Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Carpe Diem Haiku Writing Techniques #13 Riddle

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

It's my pleasure to start with our second "book" on Haiku Writing Techniques. At the start of this year I wrote 12 episodes on Haiku Writing Techniques and in this month (until the end of this year) I will publish a new series on Haiku Writing Techniques starting today with a nice, somewhat strange Writing Technique, riddle.I love to start with a very famous haiku by Moritake in which this technique is very clear. I think you all know this haiku:

A fallen blossom
returning to the bough, I thought --
But no, a butterfly.

© Arakida Moritake (1473-1549) (Tr. Steven D. Carter)
In this haiku you can read immediately the "riddle"- technique. In this scene it seems like blossoms are returning to their branches, but as we look closer than the blossoms are butterflies. This is what we call the "riddle"- technique.

Credits: butterfly
The technique of the riddle is one of the oldest poetical techniques. Early spiritual knowledge was hidden in poetry in which the riddle technique was used to make sure the secrative wisdom wasn't lost or would fall in the wrong hands.
Nowadays, for sure there will be poetry in which secrets are hidden, but as today there is no need to hide secret knowledge in our haiku, tanka or other Japanese poetry form, but this "riddle" technique is still used and I think there is nothing wrong with. It's just great to write/compose haiku with this "riddle" technique to let the reader decide how he/she experiences the scene in the haiku.

Here is an example by Jane Reichhold:

where do they go?
these flowers on a path
by summer's passing

© Jane Reichhold

The trick is to state the riddle in as puzzling terms as possible. What can one say that the reader cannot figure out the answer? The more intriguing the setup and the better the correlation between the images, the better the haiku seems to work as written with the "riddle" technique. There is only one difficulty in using this "riddle" technique ... don't overdo ... your haiku will fail.

As we saw in the example above by Moritake ... than the "riddle" is clear and it's one of the classical masters favorite tricks. Of course we have to experiment with this "riddle" technique, to do that you have to ask yourself the question "if I saw snow on a branch, what else could it be besides blossoms?" or seeing a butterfly going by, you ask yourself what else besides a butterfly could you have caught in the corner of your eye?

Here is another example of the "riddle"technique, written by one of the classical masters:

komo wo ki te   tare bito imasu   hana no haru

wrapped in a straw mat
who can this great one be?
flowers of spring
© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

And here is another nice haiku by Basho, but it's in a different way written with the "riddle" technique. There have been several disputes about this haiku by Basho, but the truth will stay in the middle I think.
Which truth, you ask? The following haiku could be explained in two ways, the first is that it points to the story of Chuang-tzu, who dreamed he was a butterfly; the second explanation (more in the "riddle" way) is that this haiku refers to one of Basho's (male) lovers. It's up to you which "riddle" you follow.

okiyo okiyo   waga tomo ni se n   nuru ko cho
wake up wake up
I want you for a friend
sleeping butterfly

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

It's a very nice Haiku Writing Technique I think and it makes it possible to bring something mysterious into your haiku. Yes I like that "riddle"-technique, but it will not be an easy task to write/compose an all new haiku with this "riddle"- technique.

blossoms fall
entering the realm of the clouds
muddy puddles

© Chèvrefeuille

Hm ... not a strong one I think, but at the other hand I think it's truly a haiku written with the "riddle" technique.

This first episode of our Second (book) part of Haiku Writing Techniques is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until October 9th at noon (CET). Have fun! 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Kristjaan, for working it out so meticulously.

    Next weeks I'll be travelling in the Andes. Maybe I'll come across a cyber café, else I'll be back here on Carpe Diem in four weeks.

    Best wishes,