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Haiku of Critic and Poet Masaoka Shiki


Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) was born in a Samurai family, and maintained a prominent position in the literary world despite tuberculosis. He often wrote about it.

In 1892 Shiki began to feel it was needed to free poetry from centuries-old rules prescribing topics and vocabulary. In an essa in the newspaper Nihon in 1900, he introduced the word shasei ("delineation from nature") to describe his stance: a poet should present things as they really are, and write in the language of contemporary speech.

His articles stimulated renewed interest in the haiku poet Buson.

Haiku by Shiki

While I turned my head
    that traveler
    I'd just passed . . .
Melted into mist

After killing
a spider, how lonely I feel
in the cold of night!

So enviable . . .
    most glorious
Contemplating death

A mountain village
under the pilled-up snow
water sounding.

The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

Hanging the lantern
    on that full white
    blooming bough . . .
Exquisite your care!

Green shadow-dances . . .
    see our young
Pattering the screen

For a cool evening
    I hired the
    old temple porch . . .
Penny in the dish

Now my loneliness
    the fireworks . . .
Look! A falling star!

Long the summer day . . .
    patterns on
    the ocean sand . . .
Our idle footprints

Fireworks ended
    and spectators
    gone away . . .
And how vast and dark!

By that fallen house
    the pear-tree stands
    full-blooming . . .
An ancient battle-site

Oh! I ate them all
    and oh! What a
    stomach-ache . . .
Green stolen apples

Autumn mosquitoes
    buzz me, bite me . . .
    see, I am
Long prepared for death

Such a little child
    to send to be
    a priestling
Icy poverty

Eleven brave knights
    canter through the
    whirling snow . . .
Not one bends his neck

I gave the greetings
    of the bright
    new year . . . As though
I held a plum-branch

At our last parting
    bending between
    boat and shore . . .
That weeping willow

Oh sorry tom-cat
    bigger blacker
    knights of love
Have knocked you out!


Haiku of Others

SEAL Winter rain deepens
    lichened letters
    on the grave . . .
And my old sadness


Roaring winter storm
    rushing to its
    utter end . . .
Ever-sounding sea


But when I halted
    on the windy street
    at twilight . . .
Snow struck against me


Now in late autumn
    look, on my old
    rubbish-heap . . .
Blue morning-glory


None broke the silence . . .
    nor visitor
    nor host . . . Nor
White chrysanthemum


Flower in the stream
    thus too my lovely life
    must end, another
Flower . . .
To fall and float away


Dirty bath-water
    where can I pour
    you? . . . Insects
Singing in the grass


Night is bright with stars
    . . . Silly woman,
Shall I light the lamp?


You stupid scarecrow!
    under your very
Birds are stealing beans!


In the farther field
    a scarecrow kept me
    company . . .
Walking as I walked


One fallen flower
    returning to the
    branch? . . . Oh no!
A white butterfly


Come come! Come out!
    from bogs old frogs
    command the dark
And look . . . The stars!


Ah! Brave dragon-fly . . .
    taking for your perch
    this swatter
Consecrate to death


Many solemn nights
    blond moon, we stand
    and marvel . . .
Sleeping our noons away


Leaf alone, fluttering
    alas, leaf alone,
Fluttering . . .
Floating down the wind



Haiku of Shiki and others, Literature  

Beilenson, Peter, tr. Japanese Haiku. New York: Peter Pauper Press, 1955.

Blyth, Reginald Horace. Haiku. Vol 1: Eastern Culture, Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1949.

Blyth, Reginald Horace. Haiku. Vol 2: Spring, Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1950.

Blyth, Reginald Horace. Haiku. Vol 3: Summer - Autumn. Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1952.

Blyth, Reginald Horace. Haiku. Vol 4: Autumn - Winter. Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1952.

Bownas, Geoffrey, and Anthony Thwaite. Japanese Verse. Rev. ed. London: Penguin Classics, 2009.

Dørumsgaard, Arne. De sorte svalene: Moderne japansk poesi. Første samling. Meiji-perioden (1868-1912). Oslo: Dreyer, 1967, ⍽▢⍽ Arne Dørumsgaard introduces Shiki and tells from the changes in Japanese culture during Shiki's life. Ten haiku by Shiki are included among many others.

Hakutaini, Yoshinobu. Haiku and Modernist Poetics. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.

Haugen, Paal-Helge. Blad frå ein austleg hage: hundre Haiku-dikt (Leaves from an Eastern Garden: A Hundred Haiku). Oslo: Det norske Samlaget, 1965.

Isaacson, Helen Shikego, comp, tr. 300 Haiku Works. Part 8. Winchester, VA: The Haiku Foundation, 2010. ⍽▢⍽ Haiku of the Shiki School. The work originates in the University of Groningen's Haiku Project Data Base.

Rosenstock, Gabriel. Haiku: The Gentle Art of Disappearing. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.

Sher, Gail. The Haiku Masters: Four Poetic Diaries. Emeryville, CA: Night Crane Press, 2008.

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