sketching

Written for:  Carpe Diem Weekend Meditation #112 Transformation … sketching from life (Shiki’s Shasei technique)
“And for this weekend meditation I have chosen a haiku by that other famous haiku master, Masaoka Shiki. In this episode I love to challenge you to re-create a haiku by Shiki into a Tanka. Maybe you can remember that Shiki has a certain haiku writing technique named “shasei”. Let me introduce this technique again here.”

Though this technique is often given Shiki’s term Shasei (sketch from life) or Shajitsu (reality), it has been in use since the beginning of poetry in the Orient. The poetic principle is “to depict the thing just as it is”. The reason Shiki took it up as a poetical cause, and this made it famous, was his own rebellion against the many other techniques used in haiku. Shiki was, by nature it seemed, against whatever was the status quo – a true rebel. If older poets had overused any idea or method, it was his personal goal to point this out and suggest something else. This was followed until someone else got tired of it and suggested something new. This seems to be the way poetry styles go in and out of fashion.

Thus, Shiki hated associations, contrasts, comparisons, wordplays, puns, and riddles – all the things we are cherishing here! He favored the quiet simplicity of just stating what he saw without anything else happening in the haiku. He found the greatest beauty in the common sight, simply reported exactly as it was seen, and ninety-nine percent of his haiku written in his style. Many people still feel he was right. There are some moments that are perhaps best said as simply as possible in his way. Yet, Shiki himself realized in 1893, after writing very many haiku in this style, that used too much, even his new idea could become lackluster. So the method is an answer, but never the complete answer of how to write a haiku.”

Sketching from life —
eggplants are harder to do
than pumpkins                                             © Masaoka Shiki (Tr. Burton Watson)

while fresh figs are more difficult
than rounded apples                                    © Sara McNulty

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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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