Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Carpe Diem Ghost Writer #16, Jen of Blog It or Loose It on ''Tanka by Shiki''

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

As you all know this month it's all haiku by the ''big-five'' (Basho, Chiyo-Ni, Buson, Issa and Shiki) and it's really my pleasure to present to you a GW-post about Shiki by Jen of Blog It Or Loose It. This GW-post is about Shiki's other poetry ... Tanka. I wasn't aware of Shiki writing Tanka, but it turned out that he also composed Tanka (more than 800). I am glad that Jen provided me with this GW-post ... so thank you Jen ... it's really a joy to see (and read) that our CDHK family-members are glad to help me out. So here is Jen's GW-post on Shiki. Have fun, be inspired and share your inspired haiku, senryu, tanka, kyoka or haibun with us all here at CDHK.


Hello everyone –

I am so honored to be able to help Kristjaan as a Ghost Writer for Carpe Diem Haiku Kai!  This prompt is inspired by the poetry of Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), who seems to be as well-known for his tanka as for his haiku.
Before doing research for this prompt, I knew nothing about Shiki.  I hadn’t read any of his poems at all.  And now – having read some of his work – I am overwhelmed.  What to say about a man who endured incredible pain – but chose to sing through that pain? 
As you may already know, Masaoka Shiki was struck by a severe form of tuberculosis when he was 22 years old. Tuberculosis is a disease that attacks the lungs and causes the sufferer to cough up blood and lung tissue.  He changed his name from “Noboru” to “Shiki” – after a bird that (in Japanese legend) coughs blood when it sings.  In later years, the tuberculosis attacked his spine as well. 

The man
I used to meet in the mirror
is no more.
Now I see a wasted face.
It dribbles tears.

© Masaoka Shiki

So much of his poetry seems to reflect a “beautiful suffering” – and a recognition that life is fleeting. 

Credits: Shiki on his sickbed

in memory of
the spring now passing
I drew
the long clusters of wisteria
that move like waves

© Masaoka Shiki

And while we feel sorrow for a life that passed so quickly – I think we should celebrate the spirit that chose to sing in spite of the pain – the optimism that saw beauty everywhere and chose to celebrate life as much as grieve its passing.

I do not know the day
my pain will end yet
in the little garden
I had them plant
seeds of autumn flowers 

© Masaoka Shiki

Credits: Stone Monument with a haiku written by Shiki on it at Matsuyama-City

Here are my two (humble!) offerings for this prompt.  The first is a haiku that I wrote several weeks ago, but I think it fits the prompt fairly well.

while I was sick
the birch found its leaves –
my grief in green

© Jen R.

Queen Anne’s Lace and chicory
in their swirling dance –
how the autumn-brown stalks
make me dream of summer

© Jen R.

Queen Ann's Lace (source: Wikimedia)

In my part of the world, Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot) and chicory (a little blue flower) dress the roadsides every July and August.  It’s the one time of year that our roadsides can be beautiful.  Sadly, the season is so brief!  So, for this prompt, perhaps you would like to write a haiku or tanka inspired by Masaoka Shiki.  What part of summer will you miss when autumn returns?


What a wonderful GW-post you have provided Jen. Thank you for sharing this with us all. I feel gratefull that you have helped me out here and that I have learned something new about Shiki. Thank you ...

along the streets
heat shimmers around Queen Ann's Lace in bloom -
fresh fallen snow

© Chèvrefeuille

Now it's up to you my dear Haijin, visitors and travelers. This GW-post will be open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until July 11th at noon (CET). I will try to post our new episode, the 2nd haiku by Buson, later on. For now ... have fun, be inspired and share.
Visit also our first Carpe Diem Haiku Kai - Shadow prompt at: Carpe Diem's Haiku Family 


  1. Jen, your "grief in green" haiku is stunning. Thank you for sharing it. As I told you in a comment recently, I used to live in your area, so I am well acquainted with chicory and Queen Anne's Lace--both beautiful, but fleeting, wildflowers. You make me long to return...at least for a visit!

    Kristjaan, I really like how you have juxtaposed the images of the blooming Queen Anne's Lace and snow in your haiku.

    I think this is going to be a wonder-filled day for writing haiku, thanks to this ghost-writer post!

    1. Ah, yes -- you do remember the endless country roads lined in blue in white -- so soft and beautiful! Thank you for the kind words on the haiku - takes some of the sting out of being sick so much this spring! :)

  2. Thank you so much for this interesting take on Shiki! It has been a pleasure to read it and now to be inspired to write!

    1. .... and it looks like the new Queen Anne's Lace photos will come in very useful after all, won't they?

      Glad you liked it Georgia -- all the best to you! :)

  3. so often beauty is composed in ashes. Thanks so much for preparing this Jen

    1. All the best to you, Moonie :)

  4. Hello Kristjaan --
    It really is an honor and a pleasure to help out.
    The timing is perfect too- caught my first Queen Anne's Lace photos this week. :)
    All the best to you --

  5. What a lovely write, Jen. Kristjaan could not have started my vacation with a better write! Just stunning, and as usual I learn so much at Carpe Diem Haiku Kai:) Cheryl-Lynn