Choice Haiku ~ Bernard Gieske, US




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 masters.

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.

eternal life
only the roaches
come close

# 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,
don't jump;
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?

a beetle
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
sets, treading
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 liking.

night sky full of stars
against the mountain

# 03. Scott Owens, US

Karin accomplishes the same thing with her haiku.

sky’s calligraphy
hued butterflies
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.

zigzagging across the lawn
a moth

#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.

Green leaves,
white water,
the barley yellow

Quite a number of haiku in this thread included colors.

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
sunbathing countless
mosquito bites

# 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

a butterfly
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

heat haze
above the traffic jam
a white butterfly

# 136. Juliet Wilson, UK

brown dots on my linen
and fallen hair

# 147. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH

flower’s fly
dressed in black-yellow
A bumblebee

# 148. Munia Khan, BD

a ladybug
puts on her polka dot dress—
vague morning

# 154. Irena Szewczyk, PL

murmuring sound
grasshopper’s lazy walk
revealing green

# 140. P K Padhy, IN

broken coconut
black ants conquer

# 142. P K Padhy, IN

black widow
liquefies a beetle
one grasshopper faints

# 146. Munia Khan, BD

in my salad
a green caterpillar—
life lesson

# 105. Stella Pierides, DE

while rinsing blue jeans
a centipede scampers away
in record time

# 182. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH

inchworm crawling
the leech sucks the treat
a blood berry pie

# 214. Karin Anderson, AU

cherry's wedding—
buzzing shaking
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.

Evening breeze—
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 Buson.

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.

Burnt clearing—
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 descriptive words.

I like Chitra’s choice of “flutter” to stir up our imaginations. It also conveys sound and motion.

rain-brushed wings
flutter in the night:
Luna moth

# 05. Chitra Rajappa, IN

Karen also uses the word “flutter” but with added meaning.

the flutter
of damselfly wings
summer romance

# 06. Karen O'Leary, US

These next haiku remind me of one of Basho’s haiku:

A bee
staggers out
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 motion.

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.

sudden smell—
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 were missing.

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.

screen door
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.

dusk light
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.

dew shivers
in an orb weaver's web...
first light

# 29. Michele Harvey, US

Another mood conveyed by Basho was a sense of loneliness. For me Oprica accomplishes this with her next haiku.

Abandoned hut—
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
crystal clear

# 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 particular.

All night long
both ears of a stone statue
fill with crickets

# 46. Vasile Moldovan, RO

flies thrive
feasting on pigswill—
piglets squeal

# 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 us shivers.

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 word hiss.

as she irons my shirts . . .
the hiss of steam
and cicadas

# 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.

moonless night
one buzzing fly and I
in the attic

# 93. Chen-ou Liu, CA

hometown memories...
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 Issa:

busy bees
flower after flower
after flower

# 170. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH

Issa’s haiku:

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
butter-fly hiccups

# 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 thingsmountains and rivers, trees and grasses, and humanityand 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.









to the top



Copyright 2006-2011 Sketchbook and  All rights reserved