More On The Bones Of Haiku…. Some New Haiku and Attempting Kigo.

"Nuthatches", watercolor, 2006, Jane Kohut-Bartels

“Nuthatches”, watercolor, 2006, Jane Kohut-Bartels

As I study these bones, I keep being drawn back to Robert Haas’s “The Essential Haiku” (versions of Basho/Buson/Issa.) Haas puts forth these three as ‘types’ of poet: Basho as the ascetic and seeker, Buson the artist, Issa the humanist. Perhaps their differences grow clearer as we read them, but right now it’s not too clear to me.

The insistence on time and place was crucial for writers of haiku. Seasonal reference was called kigo and a haiku was thought to be incomplete without it. Kigo could be many things, and changed with the seasons. A few examples: Mosquitoes were summer, cherry blossoms, rice seedlings spring, maple leaves stood in for fall and winter had numerous kigos like ‘north wind’, hoarfrost, smog (smoke over a village from hearth fires) fallen leaves, etc. The kigo was of a natural observation of seasons. Although this was codified, it also could be very individual in the work.

Quoting from Haas: “These references were conventional and widely available. They were the first way readers of the poems had of locating themselves in the haiku. Its traditional themes—deep autumn, a sudden summer shower, the images of rice seedlings and plum blossoms, of spring and summer migrants like the mountain cuckoo and the bush warbler, of the cormorant-fishermen in summer and the apprentices holiday in the spring—gave a powerful sense of the human place in the ritual and cyclical movements of the earth.”


“The first level of a haiku was in its location of nature, its second was always some implicit Buddhist reflection on nature. One of the striking differences between Christian and Buddhist thought is that in the Christian sense of things, nature is fallen, and in the Buddhist sense it isn’t. At the core of Buddhist metaphysics are three ideas about natural things: that they are transient; that they are contingent; that they suffer.”

Better to sink down through the level of these poems to the particular level of human consciousness the poems reflect. Or, in my case, attempt.

Lady Nyo

Under the eaves, chimes
Weave celestial music.
My man yawns then farts.

(Implied is strong winds,(top and bottom…) which could be spring or fall, or perhaps any season. That the kigo isn’t determined or spelled out could also signal the death of this particular haiku.)

A dog comes snooping
Mother and father cardinals—
Intruder- Leave Now!

(this just happened last weekend where two baby cardinals were tipped from their nest and killed by my pointer pup. The parents made quite a fuss. So did I when I found the babies on the steps, dead. Cardinals breed in the spring, so the kigo is inferred here.)

Radishes are up!
From such tiny seed they grow.
Stomach rumbles.

Snow falls on meadows
Crows pick at last harvest seeds
Spring still far away

Cherry red toenails
Peek out from the warm blanket.
Deep snow cools ardor.

White makeup drips
The hard heat and mosquitos
Make maiko languid.

A swirl of blossoms
Caught in the water’s current
Begins the season.

Falls crispness compels
Apples to tumble from trees.
Worms make the journey.

I chase one red leaf
Across dry and brittle grass
Juice of summer gone.

The garden spiders
Fold their black spindly legs,
Die, all work now done.

A mourning dove cries
It is such a mournful sound
Perhaps a fierce owl
Has made it a widower?
Oh! It breaks my heart, his cry.

…a new (sorta…) tanka.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2013

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11 Responses to “More On The Bones Of Haiku…. Some New Haiku and Attempting Kigo.”

  1. annotating60 Says:

    Hello. Liked this very much. It has been pandimonium here, am trying to get your letter done.>KB


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi KB…hope you are well, and I also hope you have not been in the tornado zone. But! If you have, you have my sympathies. What we see on the tv is horrific.

    We also have 3 dogs and 11 cats….LOL! And we are about in the general same age catagory. Scary. This haiku entry is something that only a few will read…seems that haiku has peaked…LOL! Well, a least with dverse folk.

    Take care, will await your letter.

    Lady Nyo


  3. Steve Says:

    I love Haiku. It is so pretty.


  4. ladynyo Says:

    I like it too..however there are a lot of rules around haiku, and sometimes these are not ‘so pretty’. People don’t really study the formal rules of haiku, nor of tanka, and they think anything they write within the 17 syllables are haiku. Usually not.

    However, it can be mastered, and a good place to start the study is with Basho/Buson/Issa. These are haiku masters and they are masters for definite reasons. We tend to be lazy and think that poetry forms are just…well, that we can avoid or ignore them. And our work suffers because of this.

    But! Reading a lot of classical haiku, and I don’t mean the crap that people put up on the internet with no nod to the structure …can give us some discernment. Study the inners of haiku, and you will have a better grasp of what makes haiku and your own work will benefit.

    Thanks for reading….

    Lady Nyo


  5. Steve Says:

    I have quite a few books on haiku. The Haiku Handbook, Haiku Mind, and the absolute best one Basho: The Complete Haiku. His poems are beautiful and so is that book. It does seem complicated to write a haiku. I do not think it is as easy as i would seem to be.


  6. ladynyo Says:

    At least you are making the attempt to study and learn. So many poets don’t. And what especially urks me are those who say that ‘everything they learned about haiku came from the internet’. That is pure laziness.

    Basho is great, but also check out the differences with Buson and Issa. All three are masters of this form. Learn, but don’t imitate them…but read and learn from them. My favorite is Issa.

    One that I really love is “The Essential Haiku” by Robert Hass. You can get it at Wonderful book.

    Haiku is so bound up….in the beginning with rules that need to be read and studied. Basho said that he felt his whole life was meant to study haiku and still at the end, he wondered how much he really knew. Since you are reading what I have written, do look for the kigo word, etc…and try to include these things in your own haiku if you get to a point where you want to write haiku. There are many guidelines for these different forms of Japanese literature, and they all have raison d’etre!

    Lady Nyo


  7. moncler Says:

    thanks for your share guys


  8. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Ladynyo, what beautiful haiku. I love haiku, and learned alot from this post. Your writing is wonderful. The baby cardinals. I know how you feel. My dogs got a few baby robins that fell out of a nest. I was very depressed about it. I see a big fat robin sitting on my fence looking at that drainpipe where a nest was, then looking at me, and I wonder if it’s the mother robin. As a teenager I wrote some haiku for a creative writing class. Didn’t know anything about rules, but I am going to get the Basho. The compression of ideas and economy of trope in haiku is what performs the alchemy. When they are really good they become koans. I’m exploring your website, and your writing. Treasures here. CS


  9. ladynyo Says:

    Dear CS! How wonderful that you are working on haiku! There is so much to learn and I am just beginning to learn. Tanka is more my favorite form, and it took me 5 years just to get my head around them! LOL!

    But! If there is anything I can do to help you in your study of haiku, let me know. I am so delighted that you are reading this blog. Look for the poem (somewhere very recent…) “I Wonder”. I think it will go deep with you.

    I have been really enjoying your writing and will spend time today reading your website. It’s been wonderful getting to know CZ over the past two years, and I think you are made of the same cloth. It’s an honor to know you.


    Lady Nyo


  10. Kids Bow Says:

    The is special cool. I’ve been appearing via
    a bunch on the internet and also really preferred this


  11. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you. Lady Nyo


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