A Glimpse Into The Past
Any discussion of haiku might include mentioning Matsuo
Basho (1644-1694), Yosa Buson (1716-1783), or Kobayashi Issa
(1765-1827). All three of these haijin had three things in common:
being born in rural villages, spending years traveling, and
being professional teachers of poetry. Their approach in
composing haiku differed in various ways. Reading this
thread I was wondering what haiku I could find that
reflected some of the various differences of these haiku
One haiku rule is to include a seasonal reference (kigo)
in the first or third line. Perhaps this is just a natural
thing to do. Basho followed this rule strictly, whereas
Buson often violated it. I looked at the thread to see
whether this rule was being followed and couldn't find any
predominant preference. I didn’t find any reason to change
any of the lines.
Since this thread is about bugs/insects, can we assume
that every insect would automatically be a seasonal word?
With so many kinds of insects, this might not be true. I am
thinking about the cockroach in particular. With our modern
housing, cockroaches can be found within doors at any time
of the year. They are with us forever. Maybe Stella had this
in mind when she was writing her haiku.
only the roaches
# 103. Stella Pierides, DE
Issa loved little creatures and wrote haiku about them.
He even talked to them in his haiku making them very
personal. Here are two of his haiku.
Don't worry, spiders,
I keep house
O flea! whatever you do,
that way is the river.
Vania, if you so desired, you could change your haiku
very easily following Issa’s example. Dear beetle/ crawling
on dry flowers….,/ are you just lonely?
crawling on dry flowers…
is it just lonely?
# 07. Vania Stefanova
Vasile, in your haiku the focus is at first on the ant
and then it shifts to the reader, depicted as an observer
and you ask a question of the reader. How could you change
this to make it more personal and keep the focus on the ant?
what could this ant read
out of your life line?
# 04. Vasile Moldovan, RO
Buson learned the painter’s craft and loved to paint
pictures with his haiku. He did this with just a few strokes
of his words.
The springtime sun
on a mountain pheasant’s tail.
Here is a wonderful picture which Scott paints with a few
words and which, I am sure, Buson would have found to his
night sky full of stars
against the mountain
# 03. Scott Owens, US
Karin accomplishes the same thing with her haiku.
airbrush the clouds
# 191. Karin Anderson, AU
This next haiku is outstanding . It not only paints one
picture but two of them. We can see both the dawn and moth
zigzagging across the lawn
#71. Marg Beverland, NZ
With his love of art materials and color, Buson very
often included the color he wanted in his haiku. His poems
are painterly in several ways.
the barley yellow
Quite a number of haiku in this thread
they’re making love
in white flowering field
the potato beetles
# 52. Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic, CR
back from a trip—
my garden blossoms with
scarlet lily beetles
# 54. Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic, CR
a wasp sting
on an infant's hand
the red swell
# 55. Marija Pogorilic, CR
office white blonde
# 58. Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic, CR
Or the color is evident from a name...
on the rose bush
a line of caterpillars,
the twigs are bare
# 115 Vera Primorac, CR
clings to my polished nail
a bright red sunset
# 127. Vera Primorac, CR
on the tree
bees build a honeycomb
sweet, yellow nectar
# 131. Vera Primorac, CR
above the traffic jam
a white butterfly
# 136. Juliet Wilson, UK
brown dots on my linen
and fallen hair
# 147. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH
dressed in black-yellow
# 148. Munia Khan, BD
puts on her polka dot dress—
# 154. Irena Szewczyk, PL
grasshopper’s lazy walk
# 140. P K Padhy, IN
black ants conquer
# 142. P K Padhy, IN
liquefies a beetle
one grasshopper faints
# 146. Munia Khan, BD
in my salad
a green caterpillar—
# 105. Stella Pierides, DE
while rinsing blue jeans
a centipede scampers away
in record time
# 182. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH
the leech sucks the treat
a blood berry pie
# 214. Karin Anderson, AU
its blossoming gown
# 13. Stjepan Rozic, CR
The rose mallow (Hibiscus
moscheutos) (Swamp-rose Mallow or Rose
mallow) was unfamiliar to me. I found out that it
is a large flower growing in wet areas. Its colors range
from pure white to deep rose with an eye of deep maroon.
a butterfly sleeping
on a rose mallow
# 37. Oprica Padeanu, RO
Good Haiku create a poetic image that appeal to as many
of the senses as possible. Here are other examples from
They swallow clouds
and spit out blossoms -- -- -
the Yoshino Mountains.
Among twenty snow mountains
the only moving thing
was the eye of the blackbird.
You can notice that in this last example, Buson begins
with the general scene and then moves to the particular.
Oprica accomplishes the same thing in her haiku. She depicts
a scene that would certainly have had a lot of meaning for
both the butterflies and the deer. This is a remarkable
haiku because it begins with a general scene and then moves
to the very specific. Basho had a great sense of place in
his haiku. We see that here to.
butterflies resting on
a deer's eyelid
# 39. Oprica Padeanu, RO
In many of the following haiku the haiku poets
are able to
appeal to one or more of our senses by their choice of
I like Chitra’s choice of “flutter” to stir up our
imaginations. It also conveys sound and motion.
flutter in the night:
# 05. Chitra Rajappa, IN
Karen also uses the word “flutter” but with added
of damselfly wings
# 06. Karen O'Leary, US
These next haiku remind me of one of Basho’s haiku:
Of the peony.
two fat drunks
on the front porch swing
the mosquito and I
# 11. Terri French, US
the whole balcony
from the surprise party
only one drunk fly
# 189. Karin Anderson, AU
With over 926,400 different species of insects, it is not
surprising that Manja doesn’t know about this bug. There is
a kind of unity of nature evident here with both the flower
and the bug swaying in sunshine. It provides the sense of
unknown to me
flower and a bug
swaying in sunshine
# 14. Marija Pogorilic, CR
Not only are colors and sounds often highlighted in
haiku, but taste and smell often play an important role.
Here Djurdja raises an alert with a warning for us.
a dung beetle rushing
across the lawn
# 15. Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic, CR
With this next haiku Michele very cleverly appeals to
almost all of our senses. She uses one word to convey the
sense of sound and humidity. Then other words excite the
senses of seeing and hearing. I get the idea that it is
about to rain. What is important is not what is said, but
what is not said and would not be understood if any word
the pent up heat
of cicada song
# 25. Michele Harvey, US
I wonder if the screen door could serve as a seasonal
reference. Those with small children know how they
constantly want to go in and out during the summer time.
Scott leaves us with all three sounds of the screen door,
the cicada humming, and the singing heat. A great
combination evoking a combined sensation.
hum of cicada
as if heat could sing
# 26. Scott Owens, US
I like this next haiku because of the image which the
word shivers depicts. I remember watching countless
butterflies shivering up from a field in the afternoon
summer sunshine. No better word could have been chosen.
Again we experience a sense of motion.
moths shiver up
from the grass
# 27. Michele Harvey, US
I didn’t know about this insect. I too would have been
shivering if I met the orb weaver with its eight eyes.
in an orb weaver's web...
# 29. Michele Harvey, US
Another mood conveyed by Basho was a sense of loneliness.
For me Oprica accomplishes this with her next haiku.
only two dragonflies
live in it
# 41. Oprica Padeanu, RO
What I like about this next haiku is the surprise. I
would never have guessed to find a song coming from the
rubbish heap. There is sharp contrast between the crystal
clear sound and the sight of rubbish .
On the rubbish heap
the crickets' song resounds
# 42. Vasile Moldovan, RO
In this next haiku, we see not just one beautiful picture
but a motion picture of a grasshopper surfing across the
rustling grass. Rustling provides a lot of sound.
a grasshopper surfs,
rustling the green sea of leaves—
# 45. Chitra Rajappa, IN
Once again Vasile has composed a vivid haiku of sound.
Not just for both ears but all night long. Who could sleep
with this going on? He moves from the general scene to the
All night long
both ears of a stone statue
fill with crickets
# 46. Vasile Moldovan, RO
feasting on pigswill—
# 104. Sandra Martyres, IN
If you have ever witnessed piglets feeding, you don’t
need to imagine what is happening here. Intriguing is the
competition between the flies who are thriving and the
piglets who are out to get as much as they can.
These haiku remind me of Basho’s haiku.
Awake at night
the sound of the water jar
Cracking in the cold.
This next haiku gives us the buzzing sound with a sense
of touch and together both senses of sound and feeling give
a fig on my palm
bee's buzzing crawls
up my sleeve
# 53. Marija Pogorilic, CR
Here is another haiku which adds extra meaning to the
as she irons my shirts . . .
the hiss of steam
# 75. Marg Beverland, NZ
Chen-ou , I am beginning to appreciate your haiku about
your home place. Our house had several attics off the upper
rooms and we as children climbed under the rafters scooting
along behind the walls from one to the other.
one buzzing fly and I
in the attic
# 93. Chen-ou Liu, CA
a spider mending a hole
in the attic wall
# 63. Chen-ou Liu, CA
Here is one of Issa’s haiku:
The holes in the wall
play the flute
this autumn evening.
This next haiku of Willie’s reminds me of this one from
flower after flower
# 170. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH
The cuckoo sings
to me, to the mountains,
to me, to the mountains.
Read Issa’s haiku and then Karin’s.
in a scarecrow's belly.
the swallowed fly
in her stomach
# 187. Karin Anderson, AU
This haiku of Karin’s is noteworthy. It is very specific
and the combination of “eyelet” and “sneaky” produce an
image that cannot be expressed any other way.
through the eyelet
of my shoe
the sneaky leach
# 207. Karin Anderson, AU
Finally, I would like to leave you with these words of
Basho, which I find worth meditating. "Make the universe
your companion, always bearing in mind the true nature of
things—mountains and rivers, trees and grasses, and
humanity—and enjoy the falling blossoms and the
scattering leaves... The Secret of poetry lies in treading
the middle path between the reality and the vacuity of the
world." (quoted from "Learn From the Pine").
All of the poems from these haiku masters and quotes can
be found in The Essential Haiku Versions of Basho, Buson &
Issa, edited by Robert Haas, published by ecco an
imprint of HarperCollins, ISBN 0-88001-351-6, 330 pages.