Friday, January 17, 2020

Carpe Diem Weekend Meditation #112 Transformation ... sketching from life (Shiki's Shasei technique)

!! Open for your submissions next Sunday, January 19th at 7:00 PM (CEST) !!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new Weekend Meditation here at our wonderful Haiku Kai, the place to be if you like to create Japanese poetry and share it with the world.

Maybe you remember that new feature I introduced a while ago "Carpe Diem Transformation" in which I challenge you to "re-build" a given haiku into a tanka. In the first episode of this feature I challenged you to "re-build" a famous haiku by Chiyo-Ni (that episode you can find HERE).

And for this weekend meditation I have chosen a haiku by that other famous haiku master, Masaoka Shiki. In this episode I love to challenge you to re-create a haiku by Shiki into a Tanka. Maybe you can remember that Shiki has a certain haiku writing technique named "shasei". Let me introduce this technique again here.

Japanese Stamp with an image of Shiki


The word "shasei" has not yet been invented at the time of Basho, but the idea was there according to what Basho tells his disciples:

[...] Matsuo Basho advises his disciples: “Learn from the Pine!”To do that you must leave behind you all subjective prejudice. Otherwise you will force your own self onto the object and can learn nothing from it. Your poem will well-up of its own accord when you and the object become one, when you dive deep enough into the object, to discover something of its hidden glimmer. [...]

Here is an example of this Shasei technique:

Come spring as of old.
When such revenues of rice.
Braced this castle town!

© Masaoka Shiki

It's a good example of the shasei technique. What is the Shasei technique? Let me try to explain that to you all with the help of Jane Reichhold.

Sketches of Life, Tree of Life (image found on Pinterest)

Though this technique is often given Shiki's term Shasei (sketch from life) or Shajitsu (reality), it has been in use since the beginning of poetry in the Orient. The poetic principle is "to depict the thing just as it is". The reason Shiki took it up as a poetical cause, and this made it famous,  was his own rebellion against the many other techniques used in haiku. Shiki was, by nature it seemed, against whatever was the status quo - a true rebel. If older poets had overused any idea or method, it was his personal goal to point this out and suggest something else. This was followed until someone else got tired of it and suggested something new. This seems to be the way poetry styles go in and out of fashion.

Thus, Shiki hated associations, contrasts, comparisons, wordplays, puns, and riddles - all the things we are cherishing here! He favored the quiet simplicity of just stating what he saw without anything else happening in the haiku. He found the greatest beauty in the common sight, simply reported exactly as it was seen, and ninety-nine percent of his haiku written in his style. Many people still feel he was right. There are some moments that are perhaps best said as simply as possible in his way. Yet, Shiki himself realized in 1893, after writing very many haiku in this style, that used too much, even his new idea could become lackluster. So the method is an answer, but never the complete answer of how to write a haiku.


I hope you can relate to this Shasei technique and can work with it. This weekend I love to challenge you to re-create a haiku (in Shasei style) by Shiki into a Tanka. Here is the haiku to work with:

kaboocha yori nasu muzukashiki shasei kana

Sketching from life —
eggplants are harder to do
than pumpkins

© Masaoka Shiki (Tr. Burton Watson)

A challenging task for you this weekend. I am looking forward to all of your wonderful "transformed haiku". Have a great weekend!

This weekend meditation is open for your submissions next Sunday January 19th at 7:00 PM (CET) and will remain open until January 26th at noon (CET). 

1 comment:

    I'm not sure if this is a transformed haiku.