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THE HAIBUN GALLERY: 17th November — a Thursday feature

Hosts: Firdaus Parvez and Kala Ramesh

This month we're excited to bring to you excerpts from probably the most famous and iconic book by Basho. It is the beginning of 'haibun' as we know it today. You can find it here



Translated from the Japanese with an introduction by NOBUYUKI YUASA


These translations first published 1966

Reprinted 1968, 1970


Visiting the Suma Beach on the night of the autumnal full moon, Teishitsu, a poet from Kyoto, is said to have written,

Crouching under a pine

I watched the full moon.

Pondering all night long

On the sorrow of Chunagon.

Having for some time cherished in my mind the memory of this poet, I wandered out on to the road at last one day this past autumn, possessed by an irresistible desire to see the rise of the full moon over the mountains of the Kashima Shrine. I was accompanied by two men. One was a master-less youth and the other was a wandering priest. The latter was clad in a robe black as a crow, with a bundle of sacred stoles around his neck and on his back a portable shrine containing a holy image of the Buddha-after-enlightenment. This priest, brandishing his long staff, stepped into the road, ahead of all the others, as if he had a free pass to the World beyond the Gateless Gate. I, too, was clad in a black robe, but neither a priest nor an ordinary man of this world was I, for I wavered ceaselessly like a bat that passes for a bird at one time and for a mouse at another. We got on a boat near my house and sailed to the town of Gyotoku, where, landing from our boat, we proceeded without hiring a horse, for we wanted to try the strength of our slender legs. Covering our heads with cypress hats, which were a kind gift of a certain friend in the province of Kai, we walked along, till, having passed the village of Yahata we came to the endless grass-moor called Kamagai-no-hara. In China, it is said, there is a wide field where one can command a distance of one thousand miles by a single glance, but here our eyes swept over the grass unobstructed, till finally they rested upon the twin peaks of Mount Tsukuba soaring above the horizon. Rising into heaven, like two swords piercing the sky, these peaks vie with the famous twin peaks of Mount Rozan in China.

Not to mention

The beauty of its snow,

Mount Tsukuba shines forth

In its purple robes.

This is a poem written by Ransetsu, my disciple, upon his visit here. Prince Yamatotakeru also immortalized this mountain in his poem, and the first anthology of linked verse was named after this mountain. Indeed such is the beauty of the mountain that few poets have found it possible to pass by it without composing a poem of their own, be it waka or haiku.

Your challenge: Write a haibun about your visit to a temple, mosque or church. Or a temple in the Himalayas, if you have visited it, would be interesting! Infuse it with simple details - and write an effective haiku to cap your narrative.


As always, a good haibun will find its way into the next issue of our fabulous journal. Firdaus and I are eagerly looking forward to reading your haibun.


1. Only two haibun per poet per prompt.

2. Share your best-polished pieces.

3. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while.

4. When poets give suggestions and if you agree to them - post your final edited version on top of your original version.

5. Don't forget to give feedback on others' poems.

We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished haibun (within 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly journal.


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