Sunday, August 31, 2014

Carpe Diem "Sparkling Stars" #3 "when the peonies bloomed" by Kiitau

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

It's my pleasure to publish an all new episode of our special feature "Sparkling Stars" in which I introduce haiku, masterpieces, by classic and non-classic haiku-poets. The goal is to compose a new haiku inspired on the given haiku, similar with our regular CD-Specials, but with the classical haiku-rules:
  • 5-7-5 syllables
  • a kigo (seasonword)
  • a kireji (cuttingword or punctuation)
  • a moment as short as the sound of a pebble thrown into water
  • a deeper, spiritual, meaning
  • the first and third line are interchangeable
For this episode I have chosen a haiku by Kiitau, a not so well-known haiku-poet, who has written just one haiku as far as I know.

botan saite atari ni hana no naki gotoshi

when the peonies bloomed,
it seemed as though there were
no flowers around them

© Kiitau

Credits: Peonies
An occidental poet will have this experience in regard to a woman with whom he is in love. When she enters the room, all other women cease to exist for him, become soulless automata. An oriental poet personalizes the flowers in the sense that their life is as vivid and meaningful to him as that of human beings. It may be thought that per se the interest in flowers must be of a lower order, an inferior content poetically compared with that in human beings. But the distinction is not in the standpoint, in the world view; not in the treatment; whether it is classical or romantic; not in the culture, occidental or oriental; neither is it in the object, the material that is assimilated and spiritualized. It is depth alone which matters, depth alone which admits of comparison. (Source: R.H.Blyth, Haiku Vol. 3, summer - autumn).

In the haiku by Kiitau I see the beauty of peonies, those awesome rose-like flowers. Several years ago I had a wonderful bush of peonies in my backyard. I can still see their pinkish-white colors in front of my eyes. When they were still in their buds they were visited (frequently) by thousands of ants, and than ... they bloomed ... an explosion of flowers ... all the other plants, trees and flowers became "over-shadowed" by the beauty of "my" peonies ... awesome.
Credits: Book-cover "Memoires of a Geisha" by XMarr
As I was writing this post the movie "Memoires of a Geisha" came in mind. In front of my eyes a peony appeared with the face of a geisha. It hit me ... what a beauty. I have tried to catch that image in my haiku in response on the one by Kiitau. I hope I succeeded. I love to share here my way of composing haiku ... I call that process "giving birth".
As I am starting to write our posts, I also start to compose the haiku in my mind. During the writing of the posts images start to flow in front of my eyes. Images, or flashes of images, appear and flow, emerging in and out, like breathing. The images are constantly changing as I write the posts. During writing a lot of images come and go. There are always images that stay. As I am almost ready writing the post, a few images remain in my mind, I know I have to use them in my haiku.
Than the 'sculpting' begins. I write my haiku and re-write them until I know, don't ask me how, that I have the right haiku. Sometimes, and I know that the classical haiku-poets (e.g. Basho or Shiki) did that also, I have to re-do the final haiku a few times again.

the beauty of nature (4 syllables)
a geisha with peonies in her hair (9 syllables)
the sweet sound of a bamboo flute (7 syllables)

© Chèvrefeuille

Credits: Woodblock print "geisha"

The above haiku, for example, is one of the "pre-haiku" of the haiku to share here. This "pre-haiku" I have to re-do, because of the classical rules we have to use here in this "Sparkling Stars"-feature. And ... as you maybe know, I am not a haiku-poet of the classical way of writing. Here another kind of 'sculpting' starts, to got 5-7-5 syllables. As you all know I am not that familiar with the syllables-rules of English, so I use a syllable-counter on the Internet.

This is my "composing-path" to make the (above) haiku, a classical one (after every line between () you can read the syllables-count). This is the first 're-make':

nature's beauty (3)
a geisha with peonies in her hair (9)
the sound of a flute (4)

In this second version I have not enough syllables, so I have to try other words, without losing my image as I have planned; "nature's beauty" (3), not enough syllables, what to do? I will add  astonishment  to the beginning of this line.

Ah! the beauty of nature (5)

The first line is ok, so up to the second line.

"a geisha with peonies in her hair" (9), to much syllables. How to re-do this line without losing the scene? I have to get a few words out of this line, and than ... the "aha-erlebnis":

geisha, peonies in her hair (7)

To make the image complete I have to come up with a wonderful third, closing, line. So I seek for other words for example instead of "a flute" I use "Shakuhachi" (a Japanese end-blown flute. During the medieval period, shakuhachi were most notable for their role in the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhist monks, known as komusō ("priests of nothingness," or "emptiness monks"), who used the shakuhachi as a spiritual tool. Their songs (called "honkyoku") were paced according to the players' breathing and were considered meditation (suizen) as much as music). And so I have found my third line too.

playing the shakuhachi (5)

Credits: Komuso Buddhist monk beggar playing the Shakuhachi

Finally I have caught the image, which came in mind as I was writing this post. And now I can share the haiku which I distilled from the images in my mind inspired on the haiku by Kiitau:

Ah! the beauty of nature -
geisha, peonies in her hair,
playing the Shakuhachi

© Chèvrefeuille

Not completely according to the rules of this feature, because the first and third line aren't interchangeable. You can try to interchange it, but than the haiku loses it's beauty. So ... I am sorry that I didn't succeeded, forgive me ... (smiles)

I love to share a nice piece of Shakuhachi music. Enjoy the music. (This piece of Shakuhachi-music is called 'kyuden no kurayami' and is performed by Rodrigo Rodriguez )

This episode of "Sparkling Stars" is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until next Saturday September 6th at noon (CET). Have fun! I hope you enjoyed this post and the insight story about 'giving birth' to a haiku.


  1. It is so very interesting the process by which nature works,
    as well as the mind of a poet.
    I will post my entry tomorrow morning Sept 1.

  2. thanks for sharing your haiku process and the hauntingly beautiful music; have a nice Sunday

    much love...

  3. do you think Kiitau could be Kei Kiitsu (1694-1761)?

  4. Wonderful post -- thank you for showing us how you give birth to your haiku!
    And -- a wonderful haiku too. :)

  5. Love your (almost per you) haiku. Enjoyed your process and the wonderful Japanese flute played by Rodrigo Rodriguez. How universal is that.

  6. Love how you showed how you thought,, I tried to do a little of the same thing... I am once again behind in my commenting... bear with me, I will be around..