Today marks the end of autumn and the beginning of winter according to the old calendar and the hokku/daoku calendar. It is the ancient holiday of Samhain, pronounced Sah-win. It is the traditional beginning of the most yin time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere — the beginning of the dark of the year, a time of turning inward and conserving our energy.

In hokku and daoku it is also the time of contrasts, when we become very aware of the opposites of light and dark, heat and cold, movement and stillness, sound and silence.

This verse by Taigi acts for us as a kind of transition verse as we cross from autumn to winter:

Sweeping them up,
And then not sweeping them up;
The fallen leaves.

When the colored leaves of autumn first begin to fall, we sweep them up. But as the season progresses and we enter winter, we are overwhelmed with them, and just accept the inevitable and let them fall and lie where they fall. And in that there is a sense of release and peace.

A very Happy Halloween/Samhain to you all.



This morning I received a message from a reader asking why Jane Reichhold’s book Bashō: the Complete Haiku did not seem to have a verse attributed to Bashō found in the old Peter Pauper Press series book The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku Second Series (1958), apparently translated by Peter Beilinson.  I thought perhaps my answer might be of interest to other readers of this site as well, so here it is in slightly modified form:

First, I would not recommend Reichhold’s book, because in my view the “translations” are often misleading at best, and more Reichhold than Bashō.  I read it once from the library when it came out, and did not think it worth adding to my own library.
The version you gave from the Peter Pauper Press is:
Under my tree-roof
Slanting lines of April rain
Separate to drops.
I have modified the format.  Actually, the book gives it in four all-capitalized lines with no punctuation.
That appears to be a very loose and free interpretation of this not-so-good hokku by Bashō:
Harusame no koshita ni tsutau shimizu kana
Spring-rain ’s tree-down at running clear water kana
In normal English:
Spring rain
Running down the tree —
Clear water.
The meaning is essentially this:
Spring rain;
It runs down the tree
As clear water.
I did find Reichhold’s version online, given as:
spring rain / trickling down a tree / clear water spring
I don’t know what page it is on in her book, because as I said, I never bought her book; just read through a copy from the library when it came out.
Now oddly enough, the Peter Pauper series’  loose interpretation of the verse — if slightly modified — actually makes a rather good hokku if we remove the words “my” and “roof”:
Under the tree,
Slanting lines of spring rain
Separate to drops.
It is a far cry from Bashō’s original hokku and has quite a different meaning, but in my opinion it is actually much better. 



Aesthetically, there are several things that distinguish daoku from modern haiku, and one is punctuation.  While haiku often makes do with merely a hyphen or no punctuation at all, daoku makes full use of the benefits of various punctuation marks.  The two parts of daoku are separated by an appropriate punctuation mark, the daoku ends with a punctuation mark, and there may be additional punctuation within the verse.

The purpose of this is to guide the reader through the verse in a smooth and effective manner.

In 1494 the humanist book publisher in Venice — Aldus Manutius — created a new and very useful punctuation mark.  He wanted something between the brevity of a comma (,) and the stronger pause of the colon (:).  So he combined both into the semicolon (;).

The simplicity of this is striking.  Many people today are confused by the so-called rules of punctuation — all of which were devised later and sometimes disagree.  But the basic purpose and principle is quite simple, and easily seen in contemporary hokku and its sub-category, daoku.  The comma, the semicolon, the colon, and the period are all variations in length and feeling of pause.

The comma is a brief pause:

I stopped, and then I continued on.

The semicolon is a longer pause:

I stopped; and then I continued on.

The colon is an even longer and stronger pause:

I stopped: and then I continued on.

And the period is the strongest and longest pause:

I stopped.  And then I continued on.

It is just that simple.

In daoku the most frequently used punctuation mark is the semicolon.  Its purpose is to provide a meditative pause between the longer and shorter parts of the verse, as in this example by Gyodai:


The autumn hills;
Here and there,
Smoke rising.

As presented here, we first encounter the autumn hills, and pause momentarily to see and experience them in our minds.  And then looking here and looking there, we see the little columns of smoke rising.

Again the purpose of punctuation is to guide the reader, and it has a strong effect on how the verse is experienced; so punctuation is very important in both contemporary hokku in general and daoku (objective hokku) in particular.