More on the Bones of Haiku….some new haiku and attempting Kigo

waterlily in our pond.

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.”

And….

“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, 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.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

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