Saturday, April 23, 2016

Carpe Diem Theme Week 3: Magnolia Blossoms, haiku by Soseki Natsume: episode 7

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Here it is our last episode in our third Carpe Diem Theme Week "Magnolia Blossoms, haiku by Soseki Natsume".
I have tried to introduce to you Soseki Natsume (1867 - 1916) and the beauty of his haiku. For closing this 3rd CD-Theme Week I have another nice haiku by Soseki, but I also love to share a little bit of background on him and his relation to Shiki.

Soseki Natsume
Soseki Natsume is best known as a novelist. However, he also wrote many good haiku. Soseki Natsume wrote his haiku under the pseudonym “Soseki”. For more reasons than one he should be regarded as one of the most important haijin after Shiki.

Soseki and Shiki were good pals. They were born in the same year. They both liked rakugo comedy. They first met each other in 1889 at a higher middle school in Tokyo through the school’s literary circle. Shiki was astounded by the extraordinary quality of Soseki’s writings in classical Chinese, most notably his kanshi (poems in Chinese). He first caught sight of them in the magazine of the circle which he edited and got in touch with Soseki. They became bosom friends until the death of Shiki 13 years later. Soseki learned haiku from Shiki in the same year and thus became one of the earliest practitioners in this genre after Shiki reformed it into a proper branch of modern literature. He adopted Soseki as his haigo (haiku penname) and used it for the first time this year. It later became his general penname, especially for his novels. Incidentally, the penname Shiki was created also in the same year. In other words, the two glittering haiku names made their debut in 1889.

Soseki’s first recorded haiku appeared in his letter to Shiki dated 13 May 1889 in which he wrote two haiku to console the friend who had just coughed out blood because of pulmonary tuberculosis. Until his death in 1916 Soseki wrote 2426 haiku in total (some say it is 2600). One of the two haiku in the mentioned letter goes:

kaero to naka zu ni warae hototogisu

laugh, not cry

© Soseki Natsume

Three years later he wrote another haiku with the classical kigo hototogisu (cuckoo):

naku nara ba mangetsu ni nake hototogisu

if you want to sing
sing under the full moon

© Soseki Natsume

Both are beauties and as we could read above Soseki and Shiki were bosom friends. Is Soseki the most important Haijin after Shiki? I don't know, but he is surely a great Haijin. In my opinion there are several other Haijin that are very important after Shiki, but that's just my opinion.

Autumn Leaves and Five Stories Pagoda reflections

For this last episode of our Theme Week I have another haiku for you in which we can read how much Soseki Natsume was into Zen. 

tō gojū gokai o nokoshi kasumikeri

a pagoda with five stories
leaving only the fifth story visible—
the haze

© Soseki Natsume

Five-storied pagodas (to goju) are commonly seen in Japanese Buddhist temples. They have five layers of roofs, with each representing one of the five traditional elements (godai).

scattered by autumn leaves
the old pond

© Chèvrefeuille

I hope you did like this Third Theme Week and as you all know I will create an exclusive Carpe Diem Haiku Kai e-book about this Theme Week in which I not only will gather the posts, but also your responses. If you don't want to be published in the exclusive CDHK e-book please let me know by sending an email to:

This last episode of the Third CDHK Theme Week "Magnolia Blossoms" is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until April 27th 10.00 PM (CET). !!! This is the new "time-frame" for the CDHK Theme Week episodes as mentioned in yesterday's CD-Extra !!!

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