Thursday, November 14, 2019

Carpe Diem #1780 The Old Pond by Basho

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

First I have to apologize for being late with publishing our episode of today. I had a very busy Wednesday, so I hadn't time to publish it yesterday. But today ... well I think I have a nice challenge for you all.

Today I love to challenge you to "Revise That Haiku". I will give you a haiku and the story behind it and your task is to "revise" it.

I have chosen that renown haiku by Matsuo Basho. I think a lot of people all around the globe will know this so famous haiku by the Master ... yes it's "The Old Pond". Let me give you the haiku and the background of it.

furu ike ya / kawazu tobi komu / mizu no oto

old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

This verse, now so famous, was first published in a selection of haiku 'Haru no Hi' (Spring Day). What, at first made his haiku interesting was the fact that in poetry up until this time, frogs were mentioned for their croaking but never for their leaping. However, with the passage of time, countless translations and copies, this haiku has only grown more special.

The background of this haiku is not so well known, so let me tell you something about that ...
Basho was living in a hermitage in Edo (nowadays Tokyo) where there was a pond. There were some Japanese yellow roses (yamabuki) growing around it. On one quiet early spring day, around the end of March, Basho was with Kikaku and heard a frog jump into the pond. It was a moment when he understood the idea of tranquility. One of Badho's disciples, Shiko wrote about the process in his haiku essay, "Kuzu no Matsubara" published in 1692.

[...] First Baso thought of the 7-5 sound units, "kawazu tobi komu mizu no oto", conveying the idea that "a frog jumped in with the sound of water". Then he tried to think of a good 5 units for the first line. Kikaku proposed 'yamabuki ya' (Japanese yellow rose). Basho said that yamabuki would be elegant, but to showy. He said 'furu ike ya' should be used because it is simple and truthful' [...]

Kikaku's idea was easly understood and the combination of a frog and yamabuki was common at that time, but Basho's was a novel idea. The word ''old pond'' was from traditional Chinese literature and was associated with the hermit life. Many haiku poets were so impressed with this modest simplicity that several stories related to Zen Buddhism were fabricated about the haiku.
Isn't it a wonderful story? It's a joy to read how even Basho sometimes had trouble with the composing of his haiku. Haiku is a way of collaborating poetry as we have seen above.

Maybe you think "Can I really "revise" this renown haiku written by one of the best haiku poets?" Yes you can I think, don't be shy ... I think Basho would be happy to see how you are "revising" his haiku, because haiku is collaborating poetry.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until November 20th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on today.

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