Naviarhaiku204 – the pear blossoming…

the pear blossoming…
after  the battle this
ruined  house

(nashi saku ya
ikusa no ato no
kuzure ie)

Shiki is at the same time the last of the Great Masters of Haiku and the first poet of modern haiku. He was the first to use the word “haiku”, therefore separating it once and for all from the renga: before then, the “hokku” was simply the opening stanza of this Japanese collaborative linked poem.

Shiki was seriously ill with spinal tuberculosis for most of his life: this had a strong impact on his works as much of his poetry concerns the minutiae of sick-room life.

During his time in China as a war correspondent, Shiki wrote a battlefield haiku, which we’ll use this week for our music challenge.

In his book “Haiku Handbook”, William J. Higginson compares Shiki’s poem with a famous poem by Basho, included in “The Narrow Road to the Interior”:

summer grass…
those mighty warriors’

Comparing the two, Higginson says:

“Shiki writes a poem that gives us a vision of human nature and the rest of nature intertwined in contemporary battle ruins and pear blossoms, and at the same time he pokes a kind of fun at the naive veneration of ancient warriors expressed in Basho’s haiku. He contrasts the broad landscape of a battlefield, suggested in Basho’s poem, with the remains of a house, probably the home of some family now refugees, or worse. The bravery of legendary heroes, with the commonness of everyday living, both destroyed by war. By including a ruined house, rather than a ruined castle or fort, and writing at the scene of a recent battle, rather than of some long-ago event, Shiki has modernized the haiku, brought it into the present tense, and made the cruelty of war, rather than its grandeur, a fit subject for haiku.”

Make music in response to Shiki’s poem in 7 days: more info at


Deadline: 6th December 2017

Poem by Masaoka Shiki

Picture by Elias Schupmann