Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Butterfly Dream: Winter Night Haiku by toki

In memory of Brian Zimmer

English Original

winter night
where the mists part
another star


Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

toki is a Pacific Northwest poet with work published in such venues as Atlas Poetica, Ribbons, and previously at NeverEnding Story. toki is an editorial assistant for Keibooks, and enjoys listening to the music of the spheres, pondering the interstices of the universe, and taking long walks in liminal spaces.


  1. Below is excerpted from toki's post, "Winter Haiku In Memoriam Brian Zimmer," accessed at

    This poem uses the Japanese poetic technique of honkadori—allusion to or quotation of another poem—in this case one of Zimmer's own:

    no abacus
    for the task
    where the mists part
    I begin counting stars

  2. Evaluated in the context of the Japanese poetic tradition, a tradition that Brian greatly appreciated, toki's use of a direct quote from Brian's tanka shows the highest respect for him and his work.

    And the tonal shift in L3 adds emotional weight and mythological depth to the poem.

    Notes: 1 In some cultures, people believe that

    "... one aspect of a person is identified with his or her breath or wind, and when a person dies, life leaves with the wind. If the person dies far away from home, the breath or wind can be seen as a shooting star returning to its own country. If the person dies in his own country, the wind or breath may be associated with a particular star as it passes over to another body to be born again."

    2 For more information about the use of honkadori, see "To the Lighthouse: Plagiarism or Honkadori (allusive variation),"

  3. Below is excerpted from the email exchange (dated on Dec. 2 2009) between Brian and me on the concept and practice of honkadori:


    Interesting distinction you make between honka-dori and seishi. I understand honka-dori as including seishi and any other device (direct quote, paraphrase,imagery & suggestion) that brings to the reader's mind an immediate identification with an earlier poem. Teryama was criticized for doing this to the point of plagiarism, but I think he understood and was introducing new and important ideas about language in a postmodern sense into his tanka.


    The distinction between honkadori and seishi is debatable.

    But I’m interested in the question you raised regarding recognizing the allusion to Terayama's tanka. In the Asian poetic tradition, a good poet is judged on his mastery of using literary devices, such as allusions, to converse with and show respect for masters and master works. In doing so, poetry is communally written and shared. The concept of plagiarism is a modern one.

    In fact, the brevity of haiku and tanka is possible because each poem is implicitly part of a massive, communally shared poem.

    In his opening paragraph of ‘A Note on the Selection and Layout of the Poems’ to The Haiku Anthology, Cor van den Heuvel stresses that “If a haiku is a good one, it doesn’t matter if the subject has been used before. The writing of variations on certain subjects in haiku, sometimes using the same or similar phrases (or even changing a few words of a previous haiku), is one of the most interesting challenge the genre offers a poet and can result in refreshingly different ways of “seeing anew” for the reader. This is an aspect of traditional Japanese haiku which is hard for many Westerns, with their ideas of uniqueness and Romantic individualism, to accept. But some of the most original voices in haiku do not hesitate to dare seeming derivative if they see a way of reworking an “old” image.”

    In my view, you’ve successfully reworked an “old” image.