Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Carpe Diem #742 under the trees (an example of the karumi-style)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

This wonderful month is running to an end. We have seen a lot of beauty in Basho's haiku and through his haiku we imagined that we were in ancient Japan. After his "Narrow Road" Basho undertook several short journeys to promote his "karumi-style" haiku. One of those "karumi-style" haiku is the prompt for today, but before I introduce that haiku the following.

I love to remind you at our new Kukai "summertime", submission is open until June 15th and I love to ask you if you would like to be our substitute co-host for next month. I will take a weekend off on June19th, 20th and 21st. Do you like to experience what it is to be host at Carpe Diem Haiku Kai than please let me know (see for details our new prompt-list for June which I have published today, you can find it in the menu above).

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

Ok ... back to our haiku for today. Today I have a nice haiku written by Basho in his "karumi-style". It was Basho's belief that a haiku without a verb is "lighter" (karumi means lightness). It is true that the verb often carries with it great emotion. Without it, the poem is more matter of fact and detached. This poem for today is an example of Basho's idea karumi and it uses the associative technique. Both the blossoms and the soup and pickles are under the trees.

ki no moto ni shiru mo namasu mo sakura kana

under the trees

soup and pickles
cherry blossoms

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Association, as e.g in the baransu-haiku is a method of linking as in the thought "how different things relate or come together". The Zen-aspect of association is called "oneness" - showing how everything is part of everything else. One association that has been used so often that it has become a cliché is the Japanese association of dew and tears.

For example:

wakaba shite om me no shizuku nuguwa baya

oung leaves
I would like to wipe away
tears in your eyes

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

One of Basho's major objectives was to find new and apt associations that made the reader rethink reality and the connectedness within. Association is very important in Basho's work, he used it very often.

Karumi is a concept that Basho discovered late in life. His belief in this method of writing was so strong it compelled him to take trips while in ill health in order to bring the concept to a wider audience. Several students abandoned Basho their dislike of the method, and others, even though they said they believed in it, found it very hard to define and emulate. Looking back, it seems Basho was trying to write poetry that was less emotional. Basho seems to have believed that it is the verb that carries the emotional baggage of a poem. The poems he considered to exemplify the concept of karumi best are the ones with few or no verbs.
In our times this technique of writing haiku without a verb produces what is pejeratively called "grocery list"-haiku. The above haiku (under the trees) displays karumi in the best way.

Here are a few other "karumi-style" haiku:

was it a bush warbler
poop on the rice cake
on the veranda's edge

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

glass noodles
few slices of fish
plum blossoms

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Credits: Hydrangea

And a last one, also one of his "karumi-style" haiku:

a bush is the little garden
of a detached room

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

More about the concept of "karumi" you can find in our e-book "Carpe Diem Haiku Writing Techniques" (chapter 8)

Here is the haiku which I used as an example in our Haiku Writing Techniques series:
slowly a snail seeks
his path between Cherry blossoms
reaches for the sky

© Chèvrefeuille
This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until May 29th at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our next episode, from all directions, later on.


  1. I very much enjoy this.. the list poetry in haiku, I have never thought of that.. and to actually avoid verbs... which is the opposite you learn when you want to write strong poetry.. this was most useful

  2. I agree with Bjorn. Really quite amazing concepts. And the snail does nor realise the sky has fallen around him. Very good posr.

  3. Very challenging! I enjoyed your haiku!

  4. I agree with Bjorn ... I'd never thought about avoiding verbs .. this is an interesting experiment .. thought I'm not sure I'd want to abandon every other style for karumi ... so I'm able to understand those who preferred to keep to their wab-sabi or whatever rather than going gung-ho karumi. Thanks for the interesting post.

  5. One thing I really thought of afterwards.. I wrote a prompt at dverse about antithesis.. where you pair opposites (or near opposites) so you span a wider set of possibilities.. I think that would work really well with Karumi.. I wouldn't say that petals and fish are opposites, but I think by using things that does not have near associates make it stronger.. I actually thought a little bit about it by combining nature with the mechanics of rusty trucks... maybe something to think about.