Winter Haiku Collection

Kambara,Yoru no yuki by Ando Hiroshige

As the heat of summer wears on, winter haiku gives us a chance to think on cold days and all the pleasures of winter. Hot tea. Hot chocolate. Blankets. This collection of haiku includes Basho, Buson, Issa, and a few others. It’s far from exhaustive.

Haiku is a style of poetry that requires plain language and a season reference. It follows a 5-7-5 syllable rule with the 3 lines rarely rhyming. Most haiku seek to suggest a moment in time along with a feeling. It’s tempting to read too much into a haiku. Basho warns us to “prefer vegetable broth to duck soup.” That is, to prefer the literal, plain meaning over seeking something complicated.

Through their haiku you get a sense of each author’s personality. Basho’s work has a melancholy feel similar to the later concept of wabi-sabi. Buson feels observational and more even-tempered while Issa makes you grin.

Haiku focuses on many different topics. Jisei, for example, are poems written before someone dies. The smallness of haiku belies the mix of images and feelings its few words suggest. It’s tempting to read over haiku, but it works better to pause on each poem and savor it. Imagine the picture the words paint and what they suggest. Let’s look at this poem by Buson as an example:

Tethered horse;
Snow
In both stirrups.

I see a cold, wet snow. The horse has been waiting for her master for quite some time. What is her master doing? I picture the horse outside a ryokan, an inn. Her master is enjoying a hotpot with the local farmers who are itching for news from outside their snowed-in village. I sense both solitude and companionship within the fleeting moment. What do you see in the 6-word poem?

As you read these poems, take a moment to notice what images you see and feelings you have.

Winter Haiku Written By Basho

Girl In A Snowstorm. by Utagawa Kuniyasu
Girl In A Snowstorm. by Utagawa Kuniyasu

Come, let’s go
Snow-viewing
Till we’re buried.

Awake at night—
The sound of the water jar
Cracking in the cold.

The winter sun—
On the horse’s back
My frozen shadow.

First winter rain—
Even the monkey
Seems to want a raincoat.

Winter rain—
The field stubble
Has blackened.

First snow
Falling
On the half-finished bridge.

On the cow shed
A hard winter rain;
Cock crowing.

The winter storm
Hide the bamboo grove
And quieted away.

Winter solitude—
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.

Awake at night,
The lamp low,
The oil freezing.

When the winter chrysanthemums go,
There’s nothing to write about
But radishes.

The she cat—
Grown thin
From love and barley.

Winter garden,
The moon thinned to a thread,
Insects singing.

Wintry wind—
Passing a man
With a swollen face.

The winter leeks
Have been washed white –
How cold it is!

All this foolishness
About moons and blossoms
Pricked by the cold’s needle.

Still alive
And frozen in one lump—
The sea slugs.

Winter Haiku Written by Buson

Kameyama, Yukibare by Ando Hiroshige
Kameyama, Yukibare by Ando Hiroshige

Blow of an ax,
Pine scent,
The winter woods.

The sound of a saw;
Poor people,
Winter midnight.

Going home,
The horse stumbles
In the winter wind.

Straw sandal half sunk
In an old pond
In the sleety snow.

Cover my head
Or my feet?
The winter quilt.

Tethered horse;
Snow
In both stirrups.

Flowers offered to the Buddha
Come floating
Down the winter river.

Miles of frost –
On the lake
The moon’s my own.

Winter Haiku Written by Issa

kawase hasui sangedastsu
Sangedastsu by Kawase Hasui

 

The snow is melting
And the village is flooded
With children.

January—
In other provinces
Plums blossoming.

Napped half the day;
No one
Punished me!

From the end of the nose
Of the Buddha on the moor
Hang icicles.

Writing shit about new snow
For the rich
Is not art.

Here,
I’m here—
The snow falling

Various Authors

Confined within doors
A priest is warming himself
Burning a Buddha statue.
– Natsume Soseki

Winter well:
A bucketfuL
Of starlight.
– Horiuchi Toshimi

At the winter solstice
The sun permeates the firmament
Of the mountain province.
– Iida Dakotsu

See the river flow
In a long unbroken line
On the field of snow.
– Boncho

Glittering flakes:
The wind is breaking
Frozen moonlight.
– Horiuchi Toshimi

References

Hass, Robert (1994) The Essential Haiku. NJ, The Ecco Press.