under blue skies to gaze at

and sit with the worms


This poem was written in response to Carpe Diem Utabukuro #2 theme: summertime, another great prompt hosted by Chèvrefeuille at Carpe Diem Haiku Kai. This feature is for sharing your favourite haiku or tanka with Haiku Kai and putting them into the “poem bag” or Utabukuro.

For this episode the theme is “summertime” and we were asked to explain why we chose a specific haiku or tanka and than write an all new haiku or tanka inspired by it. I’m choosing two poems by Issa, which I read today whilst having lunch on a hill by a lake, under a blue sky.


this dewdrop world –

it may be a dewdrop,

and yet – and yet –



were it sweet,

it would be my dew,

his dew



So, why do I like these two haiku?

The “dewdrop world” in the first haiku refers to the Buddhist idea of this world being a temporary illusion, which quickly fades away. For Issa, who was a Buddhist priest, this idea was second nature. However, when Issa wrote this poem his child had recently died; so, while acknowledging the “dewdrop world”, the haiku ends with the doubtful refrain “and yet” – because, ultimately, ideas can be a pretty poor defence against emotions and Issa wants his child back, desperately, despite himself. There’s a nakedness and honesty and simple, sad humanity to the poem.

The second poem is completely different, despite the return of the dew. In this haiku, Issa looks at the beauty of the natural world at its most basic and fundamental level – the dew glinting on the grass. There it is, sparkling for everyone, regardless; and he realises that if it had any quality that could be commercialised and turned into profit, then it would no longer be everyone’s: it would be packaged up and sold to those people who could afford it. Essentially, it skewers the ‘modern’ attitude to life so deftly, so wryly, that it’s a pleasure to make the guy’s acquaintance.

All of the poems in the link-up can be read here. And, to finish, here’s Chic (because Nile Rodgers’ guitar sounds like the dew, to me, anyway) –

5 thoughts on “Once

  1. Sitting with the worms — another extraordinary Sue Blake image! The rhythm is so off-balance that it adds to the meaning of your haiku — as if you want us to grapple with the contradiction of blue skies / worms and life / death. **Really** grapple with it. Nicely done — !

    • Thanks, Jen. After spending ages to get a smooth flow to what you write, sometimes you have to break that flow, hey. Because this life and death malarkey is a mighty disjointed affair from where I’m standing. Of course, a Buddha sees the underlying smoothness 🙂

      And as I sat on the grass on that hill it occurred to me that I must be sitting with the worms right then – they were chilling, chatting away, just a few inches from me. Glad you liked it!

      • Very much!

        It *is* pretty chilling. I’m glad you broke with the smooth flow — works so well here. It was worth the chance 🙂

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