Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,
It's Wednesday again and it's time for a new episode of our Haiku Writing Techniques. This week I love to tell you more about one of the most delightful concepts of haiku writing, Karumi (or Lightness). The concept of Karumi isn't a new idea, it comes from the other Japanese arts and Basho has tried to bring that Karumi concept into haiku writing in the, say, last ten years of his life.
Not so long ago I got a gift from Jane Reichhold, a copy of her book "Basho, the complete haiku". You all will understand that I started immediately with reading it, after all (as you all know) I see Basho as my haiku-master.
Jane has put a lot of effort in this book, more than ten (10) years, and of course I was excited and anxious to learn all the wonderful haiku by Basho.
Basho has meant a lot for haiku. He created several new ideas and writing techniques and was really a master of haiku. During his life Basho became in a way a Zen-Buddhist (he studied under Butcho, a Zen Buddhist monk), however he was never really a monk, only during his journeys.
In his time the Japanese roads weren't great, sometimes only small paths and travelers often were robbed along the way. The most travelers chose to travel like a monk or priest, because that provided them free and save passage. Basho also traveled like a monk or priest, clothed in a black robe and a shaved head.
|Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)|
Basho had a big group of disciples and followers close around him, but also widely spread over Japan.
Basho, the traveling poet (he undertook his journeys almost all in the last ten years of his life), had one goal in his last years. He was anxious to spread his idea, his concept, of Karumi (Lightness) in haiku. He even went on journeys to preach that concept notwithstanding his bad health. A lot of his disciples turned their back to him, because they wouldn't accept (or understand) his idea of Karumi.
Basho, however, tried strongly to "preach" his karumi idea, a technique which was known only from other kinds of Japanese art, for haiku. It's said that he himself managed this technique badly, because he couldn't find the right words to explain what karumi was. There are a few haiku by Basho in which karumi can be found. Here are a few examples:
Soups and salads are buried
In cherry blossoms.
Uguisu ya mochi ni fun suru en no saki
A spring warbler casts
A dropping on the rice cakes —
What is karumi?
In a way it brought me another idea. Traditionally, and especially in Edo Japan, women did not have the male privelege of expanding their horizons, so their truth or spirituality was often found in the mundane. Women tend to validate daily life and recognize that miracles exist within the mundane, which is the core of haiku.There were females who did compose haiku, which were called "kitchen-haiku" by literati, but these "kitchen-haiku" had all the simplicity and lightness of karumi ... In a way Basho taught males to write like females, with more elegance and beauty, based on the mundane (simple) life of that time.
I look holding it straight
no dust at all
I wash my feet with dew
the longest day
|Sakura (woodblock) also karumi|
lost in the woods around Edo –
just the autumn wind
Karumi is lightness, simplicity, becoming one with the experience you have on that moment when you are composing your haiku. Karumi is, in my opinion, a higher level of the concept of Wabi Sabi, as we discussed in Haiku Writing Techniques episodes 6 & 7.
I think karumi can only be the concept for your haiku when you are not only a haiku poet, but also living haiku ... Living haiku is being one with the world around you including nature and enjoying the emptiness, loneliness and oneness of being part of nature as a human. A haiku poet (in my opinion) lives with nature, adores nature, praises nature and respects nature.
Haiku is not only a wonderful poem ... it's a life-style.
just one leaf
struggles with the wind
And here another one in which I hope I have touched karumi:
slowly a snail seeks
his path between Cherry blossoms
reaches for the sky
Well I hope you did like this Haiku Writing Techniques episode. And I hope that it will inspire you to write an all new haiku, trying to catch karumi.