We have entered the micro-season of “The Evening Cicada Sings”. This is the first micro-season of the mini-season of First Autumn. The micro-seasons within First Autumn are:
- A Cool Wind Blows (Aug 07 – Aug 11)
- The Evening Cicada Sings (Aug 12 – Aug 16)
- Thick Fog Blankets the Sky (Aug 17 – Aug 22)
These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others. No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you.
As a way to celebrate this season, we will learn about the taxonomy of the cicada and listen to some cicada songs. After that, we will read some seasonal haiku by Basho, Issa, and readers of The Washington Post.
Cicada is the common name for insects in the order of Hemiptera. The insects within this order are commonly referred to as true bugs and there are over 80,000 species that fall into this grouping. Cicadas, planthoppers, and aphids are a just few of the species in this order.(1)
Moving down that taxonomic ladder, cicadas are part of a superfamily grouping called Cicadoidea. Cicadoidea is then separated into two families: Tettigarctidae and Cicadidae.(2) The Tettigarctidae are also known as “hairy cicadas” and are ancient primitive cicadas. The Tettigarctidae are pretty much extinct except for two species that live in southern Australia and Tasmania.(3) The Cicadidae, or true cicadas, can be found across the globe and have more than 3,000 different species.(4)
Cicadas are generally described as stout insects with clear-membraned wings, broad heads, and compound eyes. Cicadas can range in size from 0.75 to 2.25 inches (2 to 5 cm).
Cicadas are most known for their distinctive sounds. Sometimes the sounds are referred to as songs, while other times they are described as buzzes or ticks. Cicadas make this sound by vibrating specialized membranes known as tymbals near the base of the abdomen. This process is different than grasshoppers and crickets who use stridulation, the rubbing together of specialized body parts, to make their song.(2,5)
Male cicadas can produce four types of acoustic signals: songs, calls, low-amplitude songs, and disturbance sound. (4)
Below is an example of cicada songs from Greece
The Evening Cicada
The Evening Cicada, Tanna japonensis, lives in South East Asia and is most often found in Japan. This cicada is heard making its distinctive sound in the evening and early morning.
The typical adult male evening cicada will be about 1.1 to 1.5 inches (28-38 mm) in length. The female will only be .8 -1.0 inches (21-25 mm) in length. The evening cicada’s call has been referred to as melancholic.(7)
Here is an example of the evening cicada call. What do you think? Does it sound melancholic to you?
Haiku For The Season
Cicadas are usually thought of as late summer kigo or seasonal words. Although, cicadas have been associated with other seasons such as spring or mid-summer.(6) When this happens the cicada haiku will have some sort of qualifier that shifts the season.
For this week’s haiku, I found several selections from Matsuo Basho and Kibayashi Issa. I also came across an article from The Washington Post that had a few wonderful cicada haiku that I fit well into our theme.
stillness -- the cicada's cry drills into the rocks. (Translated by Robert Hass)
the cry of the cicada gives us no sign that presently it will die. (Translated by William George Aston)
a cicada shell it sang itself utterly away (Translated by R.H. Blyth)
autumn cicada- flat on his back, chirps his last song. (Translated by L. Stryk)
cicada in the pine listening to the sutra is born (Translated by David G. Lanoue)
In June of 2021, John Kelly a columnist for the Washington Post asked his readers to write their own haiku to celebrate the arrival of Brood X. Brood X is the largest brood of the 17-year cicada that emerged in Pennsylvania and northern Virginia, Indiana, and eastern Tennessee during May and June of 2021. Here are a couple of my favorite haiku from that article.
not at all subtle the cicada’s mating call same line always works -Sari Grandstaff, Woodstock, N.Y.
Noisy cicada — How short your time in the sun; How long your silence. -Donna Royston, Fairfax, Va.
If you want to learn more about Brood X and the periodical cicada, check out this interesting article by the National Park Service.
I have one last haiku by Issa I wanted to share for today. This one, although not specifically about cicada, fits well into this micro-season.
even with insects some can sing, some can't. (Translated by R. Hass)
Last week Leyde Ryan of Hourglass Poetry suggested that these micro-seasons could be writing prompts. I really like that idea!
So, if you are up for the challenge, write your own haiku or senryu using the cicada as inspiration. 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!
- “Hemiptera”; Wikipedia
- “Cicada”; Wikipedia
- “Tettigarctidae”: Wikipedia
- “Cicadidae”: Wikipedia
- “Cicada”; Britannica
- “Cicada”; National Geographic
- “Tanna Japonensis” Wikipedia
- “Cicada” World Kigo Database
- “Silence” World Kigo Database
- “Brood X” National Park Service
- John Kelly, “Can you cicada-ku? Here are haiku — and other poems — in honor of cicadas.”, Washington Post
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