Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011

Haruo Shirane: Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson and Modern Haiku myths

Geert Verbeke: Haiku Study & Photo Haibun

David Burleigh: In and Out of Japan: The Contours of Haiku

Robert D. Wilson: Kigo – The Heathbeat of Haiku

Michael Dylan Welch: Haiku Form and Content

Richard Gilbert: Kigo and Seasonal Reference: Cross-cultural Issues in Anglo-American Haiku

Robert D. Wilson: Study of Japanese Aesthetics: Part I: The Importance of Ma

Matthew M. Carriello: The Contiguous Image: Mapping Metaphor in Haiku

Richard Gilbert: The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A Study of Disjunctive Method and Definitions in Contemporary English-
language Haiku

Bruce Ross: The Essence of Haiku

Robert D. Wilson: Study of Japanese Aesthetics: Part II: Reinventing The Wheel: The Fly Who Thought He Was a Carabao

Anatoly Kudryavitsky: Tranströmer and his Haikudikter

Anatoly Kudryavitsky: Haiku Poets' Last Line of Defence

Michael F. Marra: Yūgen

Robert D. Wilson: Simply Haiku Winter 2011 issue's Featured Poet: Slavko Sedlar



Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Ireland


Vera Markova’s “Ten Haiku Lessons”



Vera Markova (1907-1995), Russian poet and academic, was renowned for her translations from classical Japanese poetry. She began translating Japanese tanka and haiku at the end of the 1960s, and less than ten years later published her translations from thirty poets, from Saigyô to Bashô to Kobayashi Issa, in the anthology Classical Japanese Poetry, which has since been regularly reprinted in Russia. A very interesting poet in her own right (and a life-long friend of the famous Marina Tsvetayeva), Vera Markova was a fluent Japanese speaker and travelled to Japan twice, on one occasion to receive from Emperor Hirohito an honorary medal commemorating her efforts in promoting Japanese culture abroad.

In her essay entitled “Hokku”, published in the afore-mentioned anthology, Prof. Markova analysed Bashô’s work, and in the following years used some of the topics highlighted in that essay in her lectures to university students. She taught them to appreciate Japanese tanka and haiku, but also tried to stir up their creativity.

Later, Prof. Markova wrote a short text offering a few suggestions for aspiring haiku writers. She added a few of her favourite quotations from Bashô, and at a later stage even included the opinion I gave while discussing the “Hokku” essay with her, making me the third partner in that imaginary conversation, which was most flattering. She arranged parts of the text, belonging to its three authors, in a manner resembling that of the old Japanese masters of renga, linked verse. Her students used to call the text “Vera Markova’s ten haiku lessons”.

These “Haiku Lessons” are reprinted here. I should mention that, as some readers may already have guessed, Vera Markova was the person who once introduced me to haiku, and so started me on an exciting and unpredictable journey…


  1. Allow your reader to think his way into your haiku. A revelation occurs when your and his thoughts meet at a halfway point. (VM)
  2. Watch the River Sunagawa flow: it is not trying to be deep. (MB)
  3. Bashô enjoyed reading and re-reading classical Chinese poetry, especially Tu Fu. There’s still plenty of water left in that well.(VM)
  4. Don’t follow good dead poets but search for what they searched for. (MB)
  5. The underlying theme of Bashô’s work is compassion. He avoided grotesque and mockery, and rightly so. (VM)
  6. Colour is important in haiku writing, however a “monochrome” haiku can sometimes have even a stronger effect on the reader. (AK)
  7. Don’t try to be witty every time you write haiku: numerous “comic” haikai-renga, written over the course of several centuries, are remembered merely because Shiki used the “hai” syllable for the word “haiku” that he invented. And bear in mind that “hai” means “joke” but also “surprise, an unusual thing”. (VM)
  8. Hokku can’t be assembled from component parts. Poet’s work is similar to that of a goldsmith. (MB)
  9. Bashô became the great poet Bashô only when his hokku reached the state of karumi (a Japanese word meaning “lightness, simple beauty”.) (VM)
  10. Haiku are always set in the present moment. Nevertheless, listen out for history breathing behind our contemporaries’ backs. (VM)


MB  – Matsuo Bashô
VM  – Vera Markova
AK  – Anatoly Kudryavitsky



(First published in Poetry Ireland Newsletter, November / December 2006)