Posted by: ktzefr | April 24, 2013

Haiku and Spring Blooms: full of possibilities

Celebrating National Poetry Month with a haiku or two… 

Haiku masters can often say more in a handful of words than a novelist can say in three hundred.  I was thinking about this on my morning walk as I photographed the neighborhood in bloom: a haiku is like the blooming season — short and full of possibilities.  It’s a starting point for trains of thought and emotion.  The following haiku by Kikaku is one of my favorites.  It is considered Kikaku’s comment on human life.

“A tree frog, clinging

to a banana leaf–

and swinging, swinging.”


(I like this image and it works in a lot of situations.  In low times simply clinging to the banana leaf can be difficult, but during high times it’s all about swinging and swinging — or dancing in the air!)

Speaking of dancing in the air…

Dogwood tree; Photo:KFawcett

Dogwood tree; Photo:KFawcett

Our dogwood tree is amazing.  It’s huge and old and the arborist says it’s sickly and on its last legs.  But, at least for this season, it’s doing okay.  When our son was little he called it the bow-wow tree.  When the bow-wow tree blooms we know it’s spring!

In nearly every haiku there is some word or expression that indicates the time of year.  Here are a few favorites from Basho for spring:

Spring starts:

new year; old rice,

five quarts.

(Basho kept a gourd container near the entrance to his house where his students could deposit their presents of rice.)

On the Road to Nara

“Oh, these spring days!

A nameless little mountain,

wrapped in morning haze!”

(Nara is a city of ancient temples, surrounded by famous mountains.  For a lovely piece about this part of Japan, see Pico Iyer’s “Nara: Where Japan Began”)

“From what tree’s bloom

  it comes, I do not know,

    but–this perfume!”

Last week there was something in the air that I did not recognize.  The Japonica bushes are blooming, but their scent is not that sweet or strong, so the “perfume” had to be coming from a neighbor’s yard.  I didn’t locate it in time and this week it’s gone.  However, the sun has brought out the lilacs to sweeten the air.

Lilacs; Photo:KFawcett

Lilacs; Photo:KFawcett

My lilac bush started as a twig that came all the way from Kentucky more than 20 years ago in my mother’s suitcase on a United Airlines flight.  It has adjusted quite well.

When I was growing up in Kentucky my friends and I played in a pine forest near my house.  The spring woods were always filled with voices and the scent of pine.  That image still sticks in my memory and Onitsura says it perfectly…

“How cool the breeze:

the sky is filled with voices–

pine and cedar trees.”


and another Basho…


“Here on the mountain pass,

    somehow they draw one’s heart so —

      violets in the grass.”


Wild Violets; Photo:KFawcett

Wild Violets; Photo:KFawcett

These violets did not spring up on a mountain pass but rather in my front yard.  This year they are everywhere and I love them.  I can’t imagine thinking of them as weeds!


Thousands of haiku have been written about cherry blossoms.  The poet Buson wrote more than 2,000 poems; like the work of so many others, there are several about cherry blossoms.

“Departing spring:

with belated cherry blossoms


Cherry blossoms; Photo:KFawcett

Cherry blossoms; Photo:KFawcett


This year the cherry blossom watch in DC was changed daily and the “height of bloom” date kept being delayed because of the cold weather.  Then, we suddenly had a couple of 90-degree days and they bloomed quickly and were gone.  This week, however, the Kwansan cherries are blooming and I actually like those better.  They have double pink flowers with a deeper, richer color. 

Another poem about cherry-blossom time.  This one from the poet Issa. *

“In my old home

which I forsook, the cherries

are in bloom.”

Do you recall the blooming things from the place(s) you grew up?  I doubt that many people think about the trees they’re leaving behind when they leave home.  We had a number of trees in our yard in Kentucky — a cherry that had branches in just the right spots for easy climbing, a pear tree that my dad ordered through the mail and never expected to bear fruit (it did eventually and still does), a weeping willow under which I felt perfectly hidden from the world, and a sweet gum tree with a rope swing where I sailed to the moon and beyond.   Did you leave a yard full of trees behind someplace?

*Issa was one of the best-loved of the haiku poets.  His work was not as difficult to understand nor as prophetic as Basho’s and he wasn’t considered as great a craftsman as Buson, but Issa was very human. He is said to have “opened his soul to us” in his writing. 

Shiki, too, used haiku to record any genuine emotion, no matter how ephemeral or unimportant it might seem, and was criticized for publishing a good deal of second-rate work.  Many also felt that his style was nearly impossible to retain in translation.  The following are a few favorites for their universal appeal:

On a spring road —

“Backward I gaze;

one whom I had chanced to meet

is lost in haze.”


On how to spend a (perfect) spring day —

“A day of spring;

a hamlet where not anyone

is doing anything.”


On reading the Manyoshu (the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry) —

“And no one knows

who wrote it — this springtime



And one more from Shiki —

“A long-forgotten thing:

a pot where now a flower blooms —

this day of spring!”


Dogwood; Photo:KFawcett

Dogwood; Photo:KFawcett


“They blossom, and then

we gaze, and then the blooms

scatter, and then…”








  1. This is a beautiful post, gorgeous flowers, lovely poems. Violets are making my weed ridden yard nearly elegant. Love spring!

    • Thanks Mayla. I love poetry and I’m having fun this month sharing some of my favorites for National Poetry Month. Spring is so lovely and it goes by way too fast!

  2. And a Happy Spring to you too!!!!  Thanks for all tghe haiku poetry and the lovely spring bloom photos! KathyApr 24, 2013 05:16:08 PM, wrote:

    ktzefr posted: “Celebrating National Poetry Month with a haiku or two…  Haiku masters can often say more in a handful of words than a novelist can say in three hundred.  I was thinking about this on my morning walk as I photographed the neighborhood in bloom: a haiku”

    • Thanks Kathy! I love this season and it’s far too short.

  3. amazing posts . thumbs up, would like to read more of such articles.

    • Thanks Daniel!

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