Sunday, September 15, 2013

Carpe Diem's Distillation #2, A poem by Genji, from the wellknown Japanese novel "The Tale of Genji"

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I love to publish our second episode of  "Carpe Diem's Distillation", the feature in which I challenge you to write a haiku distilled from another poem. Today I have a nice poem by Genji (12th century) to distil your haiku from. With this feature we are following in the footsteps of the ancient haiku poets, who were using on a regular base classical literature and poetry for theit own haiku. So it's also a way to go back to the roots of haiku, as the other feature I started last week. "The Tale of Genji", is one of the oldest novels of Japan and this "Tale" has inspired several other poets including Matsuo Basho as we will see in the second episode of Carpe Diem's Oku no Hosomichi.

Credits: Scenes from "The Tale of Genji"

The poem is from Chapter 4, "Yuugao". Prince Genji has a brief love affair with a young girl, called Yuugao. But there is another lady, deeply in love with Genji, who hates Yuugao so much that she dies. Yes, at that time people believed that hatred can kill people!

After the funeral of Yuugao, Genji is looking at the smoke from the pyre, and recites this poem:

mishi hito no
keburi o kumo to
yuube no sora mo
mutsumashiki ka na

The evening sky itself
becomes something to cherish
when I gaze at it,
seeing in one of the clouds
the smoke from her funeral pyre

It is important to know that Yuugao's name means "Evening Faces." Therefore, Genji's reference to "being deeply intimate with the evening sky" refers to the love he shared with Yuugao.

Credits: Japanese screen, "The Tale of Genji"

It's a though challenge this time I think, but a good challenge is always welcome isn't it?

My attempt to 'distil' a haiku from this poem (by the way: a lot of the poems in the "Tale of Genji" are in a Tanka-like way written.):

her spirit departs
with the dying of her pyre -
smoke rises to the sky

Awesome .... I succeeded I think to 'distil' a wonderful haiku from the poem I gave for inspiration. Now it's your turn ...

This episode of Carpe Diem's Distillation will stay on 'till September 29th 11.59 AM (CET) and I will try to post the next episode of CD's Distillation later on that day. For now ... have fun, be inspired, pick up the challenge and share your haiku with us all here at Carpe Diem. This episode of CD's Distillation is open for your submissions.



  1. Beautiful poem to do justice to... you did well, and I tried my best... and many apologies for being behind commenting...

  2. Oh, what a lovely idea! I Iove your distillation and am fascinated to see that everyone has a different take on so short an original.

  3. What a sad love story!Loved how you "distilled" the original work of Genji ,Kristjaan :-)

    Am excited about trying my hand at this and my apologies for missing out on the recent challenges-have been feeling under the weather from an acute migraine attack :-(

  4. thank you for another Distillation - i must read this book now. :)
    your haiku - inspirational. ♥