09 June, 2008


Thanks again for all of your haiku - it was a pleasure to read each and every one. Pictured below, the entries. Selecting a winner was impressively difficult - we used Basho's ancient "Seashell Game" method for selecting the eventual winning pair, in which every haiku is paired with similar haiku, in a contest of elimination, until only two remain.

(Click to enlarge)

The runner-up prize goes to JC. Despite only learning Chinese for a single year, he bravely provided a haiku in Chinese pictograms. We found appealing the Zen-like sense of infinite potential, of which we usually only have an imperfect, restricted view. Here's our highly imperfect translation, paired with a humble photo of our own.


strong tea scent -
limitless ability,
limited by the drinker


The first prize (inc. calligraphy) goes to RJ. His haiku is absolutely "my cup of tea", and a very accomplished haiku in its own right. The image is perfectly ambiguous - is it the fading light that wanders over this town with the clouds? The lack of resolution sticks in the mind like a thorn, trying to be resolved, with no resolution possible. It is that irresolution found in koans, that frustrates the mind's rational purpose.

Then, it has a level of wabi-sabi, a serene detachment, a wandering sense of natural purpose that sits very well in haiku, with a melancholy touch. The clouds feel like old Daoist mendicant priests, roaming our towns, treading with light footsteps. Really very good.


fading light
over this town wanders
a shade of clouds


To all entrants, do please send me your addresses, and I'll post your samples and prizes as soon as possible. Other entries from the competition will follow in future articles. Many thanks once again to all for a decided treat.


The Wicked Uncle Dude said...

An excellent idea and how charming to have such educated readers. My education obviously v limited as I have yet to attempt a haiku.

Anonymous said...

that's great

Brooxi said...

Very nice!! Congratulations on being recognized as a Blogger of Note!

Anonymous said...

I love the photos in this blog. PLEASE Keep Posting!

Ron Eklof said...

Excellent choices
Both winner and runner-up
Quiet perceptions

Anonymous said...

Great choices..love the pic relative to the winning entry.

Erin Barney said...

wow...what an amazing an beautiful site you have!!! Photography is beautiful, the haiku is profound, indeed...I write a little poetry myself, if you like to read some dark strange things, check me out! Bravo!

Iago de Otto said...

Hobbes, hey.

Yes, congrats on being recognized by the Google gang as a Blogger of Note. I rarely click on that link, not because of any non-interest but more so in that I miss seeing it, not scrolling down the page but just clicking through to my own blog.

So, it was a pleasant surprise to see what your site contains. I take it that you are a scholar (or at any rate an interested party) of Japanese and/or Chinese studies. It is approaching 6pm where I am writing to you from, so nearing "quitting time", and my fellow colleagues are chatting happily on this Friday late afternoon early evening, there is some classical piano playing from the speaker over my head, and for the most part everyone is speaking Chinese. I am writing to you from a government bureau in Taiwan where I serve (I cannot really call it "work" [even though I get paid for it] because it's a job I totally love) as the "English consultant", which basically makes me a translation editor, although folks here do approach me in a consultative manner at times as well. I am actually from Oregon, but I came here in January '79 with a B.A. in Chinese to work on my conversational Mandarin skills. Well, that was a long time ago, things happen, et cetera et cetera and so forth . . . .

I agree with Erin, your site is beautiful --- in fact I am going to link to your site from mine. I really like the Tai Ji photo too; I have studied Tai Ji (more seriously back in the '80s) under a younger contemporary of Cheng Man-ching, my teacher being Wang Yen-nian.

Okay, it's about time to close down the machine here. I have a train to catch to get across Taipei to the eastern section of the city for a bit of TEFL work twixt 7 and 9 tonight before making the trip back west across the city and into Taipei County where I live in the little burg of Shulin with my sometimes better-half, and yes, she is from here, as in born and raised.

Again, a pleasure to find your site. I will be a return visitor.

Iago de Otto

Anonymous said...

Really nice blog you got here..I'll return to it as I will have time to read all as it is valuable info indeed.

Hobbes said...

Dear Uncle,

Haiku are just a bit of fun - if anything, they're the unlearned poem, free from pretension and artifice. I love their simpicity. :)

Dear Ron,

Thanks for the haiku!

Dear John,

It was hard to find one of my photos to match the sparsity of the winning haiku - I hope I don't detract too much from its spirit.

Dear Erin,

I just checked out the Itinerant Observer, thanks for the link. :)

Dear Iago,

Thanks for the introduction, I'm very glad to hear that you enjoyed it. Your job sounds fascinating indeed, and I can easily understand why you have chosen to settle in Taiwan. I'm a regular reader of Stephane Erler's Teamasters blog, which he writes from Taiwan. Maybe you'd enjoy reading it.

You're always welcome as a return visitor.

Thanks all for the kind words, and toodlepip,


Iago de Otto said...


I will be checking out Stephane Erler's Teamasters blog for sure. Also, the posting on the Dalai Lama and his visit is a well-worded and thought-provoking piece, to the say the least. In the Friday the 13th of June edition of The China Post, one of the three local English newspapers published in Taiwan, by the way, there is an article entitled "Dalai Lama taps faith, tugs ponytails, fights for Tibet" which reviews a couple of books on this very cool individual: Holder of the White Lotus by one Alexander Norman, described as "a conscientious account of Tibetan religious history since the 14th century"; and The Open Road by Pico Iyer, which is more specifically about our hero in question here and in which Iyer tells the reader that the Dalai Lama "can rarely catch sight of a beard or a male ponytail without wanting to tug it". Very playful by nature the DL. All those years of meditation, he is most certainly in a constant dominant state of Alpha brainwave, lots of good neurochems flooding his system. It would be a joy to be in the same room as the fellow.

Si's blog said...

Always wished I could do any kind of poetry. Still stuck on "There was a young girl from Nantucket." There must be a short in some of my neurons. Haiku still speaks to me, however.

bembel said...

very nice photos!

rasmi said...

May I add a haiku that i attempted some 4 years back?

Dried, Crushed and powdered
Amply steamed, watered
A cup of tea