LEARNING FROM OLD HOKKU

Every good hokku is simultaneously a pleasure and a lesson.  We enjoy the experience of it, but we can also learn how to write our own hokku from it.  Take this verse by Bashō:

In the original it is:

Ochikochi ni   taki no oto kiku   ochiba kana

Literally,

Far-near at   waterfall ‘s sound hear   falling-leaves kana.

We can translate it as:

Far and near,
The sound of waterfalls —
The falling leaves….

Again we may think back to Sōgi in very early hokku, who often used two things joined by a third — a simple but effective way to write hokku.  Here those two things are:

1.  The sound of waterfalls
2.  The falling leaves

And they are joined — united — by the third, which here is the setting — “Far and near.”

In my region this would be an autumn hokku.  The autumn rains have begun and fresh snow has fallen in the high mountains — so the waterfalls will have increased their flow.  Then too, now that November has begun, the leaves are falling in profusion.

Using Bashō’s verse as a learning model, we do not have to stray too far from it to make another autumn hokku:

Far and near,
The cries of wild geese,
The falling leaves.

We have changed only one line, but that has quite altered the verse, making it something new.  See how easy it is to learn from old models?  Only one step, and we have a new hokku.

And of course we could continue to change this line or that line or all of the lines, making countless variations on the pattern that would fit reflections of the present season or any season.

David

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