Monday, January 13, 2014

Butterfly Dream: Butterfly Haiku by Lorin Ford

English Original

after butterfly …
becoming the dream

paper wasp, 18.4 Summer 2012

Lorin Ford

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Lorin Ford grew up between two homes, one by the beach and one in the bush. She has written ‘long’ poems but these days she focuses on haiku , both as a writer and as an editor. Her book, a wattle seedpod,(PostPressed 2008) is currently out of print but short collections of her work can be accessed at the Snapshot Press website and via her bio on the editors’ page at


  1. Below is excerpted from my Simply Haiku essay, Waking from "Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream -- Plagiarism or Honkadori:"

    poets of all ages contributed to one Great Poem perpetually in progress
    -- Percy Bysshe Shelley, cited in The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry by Harold Bloom

    For those who are well versed in Japanese haiku and Chinese Daoist (Wade-Giles: Taoist) literature, especially in the Zhuangzi (Wade-Giles: Chuang Tzu), 12 the butterfly imagery in Buson’s haiku is “not original or fresh,” rather it belongs to a massive, communally shared Japanese butterfly haiku based on Zhuangzi’s butterfly dream, a famous story recorded in the Zhuangzi:

    “Once [Zhuangzi] dreamt he was a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was [Zhuangzi.] Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable [Zhuangzi]. But he didn't know if he was [Zhuangzi] who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was [Zhuangzi.] Between [Zhuangzi] and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.” 13

    In the first haiku lexicon, Yama no I (Mountain Spring published in 1647), there is an explanatory passage under the entry titled Butterfly: “Butterfly. The scene of a butterfly alighting on rape blossoms, napping among flowers with no worries. Its appearance as it flutters its feathery wings, dancing like whirling snowflakes. Also the image is associated with [Zhuangzi’s] dream, suggesting that one hundred years pass as a gleam in a butterfly’s dream.” 14 To demonstrate how to use this butterfly imagery, the compiler Kigin gives the following example:

    Scattering blossoms:

    the dream of a butterfly –

    one hundred years in a gleam 15

    Since then, the penetration of Zhuangzi’s butterfly dream into themes and images has clearly been seen in Japanese haiku.


  2. Through her thematically effective use of '...,' Lorin's allusive butterfly haiku is open to interpretation (thus multivalent). There are at least two readings:

    1) The image of butterflies is the dream content, or
    2) The implied speaker becomes the dream (of butterflies), which alludes to Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream (depicted in the Zhuangzi), the foundational text of Japanese butterfly haiku.

    Her haiku reminds me of one of my butterfly haiku, one that could be read as a response poem:

    falling off a dream I become a butterfly

    This one-line haiku is embedded in my haibun, To Liv(e) (Frogpond, 34:3, Fall 2011), which can be accessed at