Morning Haiku and Waka – Using Karumi (Haiga) – April 27, 2016

Tourists and Locals Haiga

morning promenade
waddling off their breakfast
locals and tourists

© G.s.k. ‘16

Carpe Diem Tokubetsudesu #77 pickles (in the way of Basho) lost episode of March

Today Chèvrefeuille re-introduced the “karumi” writing technique.  Here’s what he has to say about it:

“Bashô developed this concept during his final travels in 1693. Karumi is perhaps one of the most important and least understood principles of haiku poetry. Karumi can best be described as “lightness,” or a sensation of spontaneity. In many ways, karumi is a principle rooted in the “spirit” of haiku, rather than a specific technique. Bashô taught his students to think of karumi as “looking at the bottom of a shallow stream”. When karumi is incorporated into haiku, there is often a sense of light humour or child-like wonderment at the cycles of the natural world. Many haiku using karumi are not fixed on external rules, but rather an unhindered expression of the poet’s thoughts or emotions. This does not mean that the poet forgets good structure; just that the rules of structure are used in a natural manner. In my opinion, karumi is “beyond” technique and comes when a poet has learned to internalize and use the principles of the art interchangeably.

In a way it brought me another idea. Traditionally, and especially in Edo Japan, women did not have the male privilege of expanding their horizons, so their truth or spirituality was often found in the mundane. Women tend to validate daily life and recognize that miracles exist within the mundane, which is the core of haiku.There were females who did compose haiku, which were called “kitchen-haiku” by literati, but these “kitchen-haiku” had all the simplicity and lightness of karumi … In a way Basho taught males to write like females, with more elegance and beauty, based on the mundane (simple) life of that time.

Shiba Sonome, a female haiku poet, learned about karumi from Basho: “Learn about a pine tree from a pine tree, and about a bamboo plant from a bamboo plant.”

The poet should detach the mind from his own self. Nevertheless, some people interpret the word ‘learn’ in their own ways and never really ‘learn’. ‘Learn’ means to enter into the object, perceive its delicate life, and feel its feeling, whereupon a poem forms itself. Even a poem that lucidly describes an object could not attain a true poetic sentiment unless it contains the feelings that spontaneously emerged out of the object. In such a poem the object and the poet’s self would remain forever separate, for it was composed by the poet’s personal self.

Basho also said, “In my view a good poem is one in which the form of the verse, and the joining of its two parts, seem light as a shallow river flowing over its sandy bed”.

That, then, is karumi: becoming as one with the object of your poem … experiencing what it means to be that object … feeling the life of the object … allowing the poem to flow from that feeling and that experience.”

Tan Renga – “boiled rice slop” – June 27, 2015

[…] “1694-summer. Basho uses less than elegant terms to describe both the rice dish and the man’s wife. Notice how the sense varies as the second line twists so that there are two meanings. This is what Basho considered “lightness” or karumi.” […]

meshi angu kaka ga chiso ya yu suzumi

boiled rice slop
his old lady fans the treat
with evening coolness

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Humour and lightness are particular to one’s culture.  If you’ve ever travelled you would have soon realized that what you might find humorous and indeed a light comment, goes over like a lead balloon … and you might just find yourself, mentally, scratching your head to figure out what everyone is laughing about when someone cracks a “joke”.  Here Basho shows us an aspect of lightness or karumi, 17th Japanese style!


boiled rice slop
his old lady fans the treat
with evening coolness

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold

making sweet confections
she presents a summer feast

downing warm sake
under June’s  shimmering  moon
topped with daifuku

his old lady’s rice slop
inspires happy renga

© G.s.k. ‘15


Carpe Diem Tan Renga Challenge #91, Basho’s boiled rice slop

Carpe Diem – looking at Basho’s karumi – “under the trees” – May 27, 2015

Pencil Oil Sketch

Pencil Oil Sketch

clouds and cold wind
near Murano’s main canal
hot cappuccino

along the docks
gondolas and motorboats
ancient and modern

© G.s.k. ‘15


Today’s episode on Carpe Diem Haiku Kai is dedicated to the haiku style invented and promoted by Basho known as karumi.  He began using this style in his later life, trying to reach a certain lightness which the word karumi alludes to.  He travelled far and wide to promote this style and lost some of his followers who didn’t feel comfortable writing in the style:

“One of Basho’s major objectives was to find new and apt associations that made the reader rethink reality and the connectedness within. Association is very important in Basho’s work, he used it very often.

….it seems Basho was trying to write poetry that was less emotional. Basho seems to have believed that it is the verb that carries the emotional baggage of a poem. The poems he considered to exemplify the concept of karumi best are the ones with few or no verbs.
In our times this technique of writing haiku without a verb produces what is pejoratively called “grocery list”-haiku.”


The following are examples of karumi used by Basho:

ki no moto ni shiru mo namasu mo sakura kana

under the trees
soup and pickles
cherry blossoms

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

wakaba shite om me no shizuku nuguwa baya

young leaves
I would like to wipe away
tears in your eyes

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

was it a bush warbler
poop on the rice cake
on the veranda’s edge

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

glass noodles
few slices of fish
plum blossoms

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

a bush is the little garden
of a detached room

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

And here is an example of the style illustrated by Chèvrefeuille’s inspired haiku:

slowly a snail seeks
his path between Cherry blossoms
reaches for the sky

© Chèvrefeuille

Carpe Diem Haiku Kai – Shida Yaba – May 3, 2015





suiseki poet
memory in stone
a tear falls

© G.s.k. ‘15


chikara na ya hiza o kakaete fuyugomori

no strength left –
I wrap my arms around my knees
in winter solitude

© Shida Yaba

We will be visiting some of Basho’s disciples work for the weekly Specials where we try to write in the “same sense, tone and spirit as the one given”.  This week we read Shida Yaba, who wrote the above haiku upon the death of Basho.  He went on to live in Osaka where he taught Basho’s haiku style known as “karumi” passing it on to his over one thousand disciples. But what is karumi … I decided to look more closely into this important element and finally arrived at –  Introducing Haiku Poets and Topics . . . . . WKD

karumi かるみ【軽み】 lightness
from karui (light)

Karumi- lightness or light-heartedness.
This does not mean “make light of something or anything”.
It means to avoid sentimentalism or wallowing in emotions or taking things unduly seriously. It is the simple treatment of beauty to be found in ordinary things. It is simply to depict things as they are.
It is different from the court poetry.
It is minimalist, relying on terse concrete imagery and subtlety or lightness (as the shasei of Shiki later on).
“the beauty of ordinary things spoken of in a simple way”.

Karumi was introduced by Matsuo Basho late in his life.

“Karumi was the most notable characteristic of Basho’s mature style. Karumi literally means a ‘light beauty with subtlety’ and was a quality Basho saw in higher levels of sabi. With karumi the loneliness of sabi opens into a contented acceptance.
When asked to describe karumi Basho said it was
“a shallow river over a sandy bed.”
source :

“looking at a shallow river with a sandy bed”
Tr. Stephen Addiss


Matsuo Basho’s Ultimate Poetical Value, Or was it?
Susumu Takiguchi, April 1983

By contrast, karumi represents the element characterised by Basho’s contemporary world of the common people whose plain speech and everyday activities provided an immensely rich source for humorous rendering and light-hearted diction of universal relevance.

karumi represents the element characterised by Basho’s contemporary world of the common people whose plain speech and everyday activities provided an immensely rich source for humorous rendering and light-hearted diction of universal relevance.

Of course, the relative importance of the sabi and karumi elements in Basho’s poetry varied according to different stages of his development. But towards the end of his life, the karumi element was markedly becoming more and more crucial to the perfection of the so called Shofu, the style of the Basho School. The full development of the concept karumi itself was terminated, as we have seen, by Basho’s death but the implication of my hypothesis is that karumi was to have been developed into an aesthetic key word equal in its importance to sabi.

After a hard work we need a break. After a serious thing we want something light-hearted. Between acts in an opera there has been invented ballet dance. Between serious Kabuki acts, there are comic kyogen plays. In the same vein, after the serious waka poems there came light-hearted and comic verse haikai which meant, and still ought to mean, comic verse. From haikai was born what is now known as haiku, even if the word haiku itself is an old entity dating back at least as far ago as the 17th century.”

source : Susumu Takiguchi / WHR August 2010

Rereading the translation of the haiku written by Shida Yaba I wonder where the lightness has gone … I looked at the Japanese transliteration and the English translation and decided to think of it like this:

chikara na ya hiza o kakaete fuyugomori

now weak
embracing my knees
ah – winter’s loneliness

Go to Carpe Diem Haiku Kai for the original post.

Morning Haiku and Waka – Karumi – February 26, 2015

bitter sweet skies

stormy weather
such a bittersweet sunset
wind whips the trees

the old woman sits
at the mirror reflecting
life’s illusions

ironing shirts
trousers are less fun
on the ironing board

opening the door
that big fat fly bumbled in
open the window

cleaning his room
old toys sit on the book shelves
dusting memories

© G.s.k. ‘15

This post has been written for Carpe Diem Haiku Kai’s Karumi lesson and I’ve decided to submit it for One word Challenge as well for Bittersweet     .