Thursday, April 27, 2017

Carpe Diem Namasté, The Spiritual Way #8 Spiritual Imagination

!!!! Open for submissions Sunday April 30th 7:00 PM (CET) !!!!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new "weekend-meditation". This week I have a "Namasté, The Spiritual Way"- episode for you. And this time I thought to share a few images for your inspiration. You can choose the image you want to use yourself.
Try to create a haiku, tanka or other Japanese poetry form with the focus on the "deeper spiritual meaning". I think the images I have chosen have all such a deeper meaning, but to explore that and to "get that deeper meaning", you have to meditate and contemplate on those images, or the image of your choice.

Young Mountain Monk

Time flies

This episode is open for your submissions Sunday April 30th at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until May 5th at noon (CET). I will post our first episode of May 2017 later on.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Carpe Diem #1198 (theme week 4) Acanthopanax (Ukogi) or Eleutherococcus Sieboldianus or Siberian Ginseng

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at the last episode of this month's theme-week. This week I only used plants to inspire you and I enjoyed it a lot. Today another classical spring kigo from the section "plants" Acanthopanax (Ukogi). This plant is also known as Siberian Ginseng, but it has also something Dutch in it. It was discovered by a German fellow named Phillip Franz Von Siebold, who created the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden The Netherlands. (This you can see in the Latin name of this plant, Eleutherococcus Sieboldianus.)

Let me tell you a little bit more about our prompt for today, Acanthopanax (or Eleutherococcus Sieboldianus):

Eleutherococcus Sieboldianus (flowering)
Eleutherococcus is a genus of 38 species of thorny shrubs and trees in the family Araliaceae. They are native to eastern Asia, from southeast Siberia and Japan to the Philippines and Vietnam. 18 species come from China, from central to western parts.

Perhaps the best known in the West is the species E. senticosus used as herbal medicine, and commonly known by such English names as Eleuthero or Siberian ginseng. In Traditional Chinese medicine, this is administered to increase energy, thus traditionally recognized to have attributes akin to true ginseng (Panax). This is also reflected in its formerly used genus name Acanthopanax meaning "thorny ginseng". The word "Eleutherococcus," from Greek, means "free-berried."

The Japanese name ukogi borrows directly from the Chinese name (wujia), and refers somewhat broadly to several plants in the genus. A 10th century herbalogy text, Honzō wamyō, introduced the Chinese wujia as an herb to be pronounced mu-ko-gi, refers specifically to E. sieboldianus (Japanese name: hime-ukogi).

Several species are also grown as ornamental garden shrubs. In Japan, they have been planted as hedges. Particularly in Yamagata Prefecture, a daimyō named Uesugi Yōzan encouraged the planting of the ukogi as fencing around the homes of samurai retainers (E. sieboldianus was planted in the region), and the bitter young buds, leaves and stems have traditionally been picked and eaten as vegetable in the area. However, since the plant is deciduous, it requires sweeping in the fall (high maintenance), and the bare hedges fail to protect the homeowner's privacy.

Acanthopanax tea

As I was preparing this episode I tried (again) to find haiku in which this kigo is used, but (again) I couldn't find any example of a haiku with this kigo, but if it's in the classical Japanese Saijiki than I suppose that there have to be haiku in which this word is used. .... or else .... well than we are the first to use it ...

exhausted samurai
increases his energy with Acanthopanax tea
the sound of water

© Chèvrefeuille

Well ... I hope you did like this episode, with a little Dutch touch, and I hope it will inspire you to creat haiku, tanka or other Japanese poetry form.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until May 1st at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new "weekend-mediatation", a new Namasté episode, later on. For now ... have fun!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Carpe Diem #1197 (theme week 3) Butterbur (Fuki no Tou)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new episode of CDHK. This week, as you know all, we have a "theme-week" in which I only use classical kigo of plants. Today I have another nice kigo for you. Again by the way a plant I didn't heard of earlier. Our classical kigo for today is Butterbur (Fuki no Tou). Here is a short background on this plant.

Petasites is a genus of flowering plants in the sunflower family, Asteraceae, that are commonly referred to as butterburs and coltsfoots. They are perennial plants with thick, creeping underground rhizomes and large rhubarb-like leaves during the growing season.

Butterbur has been used for over 2000 years to treat a variety of ailments including fever, lung disease, spasms, and pain. Currently, butterbur extract is used for migraine prevention and treatment of allergic rhinitis, which have the most evidence for its effectiveness.

Butterbur (Fuki no Tou)
Well ... another short post I think, because I had (again) a very busy day. I hope you are inspired through this short post and I hope to read a few nice haiku with this kigo.

I have tried it:

nature's medicine
providing us with all we need
no more pain

© Chèvrefeuille

Not as strong as I had hoped, but .... well I have given it a try.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until April 30th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our next episode, Acanthopanax, later on. For now .... have fun!

Monday, April 24, 2017

carpe Diem #1196 (theme week 2) Akebia Blossom (Akebi no hana)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Today I had a very busy day so that's why I have chosen to take the easy way today. I love to inspire you with an image of our classical kigo for today, Akebia Blossom. And a little bit background on this beauty.

Akebia is a cold hardy climber with fragrant blooms and sweet purple fruit. It's native to Japan where it grows wild in the forest. In late spring, chocolate-pink blossoms bloom in clusters against delicate lacy foliage. In fall, fat lavender fruit appear. They're incredibly sweet, even more impressive than the flowers. It thrives in dappled sun or full shade (few vines bloom in the shade) and isn't fussy about soil, though it prefers even moisture. Evergreen in mild winters, it loses its leaves in cold climates, but the twining woody branches are handsome even when bare.
It is said that the blossoms are having a chocolate perfume ....

Akebia Blossom (image found on Pinterest)
I have sought for examples of haiku in which this kigo is used, but I couldn't find any. So it looks like we are the first to use it as a kigo.

I wasn't inspired enough, so maybe I will post my own response later on.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until April 29th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, butterbur, later on. For now .... have fun!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Carpe Diem #1195 (Theme Week 1) Andromeda flowers (or Ashibi/Asebi no hana)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at the first episode of our April Theme Week. As you all know this month it is all about classical kigo (seasonwords) and this Theme Week will not be that different the only difference is that in this Theme Week I have all plants for classical kigo. Today is our first one Andromeda Flowers, and later this week we will have: Akebia blossom, Butterbur and last but not least Acanthopanax. All these plants/flowers are classical kigo for spring and ... I had never heard of these plants/flowers.

Andromeda Flowers
Look at this beautiful flower isn't it awesome? It looks like a waterfall of flowers in a nice color, so fragile and beautiful. The Andromeda Flowers are often used in bridal bouquets, because of their color, mostly white. So the Andromeda flowers (Pieris Japonica) means virginity, purity and fertility and that fertility you can see in the richness of the flowers and maybe it is also a flower for prosperity.

A lot to cope with I think, but now ... can I create a "classical" haiku (or tanka) with this kigo? Let me give it a try.

sweet perfume
arouses my senses
Andromeda flowers
a waterfall of flowers and color
making love this spring night

© Chèvrefeuille

Not as strong as I had hoped, but well I have  given it a try.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until April 28th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, Akebia blossom, later on. For now ... have fun!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Carpe Diem Universal Jane #15 birdcage

!! Submission is open next Sunday April 22nd at 7.00 PM (CET) !!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new "weekend-meditation", the feature for this weekend is a new episode of Universal Jane, in honor of my mentor, friend and co-host of CDHK, she is still missed. This week I had vacation, so I had some time of and could finally relax and recover from the exhaustion I felt the last weeks. I am glad that I have found back my energy and that this week has done that for me.
Today, April 20th, is my birthday so I had a lot of people at my home, to celebrate this with me. I became 54 yrs.

This "weekend-meditation" I have taken the easy way, sometimes I love to bring back episode from our history and this weekend I love to inspire you through an article written by Jane that I used back in December 2014.


Building an Excellent Birdcage by Jane Reichhold

All the haiku used in this article are by Matsuo Basho and were translated by Jane Reichhold.

clouds of fog
quickly doing their best to show
one hundred scenes

What is poetry?

The art of poetry is such a hard thing to describe. Everyone is looking for a way to put words to something that is larger than words, more alive than thought, and longer lasting than any one poem. Poetry is the art of piling up dissimilar images to create an idea that has no exact name.

Picture this. A woman is standing at an open window. Just staring into space, a bit unfocused, lost in a world of thoughts and ideas. Suddenly a small, brown bird alights on the window sill. She knows she should carry the bird out the door and let it go but before she does, she has to do one more thing.
She builds a cage out of words. A cage she can share with others. The work on the cage goes on for days, maybe it is even years until the cage comes under the eyes of another person. In that moment, when the cage of words enters another's mind, it begins to expand. It breaks up into thought - images created by the reader. Through the maze, and amazement of the reader, two cupped hands come forth.
The woman relaxes and lets the bird go. Now its dry feathery weight is in the man's palm. What does it look like? What is it like? Slowly he makes a tiny finger-crack window in his hand and he sees the same eye staring at him that stared at the woman a long time ago when it stood on her window sill. With a flurry of feathers, that shed a magic rarely found, the bird flies back into the sky. It is impossible not to say, "Ah ha!"
So that is what haiku is all about. How to build the cage of words to hold the miracle safe and full of sound until the images in a reader's mind open the door to the wonderment and delight the author found in one part of the world. It is the cage that will attract and intrigue the reader, but it must also be well-built enough to bring the experience intact across time and space. Part of what makes haiku so interesting is that in learning how to read it you have to learn how to build these images.

old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

You read "old pond" and you instantly imagine some old pond - and everyone's old pond in different.
"a frog jumps into" and your mind sees a frog, jumping left or right or straight ahead and every one of us imagines a different frog.
And then comes the kicker in the last line "the sound of water". What does he mean? It jumps into its own sound? But it does, and if you can imagine the frog jumping then you will be able to hear that sound.

So haiku, as you can see, make excellent cages. They are the perfect size for carrying our deepest experiences. Not big and clumsy with too many words. Not with thick bars of old ideas and abstract thinking. Haiku are alive. Like a cage made of living branches, they support and nourish the art of poetry until it arrives - safe and alive - in the mind of the reader. You're not going to teach anybody anything with your haiku - you're going to show them the experience.

I believe that every person has the ability to be a poet, whether you think you can or not. Some of you may suspect this about yourselves because of an undefined yearning - a place within you that you cannot scratch or reach. Perhaps some times this yen sublimates into a joy in words, a delight in the melodies of dialect, or in other forms of writing. Often it manifests in an interest in reading poetry by others. Or it can come in the simple desire of noticing a beautiful thing and wishing to hold on to the feeling it gives you.

You don't need talent, you just need to do it, and do it and do it, and enjoy it ... and to do it some more. If you go back to poetry that you have written and been unhappy with, go to the best and most interesting part of it and I can almost guarantee that there will be a haiku right there.
You can be a poet if you really want to be and to the degree you want to be, and I believe Basho can show you how. He can at least show you how to write haiku.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
Learning to write haiku has advantages for learning to write anything. This was his final poem ...

clear cascade
scattered on the waves
green pine needles

and its revision ...

clear cascade
no dust on the waves
the summer moon

Being a poet will make your life richer. 

If you allow yourself to write haiku your life will change. I guarantee you that. Haiku writing is different to any other kind of writing because it demands that you change the way you act, the way you look at the world and think.
It begins where you are - in the present. Kierkegaard said that the unhappy man has no present, and I think much of our unhappiness lies with old memories that are painful and fears of the future, but if you come to this moment, this place where you are and think about your uncomfortable chair or the temperature of the room, and accept them, that helps everything.
Haiku are brief and that makes them easy to write because you don't have the chance to make that many errors. You always write them in the present tense, keeping them simple, keeping them brief and using common words, not fancy ones.
The other good thing about haiku is that it will connect you to the world outside - one of the ways of learning to write haiku is to take a walk. You will see things, things will call out to you and you will suddenly see something different that you've never seen before or you'll see a relationship between the rolling surf and a cloud above; or you'll see something odd and you'll watch and your whole focus will leave your body and go to what you're watching.
And that is the most freeing thing you can do. I think you live longer if you can do that. We'll see.

first blossoms
seeing them extends my life
seventy-five more years 

First Cherry Blossom ©photo Chèvrefeuille (2014)

The question of syllables

Many people think haiku are not real haiku unless they have 17 syllables - but this does not have to be. In Japan if you're counting the sound units there should be 17, but English syllables and Japanese sound units are different. The sound units are much shorter, and so if you would write a 17-syllable haiku it would come out about one-third too long. For instance, if you say "Tokyo" it has 3 syllables, but in Japanese it has 4 sound units.
When the Japanese tried to translate English haiku into Japanese they ended up with big, clunky poems and way too many words. So we've taken the idea of using short-long-short lines and this conforms to the haiku form, but it allows us a little more freedom in how many words we use. Also, in Japanese instead of having a full stop or a comma or a dash they have a word for the break the punctuation creates, and those words take up a couple of sound units so that's another way of shortening it.

Modern haiku writers think you should not count English syllables when writing haiku and this allows a lot of freedom - you can forget about those particular bars of the cage.

Should haiku be written in English?

There's an old idea that haiku cannot be written in English. In the 1960s RH Blyth wrote: "Women cannot write haiku." So, here I am. Earl Miner wrote a book about Basho's renga and said it's an interesting form and a beautiful thing to study ... but we shouldn't try it in English. And this is still the attitude in a lot of universities where they start with the idea you're taught haiku in the 2nd grade (aged 8), therefore it's something for elementary school.
Well, you learn addition and subtraction in the 2nd grade too, but that doesn't stop you from studying calculus and algebra. And the same is true for haiku. The more you know about the form the more there is to learn.
I would like to see haiku, or Japanese genres, taught in universities because I feel there is so much more to be learned. In the 1920s when poets first began to be exposed to translations, like Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell, they got this idea of how important it is to work with images instead of abstract ideas, and so they began to use these methods with their own poetry.
But they didn't take it far enough. They didn't study the form so they could write really well. But it is possible, I believe, to write very good English haiku. I suppose I'll be struck dead for saying it, but I take a Japanese magazine of haiku in which they translate Japanese into English, and I would say that what is being written in English is better.
The Japanese are working with the ideas of how to build a haiku, but we've had to study it so much and we've had to figure it out. A lot of Japanese have heard the Japanese poems from their childhood and therefore think they can do it. And they can. They bring a spirit to haiku that I don't think English-speaking people will ever have - their sensitivity, their grace, their elegance. We can't do that. But we can bring what we are to that form.

winter confinement
again I'll lean on
this post

Stop telling stories

One of the early mistakes people make when writing haiku is that they want to tell a story because we come from a literary tradition of storytelling and it's hard to stop that. It's very easy to say "the door opened, the dog came and spilled his water on the cat".
That's not haiku. Haiku focuses in, it goes right to the very heart. In this story you would focus on the water hitting the cat and that's all you would talk about because that's all that's important in that story.
This is something that it takes a while for people to understand. One of the best ways of finding out what haiku are is to read them.

storm-torn banana tree
all night I listen to rain
in a basin

Banana-tree (Basho)

Reading and writing

But reading haiku is not easy. I handed a friend of mine a haiku book and she called me up weeks later and said, "Jane, you know I love you, but I cannot figure out what these are". And she simply didn't know how to read them - it's true that you have to learn how to read a haiku.
When they were first introduced in English people thought they were epigrams or aphorisms and that implies that they are one sentence long. Haiku are not sentences. A haiku is built of two parts: The phrase and the fragment. The fragment is usually in the third or first lines, and the phrase combines two lines, usually the second and third, or first and second.
I think Basho is the one who can show us most clearly that haiku is poetry. When he started writing they were like a game or a pastime, and unfortunately this aura still hangs around haiku and you see with this the online jokey haiku.
Basho took the idea that if you're a serious, deep person then your haiku will be serious and deep. Even though haiku are very small, they're extremely elastic (but remember that brevity doesn't leave room for mistakes). You can put in everything that you can feel, and it's only your lack of writing skills that would make that not possible.
Haiku can be, and sound extremely, simple but they hold vast reservoirs of meaning in their layers, like the Basho poem about the crow:

autumn evening
a crow settles down
on a bare branch

It's also interesting that haiku being so small have the most rules. Everybody who has learned it in the 2nd grade has learned 17 syllables and something about nature and you think you've got it covered, but you haven't - I'm still learning new rules, many from working with Basho's poems.I wish you many delights on your own journey to being a poet and may haiku be your starting point and companion.

Jane Reichhold

Jane Reichhold (1937-2016)

This article was published earlier at and published here with her kind permission.


A wonderful article I would say, an article that (I hope) can inspire you to create haiku, tanka or another Japanese poetry form.

Back in 2014 this was my response on this article in which I tried to catch the essence of this article:

with my bare feet
in the cool grass of dawn
Ah! what a feeling

© Chèvrefeuille

I love to share here another nice creative form of haikui-ing, the Troiku, it's a creative form I invented myself. More on Troiku you can find above in the menu. I not often write Troiku, but sometimes I feel the urge to create one. However that urge I didn't had today, so I ran through my archive and found the following Troiku.

walking on the heath
in the light of the full moon
the scent of autumn

walking on the heath
feeling one with a Shepherd
in contact with God (*)

in the light of the full moon
laying down in the meadow
the River of Heaven (**)

the scent of autumn
feelings of departure and loneliness
tears in the puddle

© Chèvrefeuille

(*) Inspired on the Shepherd boy in The Alchemist of Paulo Coelho
(**) the Milky Way

Well .... I hope I have inspired you to create your poems. This "weekend-meditation" is open for your submissions next Sunday April 22nd at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until April 27th at noon (CET). At that same time I hope to publish our new episode, the first of this month's Theme Week, Andromeda-flowers. For now .... have fun! And have a great weekend.