Clams and chestnuts. Pebbles and fruits. Splitting, parting. I watched the creek as Basho’s haiku rolled around in my mind. This creek is not known for clam shells; few chestnut trees grow on its banks. The banks here are gritty, full of pebbles – and it’s too early for the water to be fruitful with crayfish and trout. And I was presented with a dilemma – for which the green had no answers – until a roar of steel-gray wings split the evening in two.
to be found in the grit –
the heron moves on
Here is our haiku inspiration from Basho:
hamaguri no futami ni wakare yuku aki zo
torn from its shell
Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)
There is so much going on in this haiku – supposedly it is impossible to translate into another language:
“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. So here goes: hama (beach); hamaguri (a clam) however ‘guri’ is also (a chestnut) or (a pebble). And that is only the first line! ‘Futami’ (place name of the port where the famous Wedded Rocks (two large rocks considered to ‘married’ which are considered to be sacred) are such an attraction) is made up of the words ‘futa’ (lid, cover, shell) and ‘mu’ (body, meat, fruit, nut, berry, seed, substance, contents). The word ‘wakare’ can be either (to part or to split) or (to leave). Added to the last line (departing autumn) ‘wakare’ can mean either that it is autumn which is leaving or a person who is departing.”
Our task, then was to write a haiku that considers the many meanings of the words in the original haiku.
Here are our host’s haiku:
taken from the Wedded Rocks
a farewell gift
autumn has gone
the only thing that remains
broken of the Married Rocks
a farewell gift
fallen into the grass
on the seashore
the shell of a hermit crab
I’m especially fond of the fourth haiku as it seems to carry the spirit of the original haiku very well.