Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Carpe Diem Preview #2, Kanshicho, the other way of writing haiku.

Today this episode of Carpe Diem Preview is about Kanshicho, the other way to write haiku. As you may know I am writing my haiku in the classical way with 5-7-5 syllables, but mostly I write my haiku in the so called Kanshicho-style. In this style the syllable-count isn't used. It looks more like, as Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) calls it, the tone of the Chinese verse.

Matsuo Basho, a haiku master, introduced in 1682, as a reaction on the Danrinschool, the Kanshicho-style in haiku. Kanshicho broke the classical 5-7-5 syllables count. A haiku in Kanshicho-style could follow a different syllables scheme, e.g. 6-10-3 or 2-9-5 syllables. In this Kanshicho-style the themes he used were detachment and the purity of living in poverty. In 1685 Basho let go this Kanshicho-style and re-wrote several haiku in Kanshicho-style to the classical way of writing haiku with 5-7-5 syllables.


I love the Kanshicho-style and I am using that style frequently in my haiku. I will give you some examples:

a lonely flower
my companion
for one night

Let us look closer to this haiku in Kanshicho-style the syllables-count in this one is 5-3-3, it could even be shorter ... look at the next re-written 'a lonely flower'.

lonely flower
one night

Here the syllables-count is: 4-3-2

And it's even possible to make it shorter, but than you have to change the sequence of the lines. Look at this one:

one flower

By changing the sequence of the lines ... this haiku itself doesn't change, but the syllables-count in this one is 1-3-2.

Isn't it a wonder? Kanshicho-style haiku are wonderful and closer to the Western way of writing haiku. To enclose this Carpe Diem Preview I will write a classical and a non-classical (Kanshicho-style) haiku.

a Nightingale's song
the light trembling of leaves -
ah! that sweet silence

This is the 'back to basic' haiku with the classical syllables-count 5-7-5 (you notice that the second line counts six syllables, but the kireji (cutting word '-') counts also for a syllable.
OK we have seen this classical haiku 'a Nightingale's song' and now I will re-write it in the non-classical style of Kanshicho.

song of a Nightingale
the light trembling of poplar leaves -
ah! that silence

As we look at the syllables-count of this re-done haiku 'a Nightingale's song' we can see the Kanshicho-style syllables-count 6-8-4.

I hope you have enjoyed this Carpe Diem Preview about the Kanshicho-style of writing haiku. This way of writing haiku I love very much and I use it frequently. Try it yourself ... enjoy the fun of writing without counting.

Blessed Be,


  1. Some haiku poets swear by counting syllables, while others swear at it. Who's right?

    1. good point :-) I suppose they are all right, as long as their comfort is allright :-D

  2. I am loving the Carpe Diem Previews!!!

  3. Thank you for your comments on this post. I love the Kanshicho-style of writing haiku and I think that ... freedom of mind and pleasure in composing haiku isn't bound at counting syllables. Just write from the heart and enjoy haiku.

  4. These are beautiful Kristjaan :D