A spring daoku hokku by Kodō (my loose translation):

The spring wind:
Cloud shadows moving
Across the field of barley.

We could also write it like this:

The spring wind;
Cloud shadows move
Across the field of barley.

It is very reminiscent of Kyoroku’s

A cool breeze;
Cloud shadows passing
Over the green fields.


A cool breeze;
Cloud shadows pass
Over the green fields.

Over the past years of discussing hokku here, I paid much attention to the Japanese context of a verse — often giving the original in Japanese. Having done that for a great many hokku over time, from now on I want to focus more on using the old hokku as examples of how to write new hokku in English.

That means I will pay less attention to giving very literal transliterations and translations, and more to just using the old hokku as they would be written in English — which often means a loose translation, and maybe at times even putting an old verse into a specifically Western context.

Of course there will be no change in the basic aesthetics of the hokku as I teach it — the form remains the same, as does the subject matter: Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature.

I hope this approach will encourage new writers of hokku in English. Most of the principles given here are also easily adaptable to many other languages, for those who write in German or Dutch or French or Russian or Welsh or Spanish or Italian or whatever your first language may be.


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