Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Carpe Diem Ghost Writer #18 Jessica Slavin on Issa

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Another week has gone, it was a very week full of ups and downs ... but also a week with wonderful summer weather here in The Netherlands. Today we have an all new Ghost Writer post. This time it is written by Jessica Slavin from Jessica Slavin (Jessica has a new weblog at Silvrback) ... she loves to share a post about Kobayashi Issa and of course that's ok. Here is her GW-post I wish you all a lot of pleasure reading it and I hope it will inspire you all to write new haiku.



Issa's Hot Night

How fun to have the chance to write a post on Kristjaan's fantastic haiku blog. I am really happy and grateful for all the effort Kristjaan has made and for this nice little (well not so little!) haiku community. It brings a lot of joy into a lot of lives, including mine.

For this post I decided to do offer what Kristjaan calls the "special" type of prompt--looking to a particular haiku of a master and responding in the same style and spirit. The haiku I chose is by one of my favorite haiku poets, the master Kobayashi Issa. The translator and poet and writer David Lanoue has translated many of Issa's haiku into English and offers a searchable database of more than 10,000 of them. He has also written essays about Issa's style and themes. He writes that Issa's haiku share a theme of "the dewdrop-like elusiveness of happiness.” To me that phrase captures why I love haiku. Somehow they hold still in their words that fleeting movement of beauty and experience that makes up our days.

Even when Issa's haiku are sad, which they sometimes are, they have that quality of savoring something precious. For example so far I think my favorite of Issa’s haiku is this one:

don't go geese!
everywhere it's a floating world
of sorrow

Lanoue also suggests that maybe Issa would have been uncomfortable with the label of "master" that he shares with the other poets recognized as the classical masters. Issa was unpretentious and his haiku were not just about cherry blossoms and harvest moons but the more humble aspects of life too. There are 19 haiku by Issa with the word "poop," for example, in Lanoue's online archive. Here's one:

the high priest
poops in the field...
Credits: Bats (Woodblock print)

So. I think that's enough to give you a good sense about the interesting and wonderful Issa. On to the haiku that is our inspiration for this particular post.

hot night --
bats dangle
at the river's edge

I found this one by looking through a book Lanoue recently released called “Issa’s Best,” where he selected some of what he thinks are Lanoue’s best haiku. He links to it on the main page of his blog, which I linked to above. I chose this particular haiku because of its summer theme and because it delights me.

It also reminds me of watching the bats fly between the tall lights that stood in the lawn and driveway area of the dairy farm when I grew up. I was terrified of bats at the time and yet it was also mesmerizing to watch them fly so swiftly, chasing the mosquitos.

July dusk
bats flitting in the lamplight
shadows flicker


And now it's up to you my dear haijin, visitors and travelers to write a haiku inspired on these haiku by Issa. And I think it will be fun.

late at night
bats fly around the block
on the hunt for food

© Chèvrefeuille

Somewhere beneath the roof of my home we have bats hiding and every evening as it starts to become dark they fly out to hunt for flies. It's a gorgeous sight, but I always close the windows (as they are open), because I don't want them inside my home.

This GW-post is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until July 25th at noon (CET). I will try to post our next episode, the fourth haiku by Shiki, later on. For now have fun! And Jessica ... thank you for being a Ghost-Writer. Thank you for this wonderful GW-post on Issa.


  1. Beautiful pot there - good choice of ghost writer. In fact they've all been very good and different, and complement Carpe Diem well. Your site is quite unique Chèvrefeuille!

  2. Oh, how fun. Thank you, Kristjaan!

    1. Jessica, I can read your posts, but I find it very difficult to leave comments.
      I don't want to join Disqus, and they want more information than just my e-mail.
      Thank you for a delightful post and for enjoying my contribution.


  3. Thanks, Chèvrefeuille, for having Jessica as a ghost-writer -- this is wonderful.
    Jessica -- your enthusiasm for Issa is infectious -- well-done! :D

  4. Wow I am so happy to see these great responses! Thank you again Kristjaan.