Carpe Diem Haiku Kai – Renga – March 28, 2015

wet grass

at the wagon’s approach,
out from the grass
flies the butterfly

© Shoha (Tr. R.H.Blyth)

Our haiku master today is Shoha (1727-1772) of whom I could find no information but … here is an interesting bit about the translator who’s name we’ve read many times beside the great master’s names:

Reginald Horace Blyth was born near London in 1898, the only child of working-class parents. By the start of World War I, he was eighteen and already an eccentric in his contemporaries’ eyes: he ate no meat, loved George Bernard Shaw, and became a conscientious objector to the war, for which he was jailed. After serving a three-year sentence of hard labour and fed up with the rigidity of Britain’s class system, he left his homeland for what he thought would be a life of wandering.

But after just a year of traveling, Blyth was smitten by Asia. He settled in Korea in the mid-1920s, and began teaching English at Seoul University. He returned to England briefly to complete a B.A. in English literature in order to further his Korean teaching career. Back in Seoul, Blyth met a monk from Kyoto’s Myoshin-ji temple, the traditional headquarters of the Rinzai Zen sect in Japan. The meeting was auspicious, inspiring Blyth to take up the study of Japanese and to begin Zen practice at the Seoul branch temple; within weeks, he had moved into the temple to become the disciple of the resident Zen master, Kayama Taigi.

In 1940, Blyth moved to Japan and remained there for the rest of his life, despite being interned as an enemy alien during World War II. He married a Japanese woman and supported their two daughters working as a teacher (he even tutored the Crown Prince of Japan) and began a prolific writing and translating career. For Blyth, almost anything could be interpreted as an example of Zen, including the Western literary canon. He expounded his theories in Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics (1942), Japanese Humour (1957), and the four-volume Haiku (1949-52), and through those books, spurring a generation of Westerners to investigate Zen and Japanese culture. Blyth died in 1964 of a brain tumour.

LINK to Biography of Blyth

Out of the Grass ….

at the wagon’s approach,
out from the grass
flies the butterfly

© Shoha

beads of water on the grass
now an abandoned palace

diamond brightness
the empress hid feasting
in the spring fields

© G.s.k. ‘15

Linked to Carpe Diem Haiku Kai – Tan Renga

What is Renga?

“One poet wrote a first verse of three lines in a five syllable-seven syllable-five syllable pattern [called a HOKKU], and the second poet completed the tanka with two seven-syllable lines…

A third poet writes another three lines, which, together with the previous couplet, make an entirely new poem. Then the next poet adds another couplet to make a third poem, which is completely independent of the first two. And so on. The seasons change, the subject changes, and, in the classical renga, the poem proceeds through a hundred verses.

Rules developed. The renga had to be written in a certain way. No story could be developed, the seasons had to keep changing, a traditional image of the autumn moon had to be introduced at least twice, images of spring flowers three times, and so on. The form became immensely popular among educated people at court and in the monasteries. Treatises were written on appropriate ways of making links, and anthologies of examples were published… And it began to spread, as a social activity, to cities and towns, and was taken up by merchants and farmers, some of whom were imitating the refinements of the court, some of whom were drawn to it from the learned traditions of the monastery.

These renga often used a more informal language, treated their subjects playfully, and were shorter, often thirty-six verses long. The 36-verse form was called a KASEN, and the style of the poetry was called HAIKAI NO RENGA.”

Source: The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa. Edited by Robert Hass. (c) 1994, Ecco Press.