Unison (shoowa) . honkadori


Unison (shoowa 唱和)

Other than a renku, which uses different words, a "unison" haiku uses mostly the same words of the original; the poet changes just a few to show his appreciation of the original. This technique is used when two haiku poets are very close and respect each other.
It can also be used when writing a thank you note or greeting note to a haiku friend, using one of his haiku and make a "twin poem".

Photo © Gabi Greve, 2001


Santoka and Hosai

mo hitori も一人

Santoka in unison with Hosai Koji's haiku:

The cawing of a crow -
I also am alone.


* Osaki Hosai 尾崎放哉 was a haiku poet who belonged to the same school of free haiku originated by Seisensui Ogiwara. Santoka and he knew of each other but never met.
Hosai wrote many poems of his loneliness and the below poem is in unison with this famous haiku:

Even coughing -
I am alone.


© terebess.hu

CLICK for original LINK .

. Santoka and Ozaki .


 © 大岡 信 Ooka Makoto






ruiku 類句 similar poem, similar haiku



ume ichi-rin ichirin hodo no atatakasa

Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707)

ume ichirin ichirin dake ja haru samushi

one plum blossom
just one plum blossom -
spring is still cold

Gabi Greve

Read the discussion HERE !


With allusion and with honkadori,
if the reader does not know the original you are referring to, he will think all the lines of a haiku are original from the poet.

So if you write a haiku with an allusion, better give a footnote with the quote you are referring to.

I tend to call this "Haiku in Context".

Japanese haiku poets were lucky to write in a rather closed society during the Edo period, educated poeple knew what they knew and could compose haiku with allusions to the Chinse classics and old waka without a problem. A translation for a European or American audience is usually not enough, it needs more information of the Japanese background.
Therefore when translating from Japanese, I can not expect the European reader to know all the cultural implications, so I give more background information and present the translation as a "Haiku in Context".

Haiku should be a "stand alone",
but only if the proper context is know to all readers.

This is hard to accomplish in a worldwide online haiku scene.
Therefore I propagate

Haiku in Context

also for haiku magazines and publications.

Writing honkadori is not the work of a copycat (copy cat), but a work showing respect to the masters.
But if you are not sure, best give a link or note to the haiku you are referring to, when you attempt to write one.

Even using a kigo is kind of a honkadori,
since you are now in company with all the haiku poets who used this kigo before.

Gabi Greve


I can well understand if someone finds in a magazine or website a haiku which resembles strongly to the one he/she has had published before and feels that his/her work has now been stolen or somehow violated, with a possibility that it may well have been plagiarised. Many would feel the same even if the resemblances were slight. The sentiment must in essence be the same as when one comes home only to find that the house has been burgled.
This is a natural reaction. However, is it that simple?

First and foremost, why should one be so negative about it? Positively, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” If one’s haiku is copied to a larger or lesser extent, it can mean that someone else has thought it is worth copying. If the act is sincere, it is a form of praise. It can also mean that others wish to learn from it, in which case one is inadvertently spreading good influence among the fellow haiku poets. Man is an imitating animal. We imitate right from the time we are born. We do it more or less all the time. How would we acquire a language, except by imitation? Indeed, 99 per cent of what we are, what we know, what we say and what we write may be not ours! And that is not a bad thing at all. Without it, our society, nation or even the whole world would collapse. So, to be genuinely original is not an easy thing to achieve in real terms, if not impossible, and significantly it has always been feared or rejected as something dangerous. This is an important point for a haiku poet to bear in mind before he/she goes out and shouts that his/her haiku has been copied.

Secondly, if one’s haiku is created independently and in isolation to the one similar to it, there is in reality and virtually nothing the other author can do about it. If both of them are good, that is something we haiku poets (and non-haiku poets) should celebrate for them and for ourselves. If one of them is bad, that should show up in everybody’s eyes and the matter should end there. If both of them are bad, they should be discarded quietly and no dispute should arise.

Thirdly, learning has always been imitating (emulating is the correct word) in Japan and haiku is a Japanese product. This is still largely true, though there are exceptional individuals who go their own ways (mainly as a result of Western influence). Students learn in the way they will become more and more like their teachers and hopefully as good as them.

... However, these educational institutions cannot adequately provide all the students with all their needs because there are so many gaps one wants to learn. Special subjects such as haiku are especially the case in point. Courses in haiku and those qualified to teach haiku in them are really few and far between in the world, outside Japan. All this means that haiku is an untested, un-taught, uncharted and unexplored territory which can become either a new and exciting fertile ground for literary creation or a wasteland leading to such undesirable concomitants as “anything goes”, the whole world becoming haiku wild west, mushrooming of self-appointed teachers, the blind leading the blind, deteriorating quality, misconceptions becoming rules, poems of little value mass produced in haiku factories and put on shelves of haiku super markets, inferior works becoming worshiped and emulated, one dominating trend pervading every corner of the world etc. etc.

... Follow tradition first, and only then, start seeking originality, and if you are not quite sure at times about the quality of the originality always do not fail to come back to the tradition. In other words, tradition should be the starting point and should remain the reference point. If you are learning about pine trees from pine trees and about bamboos from bamboos, or follow what people in the past sought and not the people themselves (idolatry), you should learn about haiku from the Japanese haiku tradition and follow what the Japanese haiku poets of the past sought.

Susumu Takiguchi
source : WHR December 2011



by Susumu Takiguchi

The literal meaning of haiku poems written by Santoka Taneda (1882-1940) is not that difficult to convey in translation into different languages. This is mainly because his words are clear, specific and plain. However, the style, choice of words and the rhythm of his haiku so distinct in the original Japanese get largely lost in translation. They are so distinct that ironically it is not difficult at all to create Santoka-like haiku in Japanese.

As far as I know, there has been little attempt by any Japanese haiku writers to compose haiku in the style of Santoka or even by imitating his works. In his days there were obviously poets of the vers libre school such as the group called Soun, who wrote haiku poems similar in style to Santoka, and of course there was Hosai Ozaki (1885-1926). This is somewhat puzzling when compared with poets like Kyoshi Takahama (1874-1959) in whose style millions of Japanese haiku poets have written their works.
There are millions of copycats for Kyoshi and none for Santoka.

source : terebess.hu


CLICK for original link kibami.jugem.jp
The Honkadori Project

'honka-dori, honkadori ほんかどり【本歌取り】

Strictly speaking, this is a technical term for waka and renga, and later was also adoped for haikai-no-renga with specific rules about its use. It therefore is not really a term to be used for haiku but nevertheless people do. Honka in honka-dori, also called moto-uta, means an original poem (if it is an original text or episode, it is called hon-setsu).

Honka-dori is an action to write a new poem but alluding to a honka.
When writing a honkadori about a poem which is not so well known, the author should introduce the original, state his reasons for writing his own version and then write it down too. Thus the reader will know it is not a "stand alone", but a "haiku in context".

. striking a temple bell
Soseki and Shiki

. blue sharks, whales, seals and blossoms
Kaneko Tohta and the Danrin schooll

. The old Buddha Statues of Nara
Basho and Masaoka Shiki


yo ni furu mo sara ni shigure no yadori kana

life in this world
just like a temporary shelter
from a winter shower

Soogi 宗祇(そうぎ) Iio Sogi (1421 - 1502)
Tr. Ueda Makoto

yo ni furu mo sara ni Soogi no yadori kana

life in this world
just like a temporary shelter
of Sogi's

Matsuo Basho
Tr. Ueda Makoto

WKD . winter drizzle (shigure) .


negurushiki fuseya o dereba natsu no tsuki

hard to find sleep
I get up and outside
the summer moon

Yosa Buson

Kawaguchi ya yubune o dereba natsu no tsuki

Kawaguchi -
I get out of the bathtub and outside
the summer moon

Masaoka Shiki



"There is nothing new in the world
except the history you do not know."

--Harry S. Truman

An Introduction to Déjà-ku
by Michael Dylan Welch

Déjà-ku: The Problem of Haiku Uniqueness

There's the rub. Writing similar poems should never be a problem. Let yourself be free to write. Editing and selection comes later. Only when one wishes to publish might one have to think about whether a poem is fresh or distinct enough. If a poem is too similar to something already published, then perhaps the newer poem should not be published, for only one person can be "first to the patent office." Editors will also help with this matter, as best they can. This step requires a certain degree of "haiku literacy"--knowing the literature well enough to know whether certain subjects have been written about, and in what ways.

This is complicated by problems of translation and various wordings for the same poem. No one can be expected to keep up with all haiku in Japanese and English, including all the translations going back and forth. Thus I think we should all be understanding when a poem may get too close to another. There are limits, but unless it's willful plagiarism, I think we should be tolerant and understanding of each other and the similarity of some of our poems.

In the cases of the "good" kind of déjà-ku-- parody, homage, and allusion-- there is little for the writer to worry about beyond what one should be concerned about in any sort of haiku: Will the reader understand it, get the connection to the other poem, and feel the same feelings that the poet felt in having a given experience? None of these sorts of poems can reach their full potential, of course, unless the reader knows the poem that is being referred to.

Read the full essay here
© Michael Dylan Welch, Simply Haiku

................... One of my own examples

late autumn sun -
the shadows of leaves
on leaves

What a Coincidence !

autumn deepens
the shadow of a leaf
on a leaf


Mine was written in response to Ray Rasmussen's photo on Mitsuge Abe's Photo Haiku Gallery, you can see it here: Photo Haiku Gallery

What is it they say, "Great minds run in the same track..."?


plagierized haiku <>
does it really come
from MY heart ?

plagierized haiku <>
how much does style
matter ?

first minus morning -
is winter plagiarizing
itself ???

minus centigrade, that is here in Japan. All is white with frost.
And it is the same feel as the first minus morning last year ... COLD !

Gabi Greve


Waking from Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream?
-- Plagiarism or Honkadori
by Chen-ou Liu

Veteran haiku poet and editor Cor van den Heuvel gives an incisive explanation about these perspective differences:
“If a haiku is a good one, it doesn’t matter if the subject has been used before. The writing of variations on certain subjects in haiku, sometimes using the same or similar phrases (or even changing a few words of a previous haiku), is one of the most interesting challenges the genre offers a poet and can result in refreshingly different ways of ‘seeing anew’ for the reader.
This is an aspect of traditional Japanese haiku which is hard for many Westerners, with their ideas of uniqueness and Romantic individualism, to accept.
But some of the most original voices in haiku do not hesitate to dare seeming derivative if they see a way of reworking an ‘old’ image.”

source : Simply Haiku, Autumn 2010, Vol. 8. No. 2

Modes of Quoting: Parody and Honkadori
Akiko Tsukamoto

Through a large part of its known history Japanese culture showed certain characteristics that made it relatively easy for it to serve as container for foreign cultural content by providing clever and skillfully selective devices for the borrowing and importing of elements of various cultures and keeping and re-shaping them in its own way. It is also true that the Japanese have traditionally not cared as much as Westerners about the originality and novelty of their ideas or styles.

The 'art of quoting', Honkadori, appeared later, in the Kamakura period (11th to 13th century).

Honkadori emerged in the Kamakura period, when there were few anonymous poems, and most authors tried to display their originality whilst at the same time demonstrating the historical continuity of Japan.

In traditional rhetorical theory one comes across the term 'allusion', which is a kind of quoting in a wide sense, but in a narrower sense it breaks a fundamental rule of quoting: an allusion contains no explicit reference.

Parody has been called a parasitic and derivative art and has on occasion been seen as the philistine enemy of creative genius and vital originality.

The Japanese did not fully recognise the value of originality or respect formal copyright; and the spiritual value of a work of art, which was the essential point of it, was considered not to come from the artist but rather from the artist’s spiritual state which allowed him to directly access an absolute Truth or Way. The True Way is found and lost, and one cannot 'own' it, a way of thinking central to Buddhist philosophy. The effect was to reduce, if not exactly eliminate, the perception that the artist was an original creator.

However, whether a Honkadori is successful or not depends on the particular effect which appears or does not appear at the stage of appreciation. Teika’s aesthetics always assumes an objective reader possessing full knowledge and the ability to grasp well-made allusions and references.
Of course, if an actual reader does not know the original poem he may fail to grasp and appreciate it, but Japanese court poetry was intended for a class of connoisseurs, which of course is the only context in which this sort of use of quotation can play the desired role.

The practice of Honkadori will be summed up in several key points:
the quotation of an old poem is used to make one’s present situation emotionally more explicit. In this case the present situation becomes an example, or representation, or repetition of the old poem. The present vague 'my situation' acquires a definite contour and objectivity, thanks to the type or model. Thus it is no longer 'private' and can be understood by others.
by using the old poem as a 'raw material' and the operation of quoting, one can re-shape the old poem and make the intention and technique of re-shaping itself the object of appreciation.
In both cases the situation in which the quoted poem was created is of central importance. In the first case to absorb the present situation into the model, and in the second case quotation is enjoyed only in the present context.

Read the full article HERE
Simply Haiku, Vol. 2, 2004


aki fukaki tonari wa nani o suru hito zo
. autumn deepens (aki fukaki) the KIGO

aki fukaki haijin wa nani o kaku hito zo

autumn deepens -
I wonder what my haiku friends
are writing right now

Gabi Greve, November 2010


Parody - 滑稽 kokkei

Poets also like to parody a famous haiku, just remember the 100 FROG haiku.

100 Frogs ... One Hundred Frogs

If the haiku is not so famous, it is better to state the one of origin too.

The same holds for haiku that you write "being inspired by a haiku of Mr./Mrs. xyz".
There is nothing wrong with doing this, as long as you state (best with HTML) where you got your inspriation from.


An allusion is a reference to, or representation of, a place, event, literary work, myth, or work of art, either directly or by implication.

. Allusion used in Haiku  


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1 comment:

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Masaoka Shiki

haru ya mukashi juugomangoku no jookamachi

it's spring - in olden times
this castle town
of onehundred fiftythousand KOKU

Takahama Kyoshi

yaya samu ya ichimangoku no jookamachi

light cold in autumn -
this castle town
of ten thousand KOKU

about castle towns and kokudaka riches