Haiku

Fetching Water from a Haiku-Well

This light and bright book, ‘Japan Haiku by Marti’, is a library to me that has a collection of thoughts, wise words of a wise heart.

Haiku, a form of Japanese poetry that is dated back to the 17th century, is a fruit that a poet bears in her mind. It tastes subtly sweet and brazenly true. (Truth tastes different to all people, what does truth taste like to you?)

Carrying oceans and mountains and all the seasons within, it takes me on a journey every time I visit it.

Shying away from nothing, neither life nor death, haikus sing about nature and dance in the present. They capture it fully, through the lives of those who craft it, the haikus capture the moment fully.

No less than an explorer or a monk who practices meditation, the haiku poets in ancient Japan travelled to witness the peaceful, dramatic, kind, unforgiving nature. They did not hurry and that is why could understand it all.

Fetching cold water from a deep quiet well, with wit and brevity, the haikus quench our thirsts in this manner.

I finished reading this delightful book (part of my Auroville collection) sometime back, but I knew the journey has not ended yet.

Earlier I had taken a haiku turn to meet Matsuo Basho, the master haiku poet, and today I found a hidden haiku trail that took me to visit Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali polymath.

“They reveal the control over the human emotions. However, they are never short on aesthetic sensibility. Their sense of aesthetics is marked by deep appreciation yet there is a mastery over expression.”In Letters from Japan, published later as Japan Jatri, Tagore recorded his views on haikus and his experiences of visiting Japan.

Interested in reading Japanese literature, knowing their culture and art history, Tagore in 1915 wrote to Kimura Nikki, who had studied Bengali under him at Calcutta University, “I want to know Japan in the outward manifestation of its modern life and in the spirit of its traditional past. I also want to follow up on the traces of ancient India in your civilization and have some idea of your literature if possible.”

Knockings at My Heart is a collection of short poems by Tagore (discovered only recently and published in 2016) that highlights the impact of haikus on him.

Excerpts –

Let my life accept the risk of its

Sails and not merely the security

Of its anchor.

*

The pomegranate bud hidden behind her veil

Will burst into passionate flower

When I am away.

*

The mist tries

To capture the morning

In a foolish persistence.

The simplistic approach, depth of thought and brisk climactic acuity make this poetry form of the past very much of the present as well as of the future, for the passionate are always searching.

And so my journey continues.

*

Glowing like a firefly.
Image from Pixabay.

Fireflies, an epigrammatic poem by Rabindranath Tagore, is a perfect complement to this post.

My fancies are fireflies, —

Specks of living light

twinkling in the dark.

*

he voice of wayside pansies,

that do not attract the careless glance,

murmurs in these desultory lines.

*

In the drowsy dark caves of the mind

dreams build their nest with fragments

dropped from day’s caravan.

*

Spring scatters the petals of flowers

that are not for the fruits of the future,

but for the moment’s whim.

*

Joy freed from the bond of earth’s slumber

rushes into numberless leaves,

and dances in the air for a day.

*

Read the full poem here.


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Basho’s Haiku Pond

Let us go back in time, a few centuries back, in the mid-17th century to be precise, to meet Matsuo Basho and embark on a journey to the interiors of Japan.

Folding screen with Birds and Flowers of Spring and Summer by Kano Eino, a 17th Century Edo Period Japanese painter. [Source – Wikipedia]

A fabulous poet, known for his Haikus, Basho wanders giving voice to nature, the moon, the earth, the seasons, the rain, the monkey, the dragonfly, the cicada, and everything that he observes.

He paints his dreams in the air; the flora breathes that air and blooms like a dream.

Let us go and learn this art from the master himself.

Falling sick on a journey

My dream goes wandering

Over a field of dried grass.

Basho has fallen sick, he is old now, this haiku is usually considered as his farewell poem, but our journey has just started, we need to travel back a few more years.

Portrait of Bashō by Hokusai, late 18th century. [Source – Wikipedia Commons]

Teeth sensitive to the sand

In salad greens–

I’m getting old.

He is funny, oh, but let us keep going back in time for we need to learn the art of painting dreams in the air, remember. Stay focused!

The rough sea

Stretching out towards Sado

The Milky Way.

Sado is a city in Japan’s Sado Island and Basho travels there to witness the vast sea and the endless sky.

Look, at night the sea becomes a mirror for our galaxy.

Seasons come and go, each one is beautifully recorded in Japanese poetry; Kigo, the representation of and the reference to the seasons is still a part of Japanese culture and literature.

Different seasons, different Bashos

First winter rain-

Even the monkey

Seems to want a raincoat.

Monkey and Waterfall by Mori Sosen, a Japanese Edo Period painter, 1747 – 1821), Honolulu Museum of Art. [Source – bing.com]

Now then, let’s go out

To enjoy the snow … until

I slip and fall!

 Print 16 Kanbara, from  The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō, by Hiroshige, a Japanese Edo Period artist. [Source – Wikipedia Commons]

First cherry

Budding

By peach blossoms.


***

The summer grasses.

All that remains

Of warriors’ dreams.

Travellers surprised by sudden rain, by Hiroshige. [Source – Wikipedia Commons]

Spring rain

Leaking through the roof

Dripping from the wasps’ nest.

***

Autumn moonlight-

A worm digs silently

Into the chestnut.

Basho, Basho, Basho… you have captured it, you just did, a moment in eternity.

Every worm digging every chestnut tree in every autumn in the cool moonlight is this very worm. It will be living forever now.

First day of spring–

I keep thinking about

The end of autumn.

***

Winter garden,

The moon thinned to a thread,

Insects singing.

“The moon thinned to a thread” yet beautiful and bright, busy telling stories.

Winter solitude–

In a world of one color

The sound of wind.

Such an arduous journey…

Taking a nap,

Feet planted

Against a cool wall.

…but Basho’s right, nature reassures us of what lies ahead… the balmy moon.

Wind Blown Grass Across the Moon, by Hiroshige. [Source – Wikipedia Commons]

A field of cotton

As if the moon

Had flowered.

***

Moonlight slanting

Through the bamboo grove;

A cuckoo crying.

***

From time to time

The clouds give rest

To the moon-beholders.

“Can you hear it, the cicada, the dragonfly and the skylark? Free beings!” Yes, I can Basho, yes I can.

A cicada shell;

It sang itself

Utterly away.

***

Midfield,

Attached to nothing,

The skylark singing.

Dragonfly and Bellflower by Hokusai, a Japanese Edo Period artist. [Source – The Met Museum]

The dragonfly

Can’t quite land

On that blade of grass.

***

Stillness–

The cicada’s cry

Drills into the rocks.

We climb the mountain and reach an old village.

This old village–

Not a single house

Without persimmon trees.

Persimmon Tree by Sakai Hoitsu, a Japanese Edo Period painter. [Source – The Met Museum]

After some rest, we now resume our journey. Oh, Basho is stopping again to sit by the pond, but why I am wondering?

Wait, is this the place where he will pen his most famous haiku that has occupied the minds of a legion of poets and critics… yes, it is.

An ancient pond

A frog jumps in

The splash of water.

Frog by Sakai Hoitsu. [Source – flowerofliving.com]

I heard it too, the splash of water, you all must have heard it as well, somewhere, sometime… here, right now the frog’s jump turned the clock back, ending the journey, bringing me to the present.

That ancient pond of time glimmered with stories abound and I was in one, the frog living its routine life made me surrender to the present moment and splash, I returned back.

Basho’s work, what a wonderful portal to the enchanted dream that can be perceived anytime, by anyone…

Basho with his frog poem by Yokoi Kinkoku, a Japanese Edo Period artist and monk. [Source – Wikipedia Commons]

Let me bid adieu to you all with another glorious haiku of his. Basho!

How admirable!

To see lightning and not think

Life is fleeting.


Other Haiku Posts

Violets

Haiku Mandala

Moon, Moon, Moon, Moonlight

Live And Rise

Cid Corman’s Blue Aerogrammes


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Live and Rise

Summer night–

even the stars

are whispering to each other.

– Haiku by Kobayashi Issa

And they are whispering, twinkling blue and green, sharing the secret we all know… that love is in the air.

The summer earth blooms for it is in love, the summer sky sways for it is in love.

A promise is made with joy in the eyes by every soul, promise to live and rise.  


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A weekly dose of stories! Get the posts from the Chiming Stories in your inbox and read it when you can. Subscribe now, it is free!


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