A renga with Bashō

Carpe Diem’s Renga Challenge #1 invites us to choose from a selection of Basho’s early haiku (as translated by Jane Reichhold) and to create a Renga of at least 6 stanzas by arranging Basho’s haiku and inserting two-line verses in between.

inside the temple

visitors cannot know

cherries are blooming.


robin calls from the treetops

blend in with the morning chants


the voice of reeds

sounds like the autumn wind

from another mouth

©️ Bashō

leaves fly like paper dreams

a season’s short-lived splendour


what a sprout

a dewdrop seeps down the nodes

of generations of bamboo


the moon paints fresh oak leaves

once barren branches shimmer


the old woman

a cherry tree blooming in old age

is something to remember


an ancient mountain stupa

stands watching the setting sun



First a haiku by Kikaku (1661-1707) followed by a revision by his teacher, Matsuo Bashō, followed by my revised version and some background information:

red dragonfly

break off its wings

sour cherry

© Kikaku (1661-1707)


sour cherry

add wings to it

red dragonfly

©️ Bashō


puckered lips

sour cherry with wings

red dragonfly

©️2018 Ontheland

What was all that about? My interpretation is that Kikaku was talking about eating dragonflies. Many insects, including dragonflies are edible and part of the Japanese diet. Typically legs and wings are not eaten. Whether red dragonflies are inedible or only for those who like tart flavours I don’t know. I prefer Basho’s version over Kikaku’s. He retains the humour and eliminates disregard for the life of the dragonfly…a hard act to follow.

In response to Carpe Diem Weekend Meditation #34 Revise That Haiku … Kikaku’s Dragonfly

Also linked to Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Weekend mini Challenge: Insects and Bugs

Fusion haiku featuring Basho

A discarded cicada shell (exoskeleton) posted on Pixabay by “skeeze”

In his ‘fusion’ or ‘crossroads’ haiku challenges Chevrefeuille takes two haiku and invites us to create a new one inspired by both.  His Heeding Haiku prompt for the week proposes a fusion of two Basho haiku translated by Jane Reichhold:

from a treetop

emptiness dropped down

in a cicada shell


black forest

whatever you may say

a morning of snow

©️Basho (1644-1694), translated by Reichhold

I have written two haiku, each inspired by both of Basho’s poems.

late summer mayhem

shrill calls from the dark forest

lovers’ armour thrown


in wooded shade

peace in another world

tangled mind unwinds


Aokigahara forest in Yamanashi, Japan; photo by “ajari” of Japan, CCA 2.0 license

© 2018 Ontheland

all that remains

the mountain still stands

blades of grass whispering

spring blossom dreams

©️2018 Ontheland


My haiku is inspired by these two by Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694):

summer grasses

all that remains

of warriors dreams

© Basho

scent of plum blossoms

on the misty mountain path

a big rising sun

© Basho


In response to Carpe Diem’s Crossroads #5 Scent of Plum Blossoms

Art credit: courtesy of Pixabay.com, tagged blossoms

a taste of summer

Candy-stripe lily

thirsting for sweet nectar

of sunlight kisses


©️2018 Ontheland

In response to Carpe Diem’s Crossroads #3, I am featuring a day lily I photographed three summers ago. Though it was cloudy last night for March’s blue moon, recent days have been sunny!

Carpe Diem’s Crossroad challenges offer two haiku from which participants create some kind of combination or fusion. This time, the two inspirational haiku were written by Basho and translated by Jane Reichhold:

rabbit-ear iris

how much it looks like

its image in water

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

a silk tree

even through the leaves weary

of starlight

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Meoto Iwa: journey’s end

Meoto-iwa and Mount Fuji seen from Futami Okitama Shrine in Ise, Mie prefecture, Japan before sunrise by Alpsdate, Creative Commons Licence 4.0

hamaguri no   futami ni wakare    yuku aki zo

a clam
torn from its shell
departing autumn

©Matsuo Basho, translated by Jane Reichhold

….this is the last verse in Basho’s ‘Oku no Hosomichi’ ‘The Narrow Road to the Far North’. Because there are several word plays at work here, the Japanese maintain that there is no way for the poem to be rendered into another language.

~ Chèvrefeuille in Heeding Haiku with Chèvrefeuille, February 21, 2018, Revise it

The challenge here was to “revise” Basho’s haiku even though in its original Japanese there are many wordplays.  After reading Chevrefeuille’s post (link above) and much head scratching, I came up with this simple version:

Beach chestnuts

leaving Futami

at my journey’s end

©2018 Ontheland

Futami, a word used in the Japanese version, is the name of the port where the Wedded Rocks, shown in the photo, are located. Beach chestnuts is an alternative meaning of the words in the first line and possibly could be an image representing the Wedded Rocks.

bidding farewell

tumbling to earth

an apple falls close to the tree

farewell and renewal

©️2018 Ontheland

falling to the ground

a flower closer to the root

bidding farewell

©Matsuo Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)


tears flow

falling to the ground

autumn leaves


Chèvrefeuille posed an interesting challenge: “revise” the above haiku by the venerable Basho.  As I understand, a “revision” in this challenge means to express in different words some of the essence of the original haiku. It is thought that Basho wrote his poem when a special teacher died. He makes use of the Japanese proverb, “a flower goes back to its root”. I decided to allude to another saying: “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. In the end, my appreciation grew—for both Basho’s and Chèvrefeuille’s haiku.