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Haiku Classic: Nov. 18, 2018

mono okeba soko ni umarenu aki no kage


    putting something down

    in doing so they come to be

    shadows in autumn

    Kyoshi Takahama (1874-1959). From "550 haiku" (1943)

    There is a decided lack of concreteness in this haiku, even though as a rule, haiku should be as concrete as possible. This helps to convey a scene in such a way that the reader can feel they are actually there and experiencing the same haiku moment as the poet. The lack of concreteness therefore suggests that multiple objects were placed on a surface and that each thereby produced a shadow that did not exist in the world before that object was placed. The kanji that is used for "shadow" is not the usual, general-purpose one, with the nuance solely being that of missing sunlight, but rather one that suggests hidden places, that the objects included at least one botanical object such as a branch or a fruit, and that the shadows belong to autumn rather than just occurring while it is autumn. The ability to use different kanji with the same pronunciation but different nuances, many of which are hard to translate into a short English-language translation, is a very useful tool when crafting a haiku in Japanese.

    Selected, translated and commented on by Dhugal J. Lindsay

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