Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Carpe Diem Haiku Writing Techniques #20 Paradox

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” -  Plato, The Republic

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Why this quote by Plato to start this new episode of Carpe Diem Haiku Writing Techniques with? Well ... as we look at that quote we immediately see the paradox in this and I think what Plato says is true for every one. We are all intelligent people, we  are all wise, but ... we know nothing. That's sounds more negative then I meant it to be, because I think we are wise people, but we learn new things every day again.

The HWT of this episode is paradox. As I was preparing this episode I remembered something I have written earlier here at our Haiku Kai. I don't really remember when it was, but I remember it was something I wrote about the paradox in haiku.

[...] "Paradox is the life of haiku, for in each verse some particular thing is seen, and at the same time, without loss of its individuality and separateness, its distinctive difference from all other things, it is seen as a no-thing, as all things, as an all-thing." [...] (Chèvrefeuille)

As you all know I create these episode of Haiku Writing Techniques in cooperation with Jane Reichhold, she not only is a great haiku poetess, but she also has become a close friend of mine (and Carpe Diem Haiku Kai). So let us take a look at what Jane tells us about paradox:

One of the aims of haiku is to confuse the reader just enough to attract interest. Using a paradox will engage interest and give the reader something to ponder after the last word. Again, one cannot use nonsense but has to construct a true, connected-to-reality paradox. It is not easy to come up with new ones or good ones, but when it happens, one should not be afraid of using it in a haiku.

Here is an example by Jane herself:

waiting room
a patch of sunlight
wears out the chairs

© Jane Reichhold

And here is an example written by Basho in which he uses paradox:

black forest
whatever you may say
a morning of snow

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Let us explore "paradox" a little bit further.  Søren Kierkegaard, writes the following about paradox, in the Philosophical Fragments:

[...] "...that one must not think ill of the paradox, for the paradox is the passion of thought, and the thinker without the paradox is like the lover without passion: a mediocre fellow. But the ultimate potentiation of every passion is always to will its own downfall, and so it is also the ultimate passion of the understanding to will the collision, although in one way or another the collision must become its downfall. This, then, is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think." [...] (Source: Wikipedia)

And what do you think of the paradox in a great painting by one of my favorite Dutch painters, M.C. Escher. Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is one of the world's most famous graphic artists. His art is enjoyed by millions of people all over the world, as can be seen on the many web sites on the Internet. One of his most beautiful paintings (in my opinion) is titled "Paradox".

Escher's "paradox"
I thinks this HWT challenges us and ... it will make us wiser ...

reaching for the sun
tulips bursting through the earth -
colorful rainbow

© Chèvrefeuille

Another one, more artificial:

different images
seen through readers eyes
haiku paradox

© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until November 27th at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our new episode, Sheved Uul-valley, later on. For now ... be inspired and share your haiku using this HWT with us all.


  1. I like Maurits Cornelis Escher very much. And I like to recommend the book: "Gödel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas R. Hofstadter.
    Thanks for the "trabajo gigante" (listening to Carlos Puebla, recently).

  2. I couldn't help but write a senryu...may we have grateful hearts :)