Monday, January 6, 2014

Carpe Diem Goes Back to Its Roots #4

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I am proud to share my first post on my new Carpe Diem Haiku Kai Special weblog. Today the goal is to write a classical haiku following the classical rules of haiku. So your haiku has to follow the next rules:

1. Describe a moment as short as the sound of a pebble thrown into water; so present tense;
2. 5-7-5 syllables;
3. Use a kigo (or seasonword);
4. Use a kireji (or cuttingword);
5. Sometimes a deeper spiritual or Zen-Buddhistic meaning;
6. First and third line are interchangeable and last but not least
7. No Self, avoid personal or possessive pronouns (I, me, my); it's an experience not how the poet feels about it.

As you can read at point 4, one of the rules is to use kireji (cuttingword). Kireji (lt. "cutting word") is the expression for a special category of words used in certain types of Japanese traditional poetry as is haiku. It's regarded as a requirement in classical haiku.
In English there is no exact equivalent of kireji and therefore it's difficult to define it's function. It is said to supply structural support to the haiku. When placed at the end of a haiku, it provides a dignified ending, concluding the haiku with a heightened sense of closure. Used in the middle of the haiku, it briefly cuts the stream of thought, indicating that the haiku consists of two thoughts held independent of each other. In such a position, it indicates a pause, both rhythmically and grammatically, and may tend an emotional flavor to the phrase preceding it.

The most common Kireji used in classical haiku are:

ka : emphasis; when at end of a phrase, it indicates a question.
kana : emphasis; usually can be found at a poem's end, indicates wonder.
- keri : exclamatory verbal suffix, past perfect.
- ramu or - ran : verbal suffix indicating probability.
- shi : adjectival suffix; usually used to end a clause.
- tsu : verbal suffix; present perfect.
ya : emphasis the preceding word or words cutting a poem into two parts, it implies an equation, while inviting the reader to explore their interrelationship.

How to use Kireji?

Haiku consist of 17 Japanese syllables or onji, in three metrical phrase of 5, 7 and 5 onji respectively. A kireji is typical positioned at the end of one of these three phrases.
When it's placed at the end of the final phrase (the end of the haiku), the kireji draws the reader back to the beginning, initiating a circular pattern. A large number of haiku, including many of those by Basho (1644-1694, founder of the "modern" haiku), and with either - keri, an exclamatory auxiliary verb, ot the exclamatory particle kana , both of which initiate such a circular pattern.

Let me give you an example of the use of kireji. For these examples I have used the four volume series "Haiku" written by R.H. Blyth.

shoku no hi wo shoku ni utsusu ya hara no yu

lighting one candle
with another candle;
an evening of spring

(c) Buson (1716-1783)

Buson is one of the four greatest haiku-poets next to Basho, Issa and Shiki. In the original haiku (written in romaji) the 'ya' is a cuttingword. In this one translated by a ; . Another example this time one written by Basho (1644-1694).

aki-kaze ya yabu mo hatake mo fuwa no seki

the autumn wind:
thickets and fields also,
Fuha Barrier

(c) Basho

In this verse the cuttingword is at the end of the first line 'ya' and is translated with

The goal is to write a classical haiku following the rules. I am not such a haiku-poet who is writing his haiku in the classical way, but sometimes I like to go back to the roots of haiku myself. So here is my classical haiku:

praying monks

the silence deepens
monks are shuffling through the garden
saying their prayers

(c) Chèvrefeuille, your host

Well ... I hope you liked this very first post on my new weblog "Carpe Diem Haiku Kai Special" and I hope that you all will find your way to this new weblog. Have fun, be inspired and share your classical haiku with us all here at Carpe Diem Haiku Kai Special.
You can submit your classical haiku until February 6th 11.59 AM (CET). This episode of "Back to Its Roots" is NOW OPEN for your submissions.


  1. Cogratulations on opening this new Carpe Diem Haiku Kai Special blog, Kristjaan! Wonderful idea and great start, bringing us all the way back to the roots. Your haiku...spirituality at its best...

  2. Kristjaaan, I love that you have a new blog to separate out the different challenges and I will be visiting both. One thing I do wish you would consider changing--The blog is very pretty but the blue and light gray text on the colored background gives it a very low contrast and makes it very hard to read if your eyesight is less than perfect. More people will be able to enjoy this if it's easier to read. I myself find it very difficult. This website has more info if you want additional info on the problem and how to fix it. Thanks!

    1. I have re-done this weblog ... I am still searching for the right lay-out ... so it will surely change a few times.

  3. Glad you have a blog for these "specials" - that will help very much! I love the look and the the feel and appreciate the work you put into both of your sites. :)

    Saw that you're an oncology nurse; bless you for that! I had chemo in 2005.

  4. Hi Kristjaan - Thank you for the 'heads-up' about your new blog. It's a great idea to separate the prompts in this way. I have a suggestion for you. Can you add a way to subscribe to this blog, by email or reader or both, so we don't miss the prompts. It is easier that way. Thanks. I'm hoping to add a haiga to today's post later. Thanks for all you do to inspire us!!!

  5. Congratulations, Kristjaan.What a lovely and wonderful new blog. I wish you a very happy and fruitful 2014. Much blessings to you for this fine opportunity given us to unearth our skills.

  6. I am sure you are still experimenting but wanted to say this design is much easier to read than the last, and that's appreciated!