Carpe Diem Little Creatures #21, Chiyo-ni's "spider's thread"

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

It's my pleasure to bring you a new episode of our Little Creatures feature in which I share haiku written by classical and non-classical haiku poets in which the little creatures of nature e.g ants, daisies, wren and as in today's episode, spiders are the theme of her haiku.

For this episode I have chosen a haiku written by Chiyo-ni (1703-1775). Maybe you know her. In my opinion she belongs to that group of greatest haiku poets ever, because she has written wonderful haiku ... she stood not only in nature, but was part of nature and that makes her haiku so strong in their images.

In her day it was said that Chiyo-ni's style was true to Basho's. Although Chiyo-ni acquired her own unique voice, eventually, she was surely influenced in her early period by the prevalence of Basho's teachings in the Kaga region.

Basho's style of haiku was formulated by others over the years. His well-known fundamentals usually include: sabi (detached loneliness), wabi (poverty of spirit), hosomi (slenderness, sparseness), shiori (tenderness), sokkyo (spontaneity), makoto (sincerity), fuga (elegance), karumi (simplicity), kyakkan byosha (objectivity), and shiZen to hitotsu ni naru (oneness with nature).

Chiyo-ni (1703-1775)

"Oneness with nature" seems especially resonant in Chiyo-ni's haiku. Basho's theory of oneness with nature was that the poet should make a faithful or honest sketch of nature. In the Sanzohi (1702), Basho's disciple, Doho, explains his teacher's theory: "Learn about the pine from the pine and the bamboo from the bamboo--the poet should detach his mind from self . . . and enter into the object . . . so the poem forms itself when poet and object become one." This experience is analogous to the Buddhist idea of satori, or enlightenment, what Kenneth Yasuda called the "haiku moment." When writing haiku, Chiyo-ni immersed herself in nature, honestly observing what she saw, as in the following
a single spider's thread
ties the duckweed
to the shore

© Chiyo-ni
Purity and clarity . . . are central to Chiyo-ni's poetry. The haiku poet, Shoin, who wrote the preface to Chiyo-ni Kushu, stated:

"Chiyo-ni's style is pure, like white jade, without ornament, without carving, natural. Both her life and writing style are clear/pure. She lives simply, as if with a stone for a pillow, and spring water to brush her teeth. She is like a small pine, embodying a female style that is subtle, fresh, and beautiful. Chiyo-ni knows the Way, is in harmony with Nature. One can better know the universe, through each thing in the Phenomena, as in Chiyo-ni's haiku, than through her books."

Her clear writing style went hand in hand with her Buddhist practice. In her haiku, water can be a symbol for clear perception. She saw the world clearly and expressed her words clearly, using the image of water, of her most frequently used images, to reflect nature.
The goal of this CD feature Little Creatures is to compose/write a haiku inspired on the given haiku following the classical rules (as you can find in Chapter 10 of Haiku Writing Techniques, above in the menu). This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until Saturday May 2nd at noon (CET).

For now .... have fun, be inspired and share your haiku with us all.


  1. I enjoyed this post a lot. An amazing lesson in haiku-writing.

  2. Oh, how I love Chiyo-Ni, Chevrefeuille! Thank you for this prompt :)