Haiku for Four Seasons

September 10, 2008
By Malea Grubb, Raleigh, NC

The world is guided through time by the four seasons of nature. The Japanese poet, Basho, masterfully captures the essence of the seasons through the Japanese poetic method of haiku. Rich with imagery, Bash stunningly captures spring, summer, autumn, and winter in just three lines of verse.

In “Haiku for Four Seasons,” Basho first illustrates the season spring, followed by summer. “The fragrant orchid:/ Into a butterfly’s wings/ It breathes the incense” (“Spring”). Basho uses the adjective, “fragrant,” to describe the orchid, which represents the essence of springtime, to aid the reader in placing themselves in the middle of springtime taking in for themselves the intoxicating perfume of an orchid’s scent. Immediately, the reader of this poem is transported by beautiful verse to another season, time, and place by figurative language. “Toward the sun’s path/ Hollyhock flowers turning/ In the rains of summer” (“Summer”). The first line of this haiku creates an atmosphere of warmth, as the poet writes of being in the light of the sun. Furthermore, in the last two lines, Basho goes further to turn words into images of actions. As a result of Basho’s writing of turning flowers in a hot rain, the reader creates an image of a dance of flowers in a summer rain in his or her mind. Thus, Basho’s adept mastery of words gives the reader of his poems an acute awareness of his or her own senses.

As in “Spring” and “Summer,” Basho uses imagery in “Autumn” and “Winter.” “On a bare branch/ A crow is perched—/ Autumn evening” (“Autumn”). In this haiku, Basho makes use of a descriptive literary device, a metaphor. He describes “autumn evening” as a crow perched upon a branch empty of leaves. This metaphor abstractly gives the reader further insight on Basho’s interpretation of autumn. “The winter sun— / Frozen on the horse,/ My shadow” (“Winter”). Basho makes use of irony in this haiku, for it is unexpected to read of a freezing sun. Undoubtedly, this interesting use of language evokes the reader’s own thoughts. Therefore, the two haikus “Autumn” and “Winter” convey the seasons’ essence in just three lines each.

In essence, Basho’s wonderful descriptions and colorful, sensory imagery present in his haikus of the four seasons succeed in capturing the reader’s interest and create a vivid understanding of Basho’s point of view. In conclusion, each haiku in “Haiku for Four Seasons” depicts the wonders of nature.

The author's comments:

Though a proud native of Texas, Malea has traveled throughout the United States and Europe as a professional ballet dancer. Upon her high school graduation in 2007, Malea relocated to Vienna, Austria to dance with the Vienna State Opera Ballet School, one of the most prestigious ballet training academies in the world. She currently resides in Raleigh, NC, where she dances with the Carolina Ballet. Known fondly as the ballet company bookworm, Malea is a voracious reader who has been known to devour several books a day. Her favorite pastimes include spending time with friends and family, watching classic films, and playing with her Chihuahua puppy.

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