Simply Haiku: An E-Journal – Interview with David Barnhill
RW: Haikai, Hokku, and Haiku. These terms can be confusing. Please explain. Is there a difference between the terms?

DB: Haikai means something like “comic” or “vulgar,” something that does not fit the strict confines of courtly culture. Renga (linked verse) had been a courtly verse, but some wanted to break the mold and expand the range of renga, and so haikai no renga was developed. Basho’s genius was his combination of that free-spiritedness with aesthetic and religious depth. Sometimes he used the term haikai as a broader term for literary art, even art in general, if it had this more complex haikai spirit. So we can think of him as a haikai (not haiku) poet. Hokku, on the other hand, is the opening stanza of a renga sequence. It was so important that it eventually began to take on a life of its own, with poets writing just the hokku without the linked sequence. Basho wrote hokku (not haiku) poems. The great modern poet Shiki wanted to sever hokku from its function in a linked verse, and he emphasized the aesthetic of a “sketch” of a moment of nature. To indicate this change, he used a new term, haiku, for what had been called hokku. So haiku is a modern term Basho did not use. But the term haiku is ingrained in our culture, even when thinking of Basho. The result is indeed confusion. If we want to be historically correct, we should speak of Basho’s hokku. But haiku is the only single term we could use for what Basho wrote and what contemporary poets in Japan and around the world write. I use hokku when I’m in an academic context, haiku when I’m not. We certainly don’t want to get too hung up on terminology.

Basho’s Trail
Basho’s World
Friday in Phoenix
Monday, January 21st
To Translate is to Betray

Wolf Moon

On top of Cold Mountain the lone round moon
Lights the whole clear cloudless sky
Honor this priceless national treasure
Concealed in five shadows, sunk deep in the flesh.


The last moon of the lunar year, the first moon of the western calendar, and the biggest full moon of the year. Are you looking?

SPACE.com — Full Moon Names for 2009
Jan. 10, 10:27 p.m. EST — Full Wolf Moon. Amid the zero cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. It was also known as the Old Moon or the moon after Yule. In some tribes this was the Full Snow Moon; most applied that name to the next moon. The moon will also be at perigee (its closest point to Earth) on this day, at 6:00 a.m. EST, at a distance of 222,138mi. (357,497 km.) from Earth. Very high ocean tides can be expected from the coincidence of perigee with full moon.

Nanao Sakaki

RIP Nanao Sakaki
From a letter written by poet Gary Snyder:
Last night I got word from Japan that Nanao Sakaki had suddenly died. He was living with friends in the mountains of Nagano prefecture in a little cabin. He had stepped out the door in the middle of the night to stargaze or pee and apparently had a severe heart attack. His friends found him on the ground the next morning. Christmas afternoon they’ll hold the otsuya – intimate friends drinking party in his room, sitting with his body — and a cremation after that. He was one of my best friends in this lifetime.

Intimate friends drinking party, sitting with the body… what a nice custom!

Now within a circle ten billion light years large
All thoughts of time, space are burnt away
And there again you sit, pray and sing
You sit, pray and sing.

Found here

First Snow

hatsu yuki ya saiwai an ni makariaru

first snow
great luck to be here
in my own hut.

– Bashō

Thanks Y.

Autumn Moon

Mind like an autumn moon…
Pure, transcendent, elegant.
Beyond comparison with anything else.
How could I possibly explain this to you?

– Han Shan

From the Upaya newsletter.

Clouds now and then

kumo oriori hito wo yasumeru tsukimi kana

clouds now and then
give us a rest:
moon viewing

– Bashō 1685

Beautiful, isn’t it.
Why that is not a Haiku – makes me wonder how the next person followed up that opening verse… how does one follow those lines!!!
Other related links here, here and here.
Thanks Y.