Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Carpe Diem Haiku Writing Techniques #23 finding the divine in the common

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new episode of CDHWT. This week I have chosen a nice HWT in which we will explore one of the basic rules of haiku, a deeper spiritual meaning. This episode is titled "finding the divine in the common". In this episode Jane and I are taking you (again) by the hand to improve your haiku writing skills.

This is a technique that seems to happen without conscious control. A writer will make a perfectly ordinary and accurate statement about common things, but due to the combination of images and ideas about them, or between them, a truth will b revealed about the divine. Since we all have various ideas about  what the divine is, two readers of the same haiku may not find the same truth or revelation in it. Here, again, the reader becomes a writer to find a greater truth behind the words. This example from Basho's work may seem fairly clear:

the one thing
that lights my world
a rice gourd

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Perhaps it helps to know that rice was stored in a dried gourd. To keep it away from mice, the gourd was hung from a rafter. Though this was the time before electricity and light bulbs, Basho already had this comparison. Yet there is also a deeper meaning. The rice gourd's golden yellow color not only brightened the dim room, but the rice in it furnished the energy to maintain his body while endeavoring to reach the goal of enlightenment. One can also see this poem as a riddle: "What is the one thing that lights my world?"

Credits: incense unrolls

Another example of this HWT, this time written by Jane herself, is the following haiku:

incense unrolls

© Jane Reichhold

A wonderful HWT I think and as I read several haiku written by you, my dear Haijin, than I think you are using this technique unconscious already. This technique we can see for example in the 'shaman-haiku' by Hamish.

the liquid sunset
touches the sea
I touch the sea, too

scent of falling leaves
-sense of fading dreams
suddenly, a ladybug!

© Hamish Gunn (a.k.a. Pirate)

Let me give you an example by myself also. I think you all know this haiku, it was my first  English haiku ever:

a single tulip
my companion
for one night

© Chèvrefeuille (2005)

In this haiku the scene is clear, but in a deeper layer you can find the divine too. Let me try to explain that 'divine'. In this haiku the 'divine' hides in the loneliness, the beauty, the emptiness of a night in spring as the first tulip blooms, a wonder of nature created by God. After the dark and cold winter finally spring is there and the light returns to the world.

On the other hand this haiku can be seen as the painting of a 'one night stand' ... because the tulip is a so called 'two lipped flower' which can be seen easily as the private parts of a woman. And in a way ... we men see women as divine, because they can give life.

Really a beautiful technique which also learns us that we, haiku poets, need our readers, because we are bringing the divine into our haiku unconscious and the readers can find the divine in the common scenes we describe in our haiku.

Sorry for being late with this episode. This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until December 19th at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our new episode, the third CD Special by Georgia, our featured haiku poetess, later on.


  1. Thanks for continuing to be so very committed to this wonderful blog. You teach so much.

    1. Janice google refuses to recognise my gmail on your blog, will try commenting by phone later...sorry!

  2. Stunning post - I agree with Janice, what you teach about and around haiku is incomparable. Thank you so much for including two haiku there of mine. I cannot imagine how long it took you to write this long post, but I really think it is worth it, for many years.