Tag Archives: haiku


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“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought”.

— *Basho, (1644-1694)

This is good advice. However, I would amend it to say “Follow in the footsteps of the wise and seek what they sought”.  The harmonics of wisdom recognize the gradient scale of wisdom.  Wisdom is relative to all other wisdom.
In the teaching of wisdom, one much become  a good follower.  Yet to follow effectively one must lead others.  Basho exemplified the most able of wise men.  At the time of his death, Basho had more than 2000 students.
Yet, here is the eternal right of the individual to disdain from the playing of games simply to enjoy the serene and simple state of Being.   Or, the enjoy the pleasure of Creation for its own sake, without regard to an audience.  However, it is far easier to preach to the choir than to enlighten the “heathen”.

Here are a few of the wonderful  *Haiku poems attributed to Bash (they may not have retained their purity in the English translation, but you get the flavour of them):

An old pond!
A frog jumps in-
The sound of water.


The years first day
thoughts and loneliness;
the autumn dusk is here.


Poverty’s child –
he starts to grind the rice,
and gazes at the moon.


A weathered skeleton
in windy fields of memory,
piercing like a knife


*DEFINITION OF HAIKU: Haiku is one of the most important form of traditional Japanese poetry. Haiku is, today, a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Since early days, there has been confusion between the three related terms Haiku, Hokku and Haikai. The termhokku literally means “starting verse”, and was the first starting link of a much longer chain of verses known ashaika. Because the hokku set the tone for the rest of the poetic chain, it enjoyed a privileged position in haikaipoetry, and it was not uncommon for a poet to compose ahokku by itself without following up with the rest of the chain.

The name Basho (banana tree) is a sobriquet he adopted around 1681 after moving into a hut with a banana tree alongside. He was called Kinsaku in childhood and Matsuo Munefusa in his later days.




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The Japanese haiku and the English language haiku have several critical differences. In Japanese the haiku is composed of 17 sound units divided into three parts – one with 5 units, one with 7 units and another with 5 units. Since sound units are much shorter than English syllables, it has been found that following the Japanese example results in a much longer poem often filled up to make the count with unnecessary words.

The Japanese write their haiku in one line, in order to see clearly the parts of the haiku. In English each part is given a line. This allows the reader time to form an image in the mind before the eyes go back to the left margin for more words. The line breaks also act as a type of punctuation. The kigo, or season word, is a vital part of the Japanese haiku, but in English it is often ignored and not well understood. Therefore, a great number of English haiku do not have a season word and yet are considered to be haiku. The Japanese, because of their longer history of reading haiku, understand that there are two parts to the poem. In English these are called the phrase and fragment. One line is the fragment and the other two lines combine grammatically to become the phrase. Without this combining the two lines together the haiku will sound ‘choppy’ as the voice drops at the end of each line.  (WikiHow.com)