Sunday, March 27, 2016

Carpe Diem #948 brush

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

First of all ... Happy Easter, have a great Sunday.
Second ... I am in the nightshift so that's the reason why I post this episode later than planned, my apologies for that.

In this episode it's about a haiku writing technique which we have seen also in our last series of Carpe Diem Haiku Writing Techniques. Today it's about "yugen".

Yugen is usually defined as "mystery" and "unknowable depth". Somehow Yugen has avoided the controversy of Wabi and Sabi. But since deciding which haiku exemplifies this quality is a judgmental decision, there is rarely consent over which verse has it and which does not. One could say a woman's face half-hidden behind a fan has Yugen. The same face half-covered with pink goo while getting a facial, however, does not. But still, haiku poets do use the atmosphere as defined by Yugen to make their words be a good haiku by forcing their readers to think and to delve into the everyday sacredness of common things.
Here is an example of a "yugen-haiku" by Basho:
Souvenir paintings
what kind of brush first drew
the image of Buddha
© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)
And … sorry I have made it myself a little bit easy, I have a small part of our CD-HWT series re-produced here. Starting with this haiku by Jane Reichhold:

a swinging gate
on both sides flowers
open - close
© Jane Reichhold

Yūgen may be, among generally recondite Japanese aesthetic ideas, the most ineffable. The term is first found in Chinese philosophical texts, where it has the meaning of “dark,” or “mysterious.”
Kamo no Chōmei, the author of the well-known Hōjōki (An Account of my Hut, 1212), also wrote about poetry and considered yūgen to be a primary concern of the poetry of his time. He offers the following as a characterization of yūgen: “It is like an autumn evening under a colorless expanse of silent sky. Somehow, as if for some reason that we should be able to recall, tears well uncontrollably.” Another characterization helpfully mentions the importance of the imagination: “When looking at autumn mountains through mist, the view may be indistinct yet have great depth. Although few autumn leaves may be visible through the mist, the view is alluring. The limitless vista created in imagination far surpasses anything one can see more clearly”.
Yūgen does not, as has sometimes been supposed, have to do with some other world beyond this one, but rather with the depth of the world we live in, as experienced through cultivated imagination.
Noh Theater

The art in which the notion of yūgen has played the most important role is the Nō (or Noh) drama, one of the world's great theater traditions, which attained its highest flourishing through the artistry of Zeami Motokiyo (1363–1443).
So ... yugen as defined "mystery" and "unknowable depth" is not a well-known (or often used) haiku writing techniques, but in a way I am attracted to this technique. In a way I feel yugen in our November prompts about the Altai Mountains and our search for what Hamish Managua Gunn (Pirate) calls "shaman-haiku". I even think that in the most haiku shared here at Carpe Diem Haiku Kai we can find yugen, but that's just my humble opinion.
What to do with this haiku writing technique? I think we have to explore this, because I belief that haiku needs yugen, needs "mystery" and "unknowable depth". So let us focus on that in our responses, our inspired haiku, for this episode of “In The Way Of Basho”.
I will give it a try ... I just have to, because how can I expect it from you, as I don't even have tried it myself to catch "mystery" ... yugen ... "unknowable depth" in a haiku? So here is my attempt to write a "yugen-haiku" and a few examples from my archives:
translucent tea cup
hides a deep secret
ghost of tea
© Chèvrefeuille
Or what do you think of this one from one of the former posts here at CDHK:
one empty bowl
thrown away in the sink
the faint scent of tea
as I empty the kettle -
time for coffee
© Chèvrefeuille
Cicada Shell
And to conclude this episode about yugen I have a tanka for you in which I think we can find yugen too:

from a treetop
emptiness dropped down
in a cicada shell
the soothing sound of spring rain
makes the silence stronger
© Chèvrefeuille

And as I ran through my archives I found another nice "yugen"-haiku I think. This one I wrote somewhere in 2012 as a second full moon occurred:

it's a mystery
a second full moon
Blue Moon

© Chèvrefeuille

Well ... it has become a (maybe to long) nice episode and I hope it will inspire you to create a "yugen"-haiku or "yugen"-tanka. Have fun!

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until March 30th at  noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, our last CD-Special of this month, later on.

PS.: I am busy with creating our new prompt-list for April. In April I love to bring your attention to haiga based on modern kigo for spring as gathered by Jane Reichhold in her "A Dictionary of Haiku".


  1. A fine technique and some fascinating poetry from you Chev. I reworked a kukai haiku for this, and enjoy that idea of reworking very much.

  2. very nice.