Written for:  Carpe Diem #14, Universal Jane – Basho’s “Old Pond”

an old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)


You can see the haiku has the necessary fragment, (an old pond), and then the phrase, (a frog jumps into the sound of water).
I think you can see why Basho picked “an old pond” for his beginning. It grounds the reader with a familiar image, a trusted image of something nice to think about. He lulls the reader into thinking this is going to be an easy haiku. He even uses the old word for a frog, which now matches the old pond. With the words “jumps into” the reader’s mind is jerked around, with the thought that something is happening (the job of verbs!). At the end of the line one wonders what is coming next and then Basho springs his brand new idea – “the sound of water” which is rather common but is so uncommon in this connection!

The reader must back up to recapture the frog and its jumping to understand that the frog’s sound is not one of croaking but its whole sound is only water. One can also think that the frog is not jumping into actual water, but into the sound he creates as he hits the water. There is a paradox here. Is the frog jumping into water or sound? Can it jump into one without the other? These reverberations of thinking are what make a haiku so interesting, and later – so famous.

croaking frogs
scent of the old pond
in the evening

© Chèvrefeuille (our host)

Here is my attempt:

croaking water
in an old pond, scented
jumping frogs

About purplepeninportland

I am a freelance poet, born and bred in Brooklyn, New York. I live with my husband, John, and two charming rescue dogs–Marion Miller and Murphy. We spent eight lovely years in Portland, OR, but are now back in New York. My goal is to create and share poetry with others who write, or simply enjoy reading poetry. I hope to touch a nerve in you, and feel your sparks as well.
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