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Discussion Series 1: The Masters

Started by William O, November 29, 2012, 09:06:23 PM

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William O

Topic: The Classic Haiku Masters

Basho, Buson, Issa, Ikkyu, Shiki, Chiyo-ni, Hokushi, and of course others.

How have they influenced your work?  Which of their haiku are your favorites?   Whose work most resembles your own?  Who do you feel most 'connected' to?

Begin Discussion Series 1: The Masters.  Please keep your discussion to the aforementioned topic: The Masters of Haiku.

William O

You can lead a horse to water, I guess.

Snow Leopard

Hi willoeld,

Thank you for starting this great topic which reminds us how vital it is for us to return to the Masters every now and then. :) You certainly got me thinking and I hope my response does some justice to the thought-provoking questions you've raised.

QuoteHow have they influenced your work?  Which of their haiku are your favorites?   


His mastery of technique is what inspires me. Reading his work I'm become more aware of the nitty-gritty of writing a haiku.

I particularly like these haiku of Basho for the shift in perspective, perception and imagery these suggest:

bush warbler
has dropped his hat

of  the harvest moon appear
in cotton fields

under a clear moon
the foothills' mist
is the field's cloud

the color of wind
planted artlessly in a garden
bush clover


The visuals of his painterly haiku are awesome. The way he zooms into details is the technique that I find most appealing.

Here's a haiku of his which never ceases to amaze:

an old well –
falling into its darkness
a camellia

These haiku too are superb:

on the temple bell
perching and sleeping
a butterfly

spring rain
just enough to wet tiny shells
on the tiny beach

the morning breeze
ripples the fur
of the caterpillar


Her poems flow with naturalness and lightness of touch. With great skill she uses disparate motifs of transience and womanly sensual beauty.

clear water is cool
fireflies vanish –
there's nothing more

(a jisei, death poem)

at the crescent moon
the silence
enters the heart

when a woman's skin
is revealed

change of kimono
showing only her back
to the blossom's fragrance


I find the humanity, humility and humor in Issa's work truly inspirational particularly given his own unhappy childhood and the deaths of his children and wives. His poems written on the death of his daughter, Sato, highlight the issue of child mortality which is quite close to my own experience.  His poems are imbued with compassion and reflect his own close connection with creatures like fleas, flies, cicadas, fireflies and snails.

Here are two haiku written after the death of Sato, which I find deeply moving:

The world of dew
Is the world of dew
And yet ...
And yet ...

Here is the red flower
You wanted to pick –
Coming to bloom
In the autumn wind


It begins
from the cicada's song
the gentle breeze

a firefly
creeping up my sleeve
OK, I'm a blade of grass

And this haiku seems quite similar in tone:

inch by inch
little snail
creep up and up Mt. Fuji


not even a glance
at the scarlet flower
a snail creeping

QuoteWhose work most resembles your own?  Who do you feel most 'connected' to?

I would like to think that Issa's writing most resembles my own. I feel most 'connected' to his voice.

Inspired by Issa I've written some poems. A couple:

mother often said
her first-born child left footprints
in the stars
this clear autumn night
I know how much she mourned

(The Temple Bell Stops: Contemporary Poems of Grief, Loss and Change.  Edited by Robert Epstein)

as if
the snail's own is not enough
it tries a walnut shell


I haven't read much of Shiki, Ikkyu or Hokushi. So I'm grateful for the mention. I certainly have much to read and learn. :)

Snow Leopard

Gabi Greve

Basho has influenced me most,
although my living conditions in Japan are more "Issa-like".

I have started to organize the Basho files of the WKD and will go on doing so in 2013, since good translations are treasures and background information is vital to most of his work.
So I concentrate on the cultural keywords he has used in his hokku.

Feel free to ask for any special hokku by Basho for more background info.


Visit Basho here
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