among semi-bare branches
too few leaves to hide
the only source of sunshine
floodlights the dying season
Kim M. Russell, 19th November 2020
Frank is our host today for Meeting the Bar, inviting us to revisit the Jisei (Japanese Death Poem), a genre that developed in the literary traditions of East Asian cultures, which offers a reflection on death (in general and concerning the imminent death of the author).
Jisei were often written in waka (tanka) or haiku, but death poems are not restricted to those forms. What is essential is the expression of both imminent death and the significance of life in the face of it. In this sense, Jisei is the poetry of both memorial and celebration.
Frank has shared examples by Basho, Haikuin and Hôjô Ujimasa to inspire our own Jisei. We can write haikai (haiku, senryu, tanka, kyoka, Gogyohka) or haikai-esque poems that reflect on imminent death—and the significance of life in light of it. If we go for the haikai-esque, we should keep them brief, and use the aesthetics of haikai (simplicity, heartfulness, and pathos).