d’Verse Poetics: Meeting the Bar: Jisei (Japanese Death Poem)

Thursday, for the d’Verse prompted activity, Meeting the Bar, Gayle is guest hosting. She will be discussing Jisei – Japanese death poems. These were poems written as gifts, last words or thoughts for the loved one(s) left behind. Literate Japanese including monks and Samurai wrote poems with thoughts on their passing, their lives – some of them wryly humorous!  She wants us to write, in tanka poetic form, our death poem.  I have written many – mainly for use in some fictional poems about Samurai.

The Autumn Equinox – Shubun no hi / 秋分の日 – is a national and solemn holiday in Japan. Ancestors are honored, graves are cleaned and newly decorated, special meals/foods are served. Higan (彼岸), a Buddhist term that not only refers to the river that separates the living and the dead, but is used to describe the 7-day Buddhist event of which they hold services.  So crossing the river from the land of the living to the land of the dead is a special thought for when a loved one dies.

My poem incorporates traditional haiku and tanka.  Because it is the Autumn Equinox – Shubun no hi / 秋分の日 – I am submitting a poem using kigo (seasonal words) for autumn, the river, and ancestors (my own loved ones).  Please come visit and read at:  http://dversepoets.com/2015/09/24/jisei-japanese-death-poems

autumn equinox –
hawk glides between blue sky and
flame painted maples.

still river sparkles
under the autumn sun – those
who crossed before me
wait with arms opened wide – I
cross the bridge with joy.

free wiki image

free wiki image


38 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. writingwingsforyou
    Sep 23, 2015 @ 22:48:34

    I wept for joy for the sharing of this post…for both the history and the reverent…and your poetry uplifting and beautiful. Thank you.

    I look forward to trying my own.


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 23, 2015 @ 22:54:44

      I am so glad you want to do your own!  I will be updating this post tomorrow with the link to d’Verse.  Please come by and read the different takes on the prompt but most of all, link your poem.  I think there will be some interesting and maybe some humorous poems.

      Sent by Outlook for Android

      From: kanzen sakura

      Sent: Wednesday, September 23, 10:48 PM

      Subject: [kanzen sakura] Comment: “d’Verse Poetics:  Meeting the Bar:  Jisei (Japanese Death Poem)”

      To: toni spencer



  2. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 00:33:20

    What a beautiful moment to cross the river a day when maples are blushing like that. So curious what other will come up with for this prompt.


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 24, 2015 @ 00:52:18

      It will be interesting. Your bedbugs gave me a grin. Celebrating the equinox in this manner for so very many years, I find it comforting to think of meeting those I love and miss so very much. I am not sure if others will have the cultural frame of reference, but I foresee at least one looking forward to the land on the other side of the river, some of regret, some most def humorous. The Japanese call the Milky Way, Amanogawa – river of heaven or, celestial river. Mujo, impermanence – all things change.


  3. GP Cox
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 06:06:04

    Being as all my blood relatives have crossed the bridge before me, this has special meaning – thank you.


  4. Mary
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 12:58:12

    I like the idea of crossing the bridge with joy to greet those who crossed before. That is the way I hope to go. Beautiful form, Toni!


  5. Bryan Ens
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 13:09:55

    To cross the bridge with joy is a blessing…it speaks of a life lived in such a way that you need not look back with regret…but also can look forward with anticipation.


  6. Grace
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 14:09:22

    I love the haiku and most specially the jisei tanka ~ I would love to view death in positive way, a welcoming journey like crossing the bridge with joy ~


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 24, 2015 @ 14:48:14

      When my mother and two aunts die, I will be the last of our line. If I die before my husband, I will regret leaving him behind but will be waiting for him. Knowing friends and family I love are waiting for me, does give me joy knowing I will see them again.


  7. Glenn Buttkus
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 15:23:44

    I knew that you would soar with this prompt; the form was new to me, but I added the kanshi to my piece. I’m pleased the tone of mine is similar to your haiku; had fun with this.


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 24, 2015 @ 15:42:44

      It is certainly not a subject to be morbid about. I came to this form through the death poems of Samurai, years ago. It is always interesting to read the different ideas, expressions…..the symbols of impending death. I have studied Japanese poetic forms since a teenager and am never bored by them.


  8. Bodhirose
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 15:32:53

    The images of fall that you describe are so appropriate as we enter into that season. I do think that crossing from one plane to the next will be more joyous than sad…at least for the one doing the crossing. The photo was perfect for your offerings, Toni. Thanks for joining in today.


  9. Linda Kruschke
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 16:20:34

    This is beautiful! In the Christian tradition, there is also a river crossing over the Jordan to the promised land. Johnny Cash sings an old hymn called Wayfaring Stranger (which was the inspiration for my poem today) which says, “I’m going there to see my mother / She said she’d meet me when I come / I’m only a-going over Jordan / I’m only a-going over home.” May we all meet our loved ones across the river when our time in this world is over. Peace, Linda


  10. Snow's Fissures and Fractures
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 16:26:54

    This touched me so deeply, it is a comforting thought to live with…that we will meet one day. Thank you for your lovely words and aditional info.


  11. Victoria C. Slotto
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 17:06:29

    The hawk and the bridge–great symbols/metaphors to choose for this exquisite form.


  12. Kathy Reed
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 17:54:32

    This is beautiful..I respect the form so much now and see how widely the variations are and how personal they can be, or universal like the bridge.


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 25, 2015 @ 14:03:01

      Or the sea….it has been so interesting to read all of the different poems – the different touches of the words and how they are painted. This has been such a great prompt with the reading I have done. I have read all the poems and am so impressed by inspiration and work.


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 25, 2015 @ 23:37:01

      This makes me smile. We all have our thoughts on life and death, the most personal of all our feelings.


  13. thotpurge
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 21:37:33

    Beautiful image of the hawk and bridge.


  14. Sherry Blue Sky
    Sep 24, 2015 @ 22:45:22

    How uplifting this is – the waiting arms, “I cross the bridge with joy.” I LOVE this!!!!!!!


  15. justjoyfulness
    Sep 25, 2015 @ 06:28:46

    This is so joyous and filled with hope. Loved them both.


  16. writingwingsforyou
    Sep 25, 2015 @ 14:13:09

    It was so fun to explore this new form! Thank you for your post.
    I don’t have a finished product to link…but I sure enjoyed learning about it and trying it out. Thank you!


    • kanzensakura
      Sep 25, 2015 @ 14:17:41

      Well, if you can’t link now, link at Open Link Night. many of us do that if we are “late” with a prompt or can’t participate at the time. I do that sometimes and just note it was for Whatever Prompt and couldn’t make it so here it is for OLN. that works too! I hope you will read some of the offerings. they have been superb and many, so very joyful and hopeful. And please, join for Open Link or any time! And it is a fun form, in spite of the title. There was some humor too. One poem spoke of falling into joy and then afterwards, people getting together to laugh and cry over a good meal. I really liked that. Next OLN is next Thursday.


  17. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade)
    Sep 25, 2015 @ 23:35:50

    Lovely images and sentiments.


  18. http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com
    Sep 26, 2015 @ 01:40:34



Thank you for reading! I try to reciprocate all comments. If you want me to visit a particular post, please direct me directly to that post.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: