Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Carpe Diem "Little Creatures" #5, Ants

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

"Time flies when you have fun" they say and I think that's true. I have vacation, so no rush to work or something. Time is on my side and that's a nice thing to know.
As I mentioned in the last "preview" I am busy creating a few new features and a new website. In the next weeks I will present and introduce the Carpe Diem Ginko in which we will take a walk through my neighborhood with pencil and paper in hand. So ... you will learn a little bit more about me and the place I am living.

In this episode of "Little Creatures" the leading role is for the ants those wonderful little creatures that work so hard, they are always busy (as I am, maybe I am an ant?) We will look at them in admiration and awe. Of course there will be a few examples of haiku written by classic haiku poets about ants e.g. Buson, but that's later in this episode. First I will look at a wonderful saying about ants in the Holy Scripture:

[...] "Go to the ants, you sluggard, see their ways and become wise". (Proverbs 6: 6) [...]

or what to say about this verse (also from Proverbs):

[...] "(Ants) which having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest." (Proverbs: 30: 29) [...]

That first verse from Proverbs is one of the most known and in my country it has become a "saying". The haiku examples I will share here are not that well known, maybe the one by Buson, but I don't know that for sure.

Credits: Leaf Cutter Ants (photo © Gail Shumway/Getty Images)

yudachi ni hashirikudaru ya take no ari

an evening shower:
the ants are running down
the bamboos

© Joso

The touch of Zen is in the unexpressed and therefore all the more poignant feeling of the unity of our life with that of nature. This is felt in the ants' agitated running back down the trunks of the bamboos, the same ants that seem to have been climbing up the bamboos all day.

ari nagasu hodo no oame to nari ni kiri

it became a rain
heavy enough
to wash the ants away

© Kuson

This is not so much an expression of pity for the ants as a description of the summer rain. We may say the same even of the following, by Gyodai:

yakue naki ari no sumika ya satsukiame

nowhere to go;
the dwellings of ants
in the summer rain

© Gyodai

To endorse this row of classical haiku I have a haiku by Buson:

haari tobu ya fuji no susano no kore yori

winged ants fly
from a small house
at the foot of Mount Fuji

© Buson

This may be reminiscent of the beginning of Soshi. Winged ants, a small house, Mount Fuji, here is a gradation of size, a relativity which shows the meaningless of mere quantity. There is a mystery in this verse which is like that of Alice in Wonderland, but not so obvious. (Source: R.H. Blyth, Haiku Vol. 3)

Credits: Bull Ant (© J.Green, Photographer)

And now ... the goal of this "Little Creatures" episode: You don't have to use the classical rules. You have to write an all new haiku about ants or another little creature, but ... you have to write a six (6) linked renga about it, so your response starts with one of the given haiku (you may choose which one you will use as the starting verse (hokku) of your six (6) linked renga), than a two line stanza, a three line stanza, a two line stanza, a three line stanza and the last stanza (ageku) has to be a two line stanza and must have a link or association on the first three line stanza (hokku).

(For example) I will start my six (6) linked renga with the haiku by Joso:

an evening shower:
the ants are running down
the bamboos

(In renga this starting verse is called "hokku")

as the day ends in the west
the last sunbeams disappear

the cool summer night -
I have restless dreams next to you
the one I love

nightmares torturing me
attacked by mosquitos

the first sunbeams
cherishing my naked body
blankets have fallen

awakened by rustling bamboo
a new day rises for the ants

(In renga this closing verse is called ägeku")

© Chèvrefeuille

Credits: Ants on Bamboo

And now it's up to my dear friends and family-members ... not an easy task I think, but for sure it will be fun. So "become" the ant (or any other little creature) and look around you ... nature will inspire you ...

This episode of Little Creatures will be open for your submissions Thursday 18th at noon (CET) and will remain open until next Thursday September 25th at noon (CET). Well .... have fun!
!! Soon to come an all new feature related to renga !!


  1. Yeah ... I'm early for once! But I'll be writing a second post .. as mine is a haibun about fire ants.

    1. Georgia, I tried to post on your web but was unsuccessful....Anyway, I also had a bout with fire ants....

    2. I don't have facebook so I can't comment on yours opie...sorry !

  2. Mine will not make sense unless you are familiar with Gilbert and Sullivans comic opera The Mikado. I will put on a video clip underneath thepoem.

    1. Ooh! Sounds interesting! Off to check it out! :)

    2. Not as interesting as the ants in Bjorn's pants !:)