Saturday, July 5, 2014

Carpe Diem #507, Shiki (1) ''smoke whirls''

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Today we will meet Masaoka Shiki, who gave haiku it's name and brought this poetry-art into the 20th century. Shiki died at a young age by a kind of Tuberculosis. His name ''Shiki'' means ''bleeding throat'' and refers to the story of a bird which sang until it's throat bleed. Shiki was a ''follower'' of the style by Buson and was very clear in his meaning about Basho. He didn't like Basho's haiku ... but at the end of his life ... he said something like "I was a great poet, but Basho is the real master''.

Credits: Masaoka Shiki
When Shiki was in the fifth grade he composed a Chinese poem:

under the moonlight, cuckoo cried as if it coughed up blood.
the sad voice kept me waking up,
the cry reminded me of my old home town far away.

(It is said that a Japanese cuckoo, hototogisu , Žq‹K (Shiki) will sing until it coughs out blood because of its sad voice.)
Credits: Hototogisu (the bird with the bleeding throat)
In those days Chinese poetry and prose were considered as important learning and culture, so even young children used to compose them. The interesting thing about this young Shiki's Chinese poem is that he composed on a sad voice of cuckoo which would cough up blood. Later he was to cough out blood and he picked out his pen name, Žq‹K (Shiki) a hototogisu. Shiki wrote about 900 Chinese poems in his life.
As I said above ... Shiki was the haiku-poet which brought haiku into the 20th century. He had been there in the 19th century when steam engines (trains) started to come into the life of humans. He wrote a few nice haiku on this ''wonder''.

the wild geese take flight
low along the railroad tracks
in the moonlit night

© Masaoka Shiki

Credits: First Steam Train/Engine Leaving Yokohama (woodblock-print)
smoke whirls
after the passage of a train -
young foliage

© Masaoka Shiki

The second haiku is a great one ... it's a spring haiku ''young foliage'' points to spring and it points towards the industrial revolution with the coming of the steam engine. In that time it was a ''wonder'' to see the steam engine. Shiki must have been in awe as he saw the first steam engine ...

under the full moon
the screech of a steam engine -
cherry blossoms shiver

© Chèvrefeuille

What a nice and exciting time it must have been ... to see all to changes ... And ofcourse it is exciting that Shiki gave haiku it's name as we still use it today ...

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until July 8th at noon (CET). I will try to post our new episode, the second haiku by Basho, later on.


  1. I adore your screeching steam engine haiku! It's a marvellous piece of work--so vivid, and so awe-inspiring, with its cherry blossoms shivering under the full moon. Gives me the shivers too--shivers of delight!

  2. Thanks for sharing the wonderful information about Shiki - even a child can mirror some of life's pains.
    Last winter was such a painful time that my haiku is reflecting back on that cold time...

  3. Hello Kristjaan - Georgia, Jules and I were chatting as a result of this railroad prompt and we got to talking about the symbols hobos used to signal safe places, dangerous places, etc. I started to think about them a lot -- and ended up writing a series of "hobo haiku" (actually senryu) based on the symbols. There will be links to Jules' blog, your blog, and Georgia's blog -- since the three of you inspired me to do this. The post will be called "Bed and Bread - Hobo Haiku".

    Really hoping you like the end result -- it was challenge!