Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Basho Revisited, a grass pillow

This episode is also published for: The Gooseberry Garden Poetry Picnic

Basho wrote several haiku for his students and followers. He also wrote the next haiku for one of his followers named Rotsu (1649-1738). In the preface he wrote:
"On the departure of Rotsu for Michinoku (the Northern part of Honshu)".

kusa makara   makoto no hanami   shite mo koyo

a grass pillow
is the best to use when coming
to view cherry blossoms

When the cherry blossoms are in full bloom whole Japan is going to view the cherry blossoms. A grass pillow was the best seat for sitting under the cherry trees.
According to Jane Reichhold Rotsu was leaving to follow Basho's trip of the previous year to the Far North. Rotsu was rather notorious for his bad behavior. While in Zeze, visiting in a home, he broke a valuable tea container. Instead of owning up to the accident, he blamed another one of Basho's students. Basho got very angry with him over the incident. He only forgave Rotsu shortly before his death. But he was so concerned about the situation that he had left a note in his will of his forgiving Rotsu for this. Rotsu did attend the funeral service of Basho at Gichuyi Temple in Zeze and wrote a detailed report of the end Basho's life and death.
I couldn't see the 'clou' at first of this haiku, but I had as I had an 'aha-erlebnis' when I read the haiku again. I saw the whole picture. In my country we have a proverb 'who burns his buttocks has to sit on his blisters'.
This proverb means that 'if you e.g. break something you have to pay for it'. Rotsu wouldn't do that. So Basho wrote the haiku with that proverb in mind. Because if you burn your bud you have to sit on the blisters. A pillow will be good than to sit on and watch the cherry blossoms. I had to laugh when I came to this conclusion.

I don't  laugh now, because I have to write a new haiku in the same Spirit as the one by Basho. It will be tough one.
Well it cost me a few days to write a new haiku, but I think ... I succeeded.

sitting cushion
a friend for today's accident
viewing the full moon

Mm ... not a very well done haiku, but I will use this one in this episode. Maybe ... another one will come to my mind.
It's a Chevrefeuille haiku, but is it also one in Basho's Spirit?

This episode is also published for The Poetry Picnic of The Gooseberry Garden

Gooseberry Garden

Until next time,


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Basho revisited, plowing a field

Basho was also a tanka poet although there are no tanka of him published. He is known by his haiku, but uses also tanka techniques in his haiku.
In the following haiku he uses words that are usually in tanka as we will see in the preface and comment by Jane Reichhold.

hatake utsu   oto ya arashi no   sakura asa

plowing a field
the sound of a violent storm
morning blossoms

Preface: 'On March 11, at the shrine of Shirahige in Araki village'. Usually in tamka the words 'arashi' (a violent storm) and 'sakura' (cherry blossoms) are combined in the fear that the blossoms will be blown down in a storm. So the 'wit' here is to combine these words with another (much more common) meaning.

In an earlier episode I already told how anxious the Japanese were as the wind blows while all the delicate blossoms are in full bloom. The Japanese are intwined with nature and when nature is in danger, the Japanese feel hurt.
The delicate blossoms of the cherry trees and plum trees are famous for haiku, so I think that I will try a new haiku with one of these famous kigo )season word).

a late spring storm
torns apart the delicacy
of cherry blossom

For the Japanese this haiku is painful. As we know they are intwined with nature, but also a late spring storm that torns apart the delicate cherry blossoms is part of nature and ... when the blossoms have left with the wind they can grow those delicious cherries in summer. And that is also nature.

Alright I will give another few new haiku on the delicacy of the blossoms. I was inspired.

do not scatter
the lovely cherry blossoms
oh violent storm

so fragile
the white plum blossoms
in the evening sun

Ah! that fragrance
delicate cherry blossoms
in the spring rain

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Basho Revisited, star-lovers

Several sources are saying that Basho was a homosexual. In his lifetime homosexuality was commonly in the artistic and literature world and, even now, homosexuality is accepted as a normal way of living in Japan.
In Basho's (almost) thousand haiku there are several haiku which are written with a touch of homosexuality. In this part of Basho Revisited I will give a few examples of haiku by Basho with a touch of homosexuality in it.

sazo na hoshi   hiji kimono ni wa   shika no kawa

surely star-lovers
using as a rug
a deer skin

This one, written in Summer 1681, shows us how Basho and his lover are laying down on a deer skin watching to the stars at the Tanabata festival. It's a haiku about love and situated at the time that, the so known 'star-lovers' Altair and Vega are meeting eachother to make love.

Another one:

yoru hisokani   mushi wa gekka no   kuri wo ugatsu

a night secret
a worm under the moon
bores in a chestnut

In this haiku, Autumn 1681, it's very clear what the deeper, hidden, secret meaning is. The white meat of a chestnut indicates, a young virgin boy. The worm ... is Basho himself making love with the young virgin boy. A night secret ... I think that's as clear as the whole haiku. Basho was in love with a young virgin boy or had a boy prostitute under his roof.

A last one:

yamaji ki te   nani yara yukashi   sumire gusa

coming down a mountain road
I've found something lovely
a wild violet

Basho talks here about a young guy which he has met after one of his travels. He compares this young guy with a wild violet.
Ofcourse these are just a few of Basho's haiku in which Basho's love for man and especially young guys is clearly used as a theme.

I will not write a new haiku myself in this part of Basho Revisited. So I will give another haiku by Basho in which his homosexuality is clear, but hidden in wonderful words.

wakaba shite   om me no shizuku   nuguwa baya

young leaves
I would like to wipe away
tears in your eyes

At second thought I will try to compose a new haiku by myself in the same tone as Basho’s.

such a sad feeling
this day I will be alone
white Chrysanthemum

Until the next part,

Basho Revisited, bush clover in rain

Matsuo Basho
In this series Basho's love for man, especially young guys, has been talked about. In some of hisd haiku that love is clearly the theme, but in other ones it isn't so clear. In the following haiku, which he has written in autumn 1689, his preference for man could be the theme, but in the third sentence ... you can read the real theme.

mire te yuku ya   hito mo okashi   ame no hagi

to get wet
by passing a man is interesting
bush clover in rain

It was the 'hokku' of a 50-link renga done by 11 poets at the home of Kansei, a poet in Kamotsu. The euphemism 'to get wet' was often used in tanka (another Japanese verse with five sentences 5-7-5-7-7) where the reader could decide how this happened - either from rain or dew on flowers or tears or sexual activity. This verse uses the 'maekuzuki' technique in that the first two lines make the reader think one thing, but the addition of the third line explains a natural occurrence.
This 'maekuzuki' technique makes this haiku a wonderfully crafted and composed verse in which the poet paints a picture that confused the reader. I love this technique and I love this haiku very much. I will try to write a new haiku with the 'maezukuzi' technique. Again a tough one.

Ah! such a beauty
the white face of a geisha
magnolia in bloom

I wrote this haiku in the middle of the night. I couldn't sleep, but I was inspired and tried to write the above haiku in 'maekuzuki' technique. I wonder what will bring the next day or night?
Haiku isn't just a poem, it's a life style. As Basho did in his lifetime I do in my lifetime writing haiku, breathing haiku, living haiku. Haiku is A life style.


Basho Revisited, Red Pepper

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
Maybe you know the parable of the mustard seed told by the Christ. A mustard seed is a very tiny seed, but it grows to a very large tree. In the parable Christ means that the smallest seed of belief can grow to the greatness of believing.
There are more tiny seeds that grow to be a great plant or tree. In the following haiku the tiny seed of the Red Pepper is the theme.

Red Chili Pepper
kono tane to   omoi konasa ji   togarashi

such a tiny seed
yet not to be underrated
red pepper

It's a wonderfully crafted haiku. Such a tiny seed as that of the red pepper described and honored in the shortest verse of the world. This is what haiku means. A tiny verse, the greatest of poetry. I love this very much. A few words with a great meaning.

a mustard seed
to grow a shaded place
in the backyard

Awesome! Such a tiny seed that creates a shaded place in the backyard. Certainly a haiku in the Spirit of Basho.


Also published for:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Basho Revisited, wrapped in a straw mat

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.

komo wo ki te   tare bito imasu   hana no haru

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

Credits: Japanese Straw Raincoat

The preface of this verse was: '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 out 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 blossom

Not a very fine haiku I think, but it's the same meaning as the one by Basho.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Basho Revisited, departing autumn

In this episode of Basho Revisited I will look for the last time at haiku from Basho's haibun 'The Narrow Road to the Far North'. This verse was the last haiku in his haibun.

hamaguri no   futami ni wakare   yuku aki zo

a clam
torn from its shell
departing autumn

As I wrote above 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. (Source: Jane Reichhold's Old Pond: Basho's (almost) thousand haiku).

wedded rocks
Awesome! Isn't it! This haiku is a masterpiece worthy to enclose his haibun 'Narrow Road' as I read the previous part (the part by Jane Reichhold) again.
I love to write a haiku with the same words, but with the other meaning. That will be the challenge for this episode of Basho Revisited and of course I have to try. No ... I must try.

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
a chestnut
fallen into the grass
departing autumn

on the seashore
the shell of a hermit crab

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 was the last episode with the haibun 'Oku no Hosomichi' as theme. In the next episodes I will look closer at haiku by Basho.


Also published for: one single impression

And as an contribution for Poets United Thursday Think Tank

Basho Revisited, before I leave

I have published this also for:

When travelers stayed in a temple, they were expected to perform some work like sweeping out their rooms and or sweeping up the garden or make a payment in some kind. Basho was now alone, because Sora had traveled on ahead of him. When Basho went to leave the temple, some monks stopped him by asking for the payment of at least a poem. Sora had stayed the night before in the same temple and had left the following verse for Basho.

yomosugara   aki kaze kiku ya   ura no yama

all night long
hearing autumn winds
in the mountain behind

One wonders if 'the mountain behind' was Basho, and if he 'autumn winds' were Basho's cold feelings. It is easy to see, how on a journey of this length (2400 km) two friends could get very tired of each other.
The following haiku by Basho, he wrote as a payment for his stay at the temple.

niwa hou te   ide baya tera ni   chiru yanagi

to sweep the garden
before I leave
falling willow leaves

A wonderful haiku I think. I love this verse and I have written the next one. I hope that my haiku will be in the same tone and sense as Basho's.

tears in my eyes
I give Honeysuckle blossom
when I leave

In 'My Narrow Road' I have used some of the traditions as they were used in ancient Japan. This verse I wrote for friends as payment for staying at their home.
It's for sure in Chevrefeuille's Spirit and I think ... also in the Spirit of Basho.

Another one also from 'My Narrow Road'.

a bound verse (*)
farewell gift for my host
and blossom petals

(*) a renga was also called a 'bound verse'.

This one I wrote for the host of a bed & breakfast in Nikko.

Sora and Basho


Basho Revisited, Saigyo's straw sandals

Basho was a fan of Saigyo's poetry. Saigyo (1118-1190) was a poet who has written 'waka' (now known as tanka). Basho loved and respected him very much. He had studied his poetry several years. He also studied a lot of Chinese poetry. In some of Basho's poems we can see that he had studied the classical Chinese and Japanese poetry, but also had studied a lot of spiritual and religious literature and poetry.
It's a wonder how he put all this knowledge into his haiku. As we can see in our lifetime modern poets and haiku poets also use the knowledge of the classical poetry and literature in their poetry.
I myself used it for example in my haibun 'My Narrow Road', in which I used (as the title already says) Basho's Narrow Road to the Far North. It's not a shame to use your knowledge to write fine poetry or in my case haiku.

Saigyo no    waraji mo kakare   matsu no tsuyu

Saigyo's straw sandals
hanging from the pine tree

This was written on a painting of a pine tree dripping with dew. Basho uses in this one the associative technique. Both dew drops and straw sandals are hanging in the pine. The genius stroke is that Basho could 'see' that his mentor's shoes hung there also.
As we can read in the above text this haiku was written on a painting of a pine tree dripping with dew. This art is called haiga. In haiga a painting, picture or a photo and haiku are melting together. The haiku or the picture are strengthen each other.
In the past years I have painted and photographed many items and themes at which I included haiku. For example: In 2008 I published a haiku anthology titled 'Deep Silence'. The cover of this anthology was a photo by myself. With the photo I included the next haiku in Kanshicho-style:

in between worlds -
the city parc

Back to this episode of Basho Revisited. I have to write a new haiku in the same Spirit as the one by Basho. This will be a tough one I think :)

on the door post
the name of the place
next to mine

Not a strong one I guess, but ... I had to write a new haiku in Basho's Spirit, I think I succeeded. If not ... well it's surely in the Spirit of Chevrefeuille.

Until the next episode,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Basho Revisited, wisteria beans

In Basho's lifetime it was common to write a preface to a haiku. In Jane Reichhold's "Old Pond", she has prefaces discovered by a lot of haiku. The preface shows some background information such as the place where the haiku was written and e.g. for whom.
The following haiku had a preface that's telling the reader where and when the haiku was written. This haiku was one of the first which Basho wrote after he returned home from his Narrow Road to the Far North.
First I will give the preface followed by the haiku.

"A certain Sogyu of Seki visited me when I stayed in Ogaki. I composed this for him in the lingering scent of the flowers which Sogi (1421-1502, a famous renga poet) had called the flowers of Fujishiro (white wisteria) Misaka". When Sogi had passed through this same area, he had seen some white wisteria growing on the slope and had written: 'seki koe te / koko mo fujishiro / misaka kana' (crossing  Seki / there still are the white wisteria / at the town in Misaka).

fuji no mi wa   haikai ni se n   kana no ato

wisteria beans
let's make that a theme for haikai
a flower fruit

In this verse the second sentence refers to renga. Haiku which are included in a renga are called haikai. As I earlier in this series have told the first verse of a renga was called 'hokku'. Just to inform you, my dear reader, the last closing verse of a renga was called 'ageku'. The ageku closes the 'circle' of verses of a renga by association on the first verse, the hokku. So a renga was an enclosed chain. You can say that the 'hokku' and the 'ageku' are the lock of a necklace and the verses inbetween are the 'links'.
I have been part of several renga sessions on the Internet (e.g. on Haiku-Ritsu, a Dutch haiku website). I loved doing that. An amount of my haiku were once part of a renga. I will include a few 'haikai' and 'hokku' after the new haiku I will write as inspired by the haiku of Basho.

what a party
writing a renga together -
waterfall of flowers

It's a new haiku in which I have tried to draw a picture of a renga session. Writing renga together with friends is a joyfull activity. Try it yourself it will be wonderful to write renga with friends.

As promised a few haikai. I have translated them to English out of Dutch (my maiden language).

This one was the 'hokku' of the renga "snow is softly falling":

snow is softly falling
along the windowglass
the fireplace burns

A link from the above mentioned renga:

a last leaf
struggles with the storm -
moonless night

Another 'hokku', this one is from the renga "spring heat":

tonight my skin
will miss the spring heat
it seems colder

And a link from the renga "spring heat":

midsummer night
in the light of the full moon
a young woman dancing

Well I hope you liked these verses from two renga in which I participated.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Basho Revisited, winds of autumn

This episode of Basho revisited is the last episode about haiku from Oku no Hosomichi, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. In this part a haiku which wasn't included in Narrow Road, but was written while he was on his journey to the Deep North.
The haiku following now is a nice one and has also a reverence to his homosexuality. It's commonly known that Basho was a homosexual.
While Basho was staying at the Yamanaka Hot Springs, the 14 year old son of the innkeeper, Izumiya Matabel, attracted Basho's attention. He gave the boy the nom the plume Toyo (to = momo = peach) and (yo = the young beauty of). This name has a connection with Basho's earlier nom the plume "Tosei" (green peach) which forms a literary connection between the two, according to Oseka-san. However, other implications arise. Basho didn't choose to include the verse in his official travel journal but it was published in 1698, by Fukaku, a doctor in Kyoto, who made a book of 522 hokku classified into the season.

momo no ki no   sons ha chirasu na   aki no kaze

a peach tree
its leaves aren't scattered
winds of autumn

Credits: Peach tree
When we look closely to this haiku we can see the young boy to whom Basho was attracted, the peach tree, young, his leaves not scattered by the autumn wind. He is strong, this haiku glorifies the young boy and his looks.
It's surely a wonderful haiku with a strong touch of love in it. Basho admires Toyo for his young beauty and maybe ... was in love with him.
But ... his love for Toyo isn't the important item in this haiku. It's the haiku which is important. It's a well balanced haiku and surely one in which Basho's master skills are very clear. I think this is one of his masterpieces.
It will be a challenge to write a new haiku for this episode of Basho Revisited. Can I do that? Will I succeed? Let's give it a try.

a young cherry tree
this spring will be the first
to bloom for Buddha

This was a tough one. It wasn't easy to write this one. It's for sure in the Spirit of Chevrefeuille, but is it also in  Basho's Spirit? You, my dear visitor, may decide that.

This was the last part of Basho Revisited about Oku no Hosomichi  The Narrow Road to the Far North.

In the following episodes I will look closer to other haiku written by Basho.

See you here again next time ...

Basho Revisited, missing someone

Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North has granted us with a lot of wonderful haiku. Every haiku in this haibun is a little gift, a present to the reader by Basho.
I love every haiku in Narrow Road and every haiku makes me speechless. It fills me with joy and pleasure. Sometimes I write haiku just as Basho, but I will never become as good as him. Basho is One in his kind of writing haiku. And I, Chevrefeuille, can only come close to his skill in writing haiku.
In this series of Basho Revisited I can only try to write in the Spirit of Basho.

It was, in Basho's lifetime, considered an elegant, and delightfully impulsive act to write a verse on a fan and then to tear the fan into two parts so each person would have a keepsake. You can compare this with a common use in our times to break a heart into two parts and give one part to your girlfriend or boyfriend and keep the other part yourself.

mono kai te   ogi hiki saku   nagori kana

writing something
tearing apart the thrown-away fan
missing someone

What an elegant thought to write something on a fan and then break it in two.

a love letter
on a leaf of paper
two hearts in one

Wow! I love this one. Sorry :) Sometimes I am surprised by my own haiku. Besides the inspiration of Basho's haiku I was inspired by my own words in this episode of Basho Revisited. So I think my haiku is in the same tone and sense as the one by Basho.


Basho Revisited, firefly fire

Matsuo Basho

Following Basho's trail along his Narrow Road to the Deep North I came towards a haiku by him which he wouldn't publish in his haibun 'Oku no Hosomichi' (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), but Sora, a haiku poet who after Basho's death in 1694 published the 'Narrow Road' included this haiku. Sora was also the travel companion of Basho on his Narrow Road, but Sora had to go home somewhere on this journey because he became ill.
This haiku isn't very well known. I haven't read read it in the many published books and anthologies about Basho. I ran into this haiku in Jane Reichhold's 'Old Pond: Basho's (almost) thousand haiku' and loved it very well. Why Basho wouldn't publish this one? I don't know, but I am glad that Sora did include it.

hotaru bi no   hira wa kie tsutsu   hashira kana

firefly fire
disappears at daylight
behind the pillar

Credits: firefly

In my opinion this is a haiku in the same strong tone and sense as his well known 'Old Pond' and it has to become a well known haiku. I hope with this episode of Basho Revisited that this haiku becomes as famous as 'Old Pond'.

at sun down
the fragile light
of a firefly

Not entirely the same tone and sense as the one by Basho, but it looks more like a haiku in the Spirit of Chevrefeuille :)

Basho revisited, sea of summer

While Basho was on his 'Narrow Road' he also visited Matsushima. According to many sources, old and new ones, Matsushima is the most beautiful and spectacular place in Japan. Since olden times, it has been depicted in poetry and pictures by many poets and artists. Even I, a simple and humble haiku poet from The Netherlands, have written about Matsushima without seeing it for real. I only know Matsushima from stories, poems and pictures. And I can say Matsushima cannot be hold in any poem, story of picture. It's a beautiful place and has an expanse of about 12 km of sea, where there are many islands in various shapes, as if designed and carved artistically by God Himself. Each island is covered with pine trees and its beauty is beyond description.
Matsushima must be really Paradise. Basho wrote the following haiku:

shi majima ya   chiji ni kudaki te   natsu no umi

many islands
broken into pieces
sea of summer

This leaves me in awe. What a picture, what a wonderful place to be. Maybe ... just maybe I will be allowed to see it with my own eyes.

Writing a haiku myself about Matsushima ... I think it isn't possible, but I have to try.

tears in my eyes

beyond description
tears in my eyes


tears in my eyes
I cannot find the words to describe

covered with pine
the place of my dreams

crafted by God
this wonderful piece of Japan

Well ... I thought I couldn't find the words to describe Matsushima, but I did it ...and still Matsushima leaves me in awe.

Also published for:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Basho Revisited, early summer rains

samidare wa   taki furi uzumu   mikasa kana

early summer rains
falling so much they covered up
the waterfall

What a wonderful picture. This haiku by Basho, so pure, so ... Basho. I wonder how he does it. The lightness of this verse touches me deep. I can visualize this one. I can see the waterfall, I can hear the summer rains and even can smell the air so fresh, wow! What a sight! Awesome!
The preface of this haiku tells us more. Let us look at the preface.

"We were told that about 8 km to the east of Sukagawa Station there are falls named 'Ishikawa' so we planned to go to see them, but because the heavy rains of the past few days, the river was so swollen we were unable to cross it and therefore canceled the trip." (Source: Jane Reichhold's Old Pond: Basho's (almost) thousand haiku).

Such a sad idea. Basho was eager to go see the waterfall, but couldn't reach it because of the heavy rains.
Every path has his own obstacles in this case the river was to swollen to cross it. My own path to Enlightenment has obstacles too, but when I conquer these obstacles I grow and a step closer to Enlightenment.

what a sight!
morning glories in full bloom
the swollen river

Isn't it a beautiful image? Can you see it?

Until next time,


Also published for:

2018 July Re-published on Carpe Diem's Summer Retreat 2018

Basho Revisited, I pray to the wooden clogs

When Basho was on his 'Narrow Road to the Deep North' he visited several Temples and other great places on the Northern Island of Japan.
In summer 1689 he visited the Gyoja-do of Komyoji Temple and saw the picture of the legendary priest En no Goja wearing wooden clogs. He is believed to have started a sect of Buddhism around mountain worship in the 7th century. The saint was very strong in climbing up and down the mountains so Basho, at the beginning of his journey prays to the clogs, not the saint, to help him climb the mountain.
The mountain stands for finding Enlightenment and Basho was strongly seeking for that. Enlightenment is his goal when he starts his Narrow Road. I think in his Narrow Road we can read his transformation to an enlightend person. His Narrow Road was tough and full of disappointment, but also full of joy and spirituality.
In his Spirit I wrote my own Narrow Road, my quest for Enlightenment. My Narrow Road is still going on, but with the International recognition I have been given in 2011, that Enlightenment is nearer than I could ever dream of.

Let us go back to this episode of Basho Revisited. The next haiku Basho wrote when he was in the Komyoji Temple as mentioned above.

natsu yama ni   ashida o ogamu   kadode kana

a summer mountain
I pray to the wooden clogs
at departure

And back to my own Narrow Road, my search for Enlightenment. Back to my challenge to write in every episode of Basho Revisited a new haiku. Shall I succeed in this episode?
I don't know. Basho's haiku is such a nice one and in that haiku he is so ... particularly present. Can I write a haiku in the same Spirit?

searching wisdom
I pray to Mother Earth
before leaving

Awesome! I think I have succeeded in this episode. A haiku in Basho's Spirit and a step forward to Enlightenment.

I wonder ... will She climb the mountain, the way to Enlightenment, with me?

Basho Revisited, how rare!

mezurashi ya   yama wo ide ha no   natsu nasubi

how rare!
on leaving the mountain
the first eggplant

Basho was host of a renga party at the home of Nagayama Shigeyuki, a military man of the Shonai Clan. This was the greeting verse and it was used as 'hokku' for the renga.
He had visited Mount Hagura for seven days and was glad that he could finally eat fresh vegetables.
It was published in his 'Narrow Road'.

I love this haiku, it's not so well known verse, but it's a verse in which we can see Basho as a traveler. On the other hand this verse brought some nice memories.
The first sentence 'how rare!' was the same as my first thought when I wrote my first haiku. I think that's almost 25 years ago. I had scribbled some short verses at the school where I then learned to be a teacher. One my fellow students told me that the scribblings I had made looked very similar like haiku. I had never heard about haiku. I thought those short verses 'rare' 'strange', but from that time on I never let go of haiku. I can't remember that very first verse, but I can recall that in that first verse I used Honeysuckle as a seasonword. Several years later I took the French translation of Honeysuckle as my nom de plum or my pseudonym. I became Chevrefeuille, haiku poet.

Since I had nice memories when reading the above verse I have written a haiku for this episode of Basho Revisited with my pseudonym, Chevrefeuille, in it:

the sweet perfume
of the Honeysuckle
makes me drowsy

At that time I couldn't know that haiku would become my passion and still is. I also couldn't know at that time that my haiku would be Internationally known.
I am glad to write haiku and will write them for a long time.

Until next time,


Also published for poets-rally-week-60

poets-rally week 60

Monday, January 9, 2012

Basho Revisited, how sleeves are wetted

According to Jane Reichhold's Old Pond: Basho's (almost) thousand haiku, 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 worshipping 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

forbidden to say
how sleeves are wetted
in the bathroom

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

an other haiku inspired by the one of Basho:

secret admirer -
petals of red roses around
my morning glory

A little bit of humour :)


Basho Revisited, such stillness

shizu kasa ya   iwa ni shimi iru   semi no koe

such stillness
piercing the rock
a cicada's voice

In my first anthology of my haiku, which was published in 1998 (on own account) I defined haiku as the poetry of silence and emptiness. I think that a lot of our fellow haijin (haiku poets) shall say the same of haiku.
Basho wrote haiku about stillness, emptiness and loneliness, as we already have seen in this series of essays. The above verse is, in my opinion, one of his best haiku with stillness as theme. The stillness of the mountains becomes very strong by the fragile voice of the cicada.
This verse is not based on reality, because a cicada's voice can't pierce a rock, but it works with what is felt (also a sense) and not with what is thought. By the way Basho wrote this haiku at the so called 'mountain temple' in Yamagata. Yamagata was one of the places which Basho eagerly would visit on his 'Narrow Road'

Ah! that sound
the song of a Nightingale
deepens the silence

Isn't it a nice one? I love the Nightingale's song and love to write haiku about it. I have written several haiku with the Nightingale in it. For example the following one:

an old temple
shelter for the night -
a Nightingale sings

It's a haiku I have written in 'My Narrow Road'.


Basho Revisited, this door of grass

As I mentioned in the previous episode of Basho Revisited I will use haiku from Basho's 'Narrow Road to the Far North'. In this episode I will tell something about the first verse which he has recorded for the haibun 'Narrow Road'.

Basho had a lot of friends and disciples at the time that he went on his journey to the far north. They all had come to visit him and to say goodbye. many of them had presents and gifts for Basho. Things he could use on his journey.
They accompanied him on the first two or three miles, say the first 10 km. When he went off he wrote:

kusa no to mo   sumi kawara yo zo   hina no ie

this door of grass
the resident changes for a time
a house of dolls

When Basho left his Banana tree cottage, he turned it over to Heiemon, who was married with a family. Thus, already, in Basho's bachelor quarters was the red ramp put up for the festival of the dolls for the girls of the family.
Basho and his good friend and student Sora left in this journey on May 16th. This verse fits with Basho's first sentence of the book: 'The months and days are the passing guests of a hundred generations, and the years that come and go are travelers, also'. (Source: Jane Reichhold's Old Pond: Basho's (almost) thousand haiku).

I wrote, as I stated in the previous episode, my own version of 'The Journey to the Far North'. The first verse I wrote for 'My Narrow Road' (after the preface) was:

the last night
I couldn't sleep -
a Nightingale sings

followed by a verse with farewell words:

a farewell verse
scribbled on a receipt
don't forget me

I wonder ... it's for sure a haiku in the Spirit of Chevrefeuille :), but is it the same as Basho's?

Until next time.