Heeding Haiku With Chèvrefeuille, February 21st 2018, Revise It


Dear friends of MLMM,

This week I have a strange challenge for you I think, but I also think it is fun to work with this challenge. I don’t know if I have done this earlier here at MLMM, maybe I have, but I don’t know that for sure.

This week I love to challenge you to create a revised version of a classical haiku written by one of the renown haiku poets of the 17th century, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). I can almost hear you think “what … do I have to revise a haiku by such a great haiku poet? Yes that’s exactly what I am asking of you.

Revising haiku of renown classical haiku poets I have done often on my own website, and I can say the participants did a great job on several renown haiku.

wedded rocks
Wedded Rocks

Meoto Iwa (夫婦岩) the pair of wedded rocks in Ise Shima take a special place in Japanese mythology. Judged by the number of tourists visiting the place they are without doubt the most photographed rocks in the country.
Meoto means couple in Japanese.  The larger rock symbolizes the husband named Izanagi and has a small Shinto tori gate. The smaller rock to the right is his spouse named Izanami. According to the Shinto legends, the islands in the Japanese archipelago were born of this couple.
The Meoto Iwa rocks are a gateway for Okitama Shinseki, a sacred rock 700 meters offshore, that symbolises the Great God of the Sun. The rocks are joined by a sacred rope made of braided rice stalks weighing a ton. Based on information provided by the nearby shrine, the ropes were hung at least as early as the fourteenth century. Since they are replaced in a special ceremony held by the local people three times a year (May, September and December). (Source: Destination Japan)

Matsuo Basho wrote a haiku about these “wedded rocks” and that’s the haiku which I challenge you to revise.

Wedded Rocks 2

This verse was the last haiku in his haibun “Oku No Hosomichi”, “The Narrow Road Into The Deep North”.

hamaguri no   futami ni wakare   yuku aki zo

a clam
torn from its shell
departing autumn

As I wrote above this is the last verse in Basho’s ‘Oku no Hosomichi’ ‘The Narrow Road to the Far North’. Because there are several word plays at work here, the Japanese maintain that there is no way for the poem to be rendered into another language. So here goes: hama (beach); hamaguri (a clam) however ‘guri’ is also (a chestnut) or (a pebble). And that is only the first line! ‘Futami’ (place name of the port where the famous Wedded Rocks (two large rocks considered to ‘married’ which are considered to be sacred) are such an attraction) is made up of the words ‘futa’ (lid, cover, shell) and ‘mu’ (body, meat, fruit, nut, berry, seed, substance, contents). The word ‘wakare’ can be either (to part or to split) or (to leave). Added to the last line (departing autumn) ‘wakare’ can mean either that it is autumn which is leaving or a person who is departing. In Ogaki, Basho was met by many of his disciples, including Sora who rejoined him, for the end of the trip back to Tokyo. This verse, and the second one in ‘Oku no Hosomichi’ are considered the ‘book-ends’ of the work with partings of Spring and Autumn. (Source: Jane Reichhold’s Old Pond: Basho’s (almost) thousand haiku).

Well … a tough task I think, but I know you all can do it.

Have fun!

When you have written your haiku, please TAG Heeding Haiku with Chèvrefeuille and Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. Then add your link to the Mister Linky widget below.


  1. I’m getting back to writing haiku again and am currently editing many of my previous attempts. This challenge fits well with that. Thank you for the inspiration. – Suzanne


  2. I started reading a couple intepreted readings of Basho’s poem but this one is hard as some of the words are very layered having to do with if he meant it straight or if he was meaning the idiomatic meaning of the time. So I threw up my hands and went for a more straight approach, using some of the words. So the words are revisioned–not the haiku–couldn’t touch Basho’s haiku depth. Sighs. Wish I could. I also found an Ando Hiroshige ukiyoe of the Meoto Iwa done in the last year of his life. I thought that was cool.


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