Dewdrops on a blade of grass, Having so little time Before the sun rises Let not the autumn wind Blow so quickly on the field --Dogen Zenji
Dogen Zenji is the founder of the Soto Zen School of Buddhism and provides us with a perfect reflection on the mini-season of White Dew.
The White Dew season runs from September 7 until September 21 and is made up of three micro-seasons. These micro-seasons are:
- White Dew on Grass (Sep. 7-Sep 11)
- The Wagtail Calls (Sep. 12-Sep 16)
- The Swallows Leave (Sep 17 -Sep 21)
White Dew marks the transition from summer to autumn. It is a time when the days are still hot, but there can be a chill in the air. The name White Dew originated because people thought that the dew forming on the plants at this time of year had a cloudy appearance.(2)
One way that I like to honor and celebrate the ever-changing seasons is through the writing of haiku.
Haiku, which originated in Japan in the 17th century, is described as “one breath poetry”. (3) Traditional Haikus are short in form, concise in their wording, and have a seasonal reference known as a “kigo”. The role of the kigo is to place your haiku at a certain time of year.
The potential list of seasonal words is vast and can be tailored to your own location. The New Zealand Poetry Society’s article, “Seasoning Your Haiku” provides links to a couple of kigo databases that can be very helpful when writing a haiku. These databases separate the kigo into different categories including Seasons, Earth, Humanity, Plants, Animals, and Observances.
In a recent episode of the Season by Season podcast, the producers provided a short list of potential kigo for this mini-season. Their list includes:
Autumn grasses, the seven flowers of autumn, quail, dew, traveling, journeys, new beginnings, back to school, darkening days, autumn sunsets, autumn vigor, crows, ripening fruits, mushrooms, grapes, the harvest moon, horse chestnuts, roadside flowers of cosmos and goldenrod, respect for the aged day, Bilbo Baggins’s and Frodo’s birthday, grapes.
As you can see from this list, some of these kigo are tailored to a certain location or culture. As a result, some might not get the Bilbo Baggins birthday reference, but they might understand the use of goldenrod or ripening fruit.
A Few Seasonal Haiku
Working from the Season by Season list of kigo, I collected several haiku from the early masters that fit within this season.
On a withered branch A crow is perched An autumn evening. --Basho
They end their flight one by one-- crows at dusk --Buson
Really fragile The old mother cries alone. The friend of the moon. --Basho
Yellow autumn moon . . . Unimpressed the scarecrow stands Simply looking bored --Issa
Cruel autumn wind cutting to the very bones . . . Of my poor scarecrow --Issa
One by one Everyone has left Autumn Wind --Issa
A Haiku Invitation
This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu using any of the seasonal words provided in the Season by Season list.
Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!
- Noticing the 72 Seasons
- 72 Seasons App
- Haiku: A Short Introduction – An Old Pond Comic by Jessica Tremblay
- NZPS: Seasoning your Haiku
- Season by Season
- Poetry Foundation: Basho
- Poetry Foundation: Kobayashi Issa
- Poetry Foundation: Yosa Buson
Special thanks to Lisa from Tao-Talk.com who provided me with a link to the Five Hundred Essential Japanese Seasonal Words page. That page was the beginning of this post.
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A wonderful post, Mark! I love the fact that everything here is about nature which is certainly following in the spirit of the original ancient verses! Modern haikus seem to include much about anything, even sex and technology, which for me goes against nature and the earth. 🙋♂️
Hi Ashley, Thanks for the comment and I am glad that you enjoyed it. What I have recently learned is that there is a short form of Japanese poetry called Senryu that follows the same construction as haiku, but is more focused on the human. It seems like the Senryu is a way to provide for this distinction in focus. This is something that I still need to learn more about.
Thanks again for the support!
I loved all of it! Thanks again, Mark!
Thanks Adele! Glad you enjoyed today’s post.
Even the names of the mini seasons are poetic. Wonderful 🙂
Hi Dave, I had the same reaction around the mini season names. Thanks for the adding to the conversation.
Haiku at its soul is a salutation to nature. You’re really coming along with making this blog work for you, Mark. Kudos! I am too much the artist and not enough of the entrepreneur, but I’m learning.
Hi Melanie, Thanks for the kind words and the support. I have started to see this blog as my own education into the role of words and language in nature connection practices. I was in a workshop once where the presenter said that she was attending the college of YouTube and coffee shops. I like that! I am leaning a little more towards libraries and audiobooks, but the concept is basically the same. I hope all is well!
Like everyone else, I love this post and accompanying links. Each of your posts is like a mini-magazine with so much fascinating and enjoyable information to follow up. Thank you for the time and effort you spend to bring this to us. Your joy in nature and literature is motivating and infectious. Thank you, Mark.
Hi Lesley, thank you very much for those kind words! I am glad that you are enjoying everything. It is a joy to be able to put share my adventure of learning with everyone!
fascinating stuff , Mark. Must earmark and come back for more. Funny, how i fell into what I came to learn of as haiku – through the WHR founder, around 2002 – he had previously complimented on 2 or 3 haibun. I clearly took to what was then/there described as existential/experimental haiku. Might write a piece about meeting the chief some day. It resulted, in any case, in me falling out of love with that kind of writing for a while. Right now, I feel it will be good for me to go back to the season references – yet not forget my home territory of the existential, even philosophical. Thanks for broadening my mind
Hi Barbara, I would be interested in hearing what made you fall out of love with the form. I’ll keep an eye out on your blog. Along with keeping an eye out for the paintings. Thanks for sharing!
Excellent post, Mark. I’m a huge fan of Issa 🙂
Hi Jean, I have really started to dive into Issa’s work. He has a different style that Basho or Buson.
Really nice piece on Japanese poetry!