Saturday, March 21, 2015

Carpe Diem Special #138: Santoka Taneda’s “Soaking Wet”

Hello once again, Haijin.  This is Paloma from Blog It or Lose It, helping Chèvrefeuille for the weekend.  It’s been an honor – and quite an experience!  Thank you, once again, Chèvrefeuille for making Carpe Diem such a joy!


For today we return to the haiku of Santoka Taneda.  As Chèvrefeuille shared in this month’sprompt list page, the poet spent much of his life wandering as a mendicant priest.  And while he made many observations on the natural world – the loneliness and isolation of his wandering is a constant theme in his work.  Consider this haiku, for example:

shigurete sono ji ga yomenai michishirube

soaking wet
I can’t read the letters
on the signpost

I love that this haiku is ambiguous – “soaking wet” refers to what?  the poet? the signpost? both?  Do you hear the hissing of the rain in how he’s repeating sh / s / ch sounds?   And – what wonderful layers of meaning in the haiku!

Here is another example from Santoka Taneda’s Grass and Tree Cairn:

In April 1926, burdened with unsolvable illusions, I set out on a journey of alms-begging and drifting.

     Wakeitte mo wakeitte mo aoi yama
     I go in      I go in      still the blue mountains

     Shitodo ni nurete kore wa michishirube no ishi
     Soaking wet      this a road-marker stone

     Enten o itadaite koi aruku
     Burning heaven on my head      I beg      I walk

                 © SantokaTaneda

Did you notice that his line length is very irregular – and that he loves repetition?  


Here is another example:

kyō mo nurete shiranai michi o yuku
Today again     soaking wet     I walk on an unknown road.    
(Tr. by John Stevens)

And – here is an unusual haiku from the journey – which I will leave without comment:

nombiri shito suru kusa no me darake
Nonchalantly urinating    By the road     Soaking the young weeds
(Tr. by John Stevens)

Here is my haiga – attempting to stay in the spirit of Santoka Taneda:

     If you are interested in reading more of Santoka Taneda’s work, visit these sites:

     Santoka: Grass and Tree Cairn (Haiku Foundation)
     Fire on the Mountain (Internet Archive: Wayback Machine)
     The Poetry of Santoka Taneda (Greenleaf)
     Taneda (Terebess Asia Online)


This prompt will be open for entries from March 21st at 7 PM through March 25th at noon (CET). 


  1. Superb post Jen, I'm off to give it another read. It bought out the amateur philosopher in me, very well done, and thanks for taking us through the weekend!

    1. Very glad it inspired you, Hamish :) There's so much going on in his haiku -- really, someone to investigate further. I'm so glad Chevrefeuille introduced him to us!

      And thanks so much for the encouragement :)

  2. Yes, I like that haiku very much - has that depth, with that great break in rhythm, and one can see the inspiration.

    1. Oh, good --- phew! Felt like I was taking a bit of a risk with this one. :)

  3. Paloma, my Webroot program directed me away from your site- so sorry.

  4. I love your haiga, Paloma! reminds me of Quebec drivers here...we barely slow down at yields and we yield at stops:) Outside Quebec, Canadians call it a Quebec stop, here we call it an American stop.;)