October 15: 1-5 (Geese fly), and A Short Discourse on Kigo

geese fly —
towing darkness
behind them

geese fly —
change dribbles
out of my pocket

geese fly —
this lover, too,
is cold

geese fly —
down trickles
out of our pillow

geese fly —
haiku etched
in the sky


I wrote half a dozen more of these, but I wouldn’t inflict them on my suffering public. Fortunately I have a lot of other things to do today or I would probably sit here in a trance free-associating on flying geese all day.

I don’t always use kigo in my haiku nor do I think they’re always necessary or even desirable, but whenever I start to think that they’re an artificial and burdensome construct that should just be tossed out altogether, I go read Basho and Issa and those other long-ago poets who basically created this genre. I’ve been making my way through the David Lanoue-translated Issa: Cup of Tea Poems and that guy (Issa) riffs on kigo like jazz. He takes a kigo like “night cold” or “winter rain” (pages 80 and 81, in case you’re interested) and uses it like a chord, putting it into so many different contexts and surrounding it with so many different tones that you hardly even notice the same phrase has been used in many successive ku. That’s when you start realizing that kigo can actually be the basis for creativity rather than a hindrance to it.


Oh, and hey — don’t forget to send me haiku for my 300th post.

6 thoughts on “October 15: 1-5 (Geese fly), and A Short Discourse on Kigo

  1. Wonderful verses, I could read about your wild geese all day! I also enjoyed your reflections on kigo. I try to use them in all my haiku if only because I am new to the form, and they add focus to my discipline. I sometimes don’t like modern haiku without kigo that seem more like “any old poem written in seventeen syllables” but you are right, a good haiku can stand on its own with or without kigo. Thank you for the poems and the thought-provoking comments!

    • Thank you, and I agree, I don’t like the “any old poem written in [approximately] seventeen syllables” syndrome either. I’m still struggling to define for myself exactly what haiku are, though …

  2. our musings make me smile.

    Kigo are the heart and soul of haiku . . . sure Issa and Basho where the ones to use them skilfully.
    To use kigo vocabulary skilfully is a job to be learned, trial and error, and trial again …
    For me, haiku and kigo are inseparable …

    Keep going on your search for good haiku and good kigo!

    Greetings from Japan.

  3. That’s inspired me to write a series of geese haiku, I’ve seen a lot of geese recently but haven’t yet written the haiku!

    I just discovered your blog and will be back, your haiku are lovely and your other writings are very interesting!

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