Saturday, May 17, 2014

Carpe Diem Distillation #8, John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields"

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Another CD-Distillation episode is ahead of us ... I know that our latest episode of CD Distillation is still open for your submissions, but I had to create this episode. Why?
Well ... in our Tan Renga Challenge of this week Managua's "let the ravens come" there were a few haiku-family-members who used poppies in their continuation of the Tan Renga. Bjorn of Brudberg's Writings was one of them. Bjorn shared a wonderful poem in his response on my comment a poem titled "In Flanders Field".

Inscription of the complete poem in a bronze "book" at the John McCrae memorial
at his birthplace in Guelph, Ontario, Canada
"In Flanders Fields" is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918). He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. "In Flanders Fields" was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.
It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. (Source:

Credits: John McCrae
I immediately fell in love with that poem, a real beauty, and I read and re-read it ... I had the feeling that I had to become one with this poem and reform it into a haiku. I had to create this new CD-Distillation episode ... I had to ...

Here is the poem "In Flanders Field" by John McCrae:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

© John McCrae

What a gorgeous poem ... a real tribute to all those veterans.

Credits: Poppies on a graveyard

As you all know the goal of this CD-Distillation is to "distil" a haiku from the long-poem in this case "In Flanders Fields". It's a challenge of course, but even the classical haiku-poets used parts of other poems in their haiku ... so it's a classic way of writing haiku to distil haiku from a long poem.

This episode of CD-Distillation is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until June 17th at noon. Have fun, be inpsired and share your distilled haiku with our haiku-family.


  1. Between you and Bjorn, I am really starting to like poetry!

  2. One of my favorite poems all time... If you want one for the next challenge... why not Dylan Thomas - Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night ... that would be a real challenge....

  3. Just love this poem... one of my favorites... thank you.

  4. i added my distillation to an earlier googlism i did on "red poppy"...just seemed to fit together....both take-offs from John McCrae's timeless poem

  5. I have always loved this poem. I'm going to post one on my site that is something I did that's related to this.