French Journal For Media Research

Zoe Savina

    Plentiness Out Of Littleness
The Landscape of Haiku in Greece - Haiku: A Spiritual Globalization


Le Haiku est un genre poétique japonais qui a exercé une influence sur la culture occidentale moderne en raison de son “abondance” conceptuelle attrayante produite par sa “frugalité”. Lafkadio Hearn, un chercheur grec-irlandais, traduisit le Haiku en anglais et le fit internationalement connaître.


Haiku is a Japanese poetic genre having influenced modern Western culture by its appealing conceptual “abundance” produced through “frugality”. Lafkadio Hearn, a Greek-Irish scholar, translated haiku into English and made it internationally-known. Haiku is vaguely interacted with the ancient Greek epigrammatic genre of “comos”, Hesiod’s pastoral poetry and the laconic poetic form of “epigram”.

Full text

“Pay no attention to what critics say.

A statue has never been erected in honour of a critic.”

Jean Sibelius

1I do not intend to exercise critique upon critique but I would simply wish to try to uncover the power of sensitivity. “Poetry is another face of our pride”, says Greek Nobelist Odysseus Elytis and, as such a standing matter, how am I to leave it unprotected? There are people who place faith in this parasitic profession and take a leading role not only in literature but in all of the arts.

2 In such a situation, El Greco1 would be lost in the labyrinth of the Holy Inquisition and its members. He would have a narrow miss and almost be put to death by them because he painted his angles’ wings too large in contrast to his predecessors, who painted them small and different.

3 Constantine Parthenis2 followed suit, not painting what delighted him but what his critics and the past knew as typical iconography.

4 A “Kouros” stretched his leg and paced after many centuries when the sculptor dared figure out his next move,etc.

5 I have used a few brilliant examples and will be immediately clear in terms of my intentions.

When It Comes to Haiku

6 Haiku(俳句) is a genre of Japanese poetry; an awakening in the context of an event expressed in a laconic way, effacing blurredness and leaving clear, thus, the “core” of rationale, picture and epoch. It firstly appeared in the form of variations occurring in other poetic genres priding about the same specifications in Japan in the 16th century, adopted by Europe in the early 20th century and crossing, thenceforward, the Atlantic Ocean to become very popular in the whole of the Western world. This Japanese poetic genre started to become known along with its Japanese accompaniment of paintings and other Japanese exportable spiritual products when Japan opened her shores to the West. Haiku may have been developed belatedly and in a limited range in Greece, but, regardless of its delayed advent in this country, the facts stated below as the outcome of the research performed over time show that the “demand” and literary quests related to haiku and promoting exchanges were progressing and acquired in the form extracted from written textual sources dating back to early 20th century, such as literary magazines, correspondence, literary memories, etc, which leads to the ascertainment that this poetic form was finally introduced into Greece between the years 1900 and 1925.    

7      Thought is the way leading to the flourishing of art, even in terms of actions in a different –perhaps secret and revelatory – manner. Some travellers will dwell on great life events, overlooking previous arts and life, the minimum of mind, and, in our case, the diamond of haiku, with a sort of word painting, phrases, seasonal events, comic verses, puns as well as philosophical and, yet, with a secretly phrased testimony, which are all bound with our endless world in eternity as a miracle in the structured poetic three-line and only seventeen-syllable universe. No matter if the philosophical haiku is heard as an almost prohibitive aspect, I have ascertained the opposite, providing you hereby with a poem of Bashō3, the greatest representative of this poetic genre, endowed with, I think, a philosophical notion.

 “I am growing old / and, yet, not despised / by cherry blossoms3

8 His haiku is sublime, consoling and philosophical, structured, however, with a loose wording controlling the limits, the weight and even the words as I view it through my Western mentality. The time, the man-nature connection and its boundaries are clearly phrased.

9 It is said that haiku was merely a small, charming poem before the appearance of Bashō3, who transformed it into a divine piece of art and into an aesthetically agreeable model, as well as a mastered, unrivalled secret means of condensing voluptuousness and emotion to their minimal manifestations. In addition, Bashō formed a new trend in prose, indulged in Zen Buddhism and founded a haiku school. There is an adage-cum-declaration of Bashō’s I would like to refer to at this point since, in my opinion, it indicates human attitude toward life: “Go to the pine if you want to learn about pine or to the bamboo if you want to learn about bamboo and, in doing so, you must leave your subjective self behind. Otherwise, you will impose your presence upon the object and learn nothing”.

10 Here is a haiku poem with philosophical dimensions and another written in the Zen style:

Zoe Savina


what is real:

το είδωλο, ο καθρέφτης            

the idol, the   mirror

       ή ο που κοιτάς;                           

or their looker?


όταν βαδίζεις

when walking

πάντα ανατολικά

always east

πας προς τη δύση…

you go west

11            I have always believed that the substantial inner “man” has both no limits and homeland since this expansion and unanimity emanating from the poem corroborates the convergence of peoples. My own experience may serve as an explanation of this concept. In 1979, I wrote some short poems I called “stigmas”, which would not take even one more or less word than those contained therein and, admittedly, I had no idea whatsoever about what to do with them until I discovered the haikai4 poems of the previously mentioned great Greek Nobelist poet George Seferis4. I studied them and realised, to my great surprise, that they functioned impeccably as haiku in terms of their metrics but were written in one line.

12 We see that G. Seferis as well as all poets who were engaged in haiku in Greece before him would call their poems “haikai” inasmuch as they may have not known or failed to learn that haikai or renga is a genre of live poetry, like a cooperation binding them together. I remember discussing this issue intensely with knowledgeable American friends of mine in 1979, when I visited the USA.  

13 An event bearing witness to the reality of haikai or renga precisely is the one described below.

14 I was invited to a dinner party organised in honour of Japanese officials who had come to Greece to orchestrate the fraternisation of a Japanese city with a Greek one, and to sign relevant documents on the taking over of a statue of Asclepius, the ancient Greek god of medicine, made by the distinguished Greek sculptor Evanghelos Moustacas, to be placed in Japan. I was sitting by the seaside of Epidaurus, when, all of a sudden, a charming gasp of wind started blowing and scattering the delegates’ papers all round. They took to chasing them, laughing, and I, staring at them, said aloud, “Oh butterflies! The wind knows not / how to read them”. The Japanese interpreter translated my words automatically to the Japanese gentlemen, who surrounded me and recited Japanese haiku in unison and, despite the fact that I did not understand them, a “renga” was initiated. Ι am referring to the facts “beyond reality” as the latter emanates from my references.                        

15 Subsequently, in 1985, I published my first haiku book titled The Enchantresses, and it received an “Annual Prize” by the Society of Greek Writers (it contains the following haiku and tanka poems). Since then this genre has always been represented in allmy succeeding books. It happened that my book, Enchantresses, was read by a Japanese female essay writer who addressed me as one of the ten best Western haiku writers. Here are three of these “stigmas”:

βάλε στο στήθος

just put a rose

ένα τριαντάφυλλο

upon your chest

και, να ο κήπος

and, lo, the garden


δεν ήταν άλλη

it was no other

στης νύχτας τη σοφία

in nightly wisdom

παρά η γλαύκα

but the owl

κλαδάκι σιωπής

twig of silence

σκεπάζει τις πράξεις σου

covers your actions:

 αίνιγμα λύνεις;

do you explain riddles?

16 It is implied by the aforementioned event that this poetic genre was not transplanted into but “self-planted” in me.  

17 “How can this happen?”, I wondered incessantly, regardless of the fact that this genre was conceived and written in Greece, where every genre is developed according to the particularities of certain people of different idiosyncrasy and spiritual structure.  At thattime, it was the question of Japanese haiku, which is considered an ambivalent venture bymany people who were, nevertheless, belied by reality, especially through the dynamics of my own case.  

18 I was attacked by dissensions I repelled and refuted by employing examples, softness and, truth to tell, even with a slight aggression several years ago to take my “sacred revenge” eventually after receiving the above mentioned award. However, I should refer to a cultural event happening these days as a “conquest” achieved by the Greek educational system.

19 In Greece, haiku has been a significant educational material that can be utilised either in the context of materialising school environmental education programmes or syllabus. An example of utilising haiku in Grade A of the Greek primary school language workbook is both vivid and a form of intercultural education.

20In 2013, I was asked to deliver a speech on haiku, including analysing its technique in view of the 2013 London Olympics, to Grade C primary school pupils at the Athens Campion British College. Here is a haiku sample used in the presentation:

Zoe Savina

Τύμβος του Μαραθώνα

The Marathon Tomb

μνήμες στον τύμβο

memories in the “tomb”

και τρυφερά χορτάρια

and tender grass:


no voice at all

A Start That Turned Out to Become a “Movement Throughout the World”

21 Haiku, this tiny poem, is truly loved more than any other poetic genre in the world. However, is it really a “movement”? I wondered and answered, “Yes, it is!” Haiku, as a product of social and philosophical contemplation, offers one the astounding motives to deal with it, is embraced by the whole world and serves as the subject of innumerable magazines, anthologies, conferences, essays, analyses, “New Haiku Societies and museums or attachments to ornamented objects in the manner of my interventions in space, such as a pictorial installation5 the tags of which are suspended on an old plane-tree and bear haiku poems taken from my book “International Anthology Haiku”.

22 Thus, behold the great civilisation contained in the context of an opening to the world. We see today that such a great expansion and promotion of haiku is much in the interest of the Japanese and, indeed, this paradoxical phenomenon of their great cultural and ethnological “production” poses as a target as well as, so to speak, a “diplomatic representative” of theirs.  It is, perhaps, their hectic involvement in technology that has been reversing their need for the last years in order to come into a closer cultural contact with the “outer world”: the West, which was one of the topics of my discussions in Japan during my visit to this country.

23          Let’s devote a few words to the history of our well-known haiku (俳句), a genre of Japanese traditional poetry, comprising an epigrammatic three-verse, seventeen-syllable poem (5, 7, 5). It initially appeared as a result of modifications applied to other Japanese poetic genres, such as tanka6 (comprising a thirty one-syllable metric units of 5, 7, 5 and 7, 7 syllables each) of about the same specifications.  

24A tanka poem as a sample of Matsuo Bashō’s poetry:

Η άνοιξη περνά

spring passes by

και ξαναπερνά σε στρώσεις

again and again in layers

ανθισμένων κιμονό·

of blossom-kimono

ίσωςοιρυτίδεςνα’ ρχονται

may you see wrinkles

με τα γηρατειά

come with old age


26And here is a tanka sample by Zoe Savina:                

ξέρω να πατώ

know how to tread


along silken roads


like a butterfly;


ice awakens farther on


and water flows

27Hokku was established in the 15th century in parallel with tanka as an autonomous poetic form, continued to develop in the form of haikai, that is, renga, and culminated in the form of haiku. However, it is worth mentioning that this very small poem, giving an outline of a picture or its significant element, and denoting, at the same time, a season, surprises us. It is as if a thought, panic-stricken, reached simplicity and discarded the excess, or was in a “non-lingual” state or experienced liberation.

28 Haiku flourished after the end of the 16th century and became exceptionally popular with the Japanese people after the appearance of the charismatic Japanese poet Matsuo Basho (松尾芭蕉), a refined, intelligent, well-educated person gifted with insight and poetic innovation, who, in essence, refined it and made it so popular that it spread out among all social classes. It epitomises a sort of an awakening process in the context of an event or an apotheosis of the minimum concept, expressed in a laconic way, effacing all blurriness to leave clear, thus, the “core” of a rationale, of a picture and of an epoch and, as such, I should refer to this “opening” from Lafkadio Hearn’s viewpoint.

1900 – A Significant Milestone of the Greek Opening: Lafcadio Hearn

29 The first appearance of haiku was made through translations into English -since he did not know to write in Greek- from Japanese by a Greek person called Lafcadio Hearn, alias Koizumi Yakumo (小泉八雲) (1850–1904), an ecumenical writer, educationalist and translator, who served as a cultural transcriber. Lafcadio Hearn, a modern Ulysses, was born to an Anglo-Irish father, a medical doctor and major of the British Army, and to a Greek mother on the Greek Island of Lefkada. He initially lived in Ireland to move, thereafter, to New Orleans, where he resided for ten years, and, thenceforward, to Japan, where he spent the rest of his life. He married a Japanese woman, a Samurai’s daughter, was appointed professor of English Literature at the Imperial University of Tokyo and delved into the Japanese morals, customs and folklore traditions, spreading Japanese culture abroad as a scholar and introducing it to the West more than any other Western scholar had done HHH  before him. Today, he is regarded as a native, national Japanese writer, enjoying international reputation. The “Lafkadios Hearn Museum” was built on the Greek island of Lefkada, his birthplace, where events and festivities organised in his honour took place there last year (July 4-6, 2014).  

30 Lafcadio Hearn relocated from Tokyo to Matsue after the 1890s, during the Meiji-Jidai (明治) transition period, representing the first six-month era of Japanese Empire during which the then, heretofore isolated, feudal Japanese society was transformed into its modern status and opened to the West in the way in which we know it today. These fundamental changes affected Japan’s social structure, internal policy, economy, military and foreign affairs. Thus, Lafcadio Hearn is considered to be one of the first Westerners who got acquainted with and appreciated haiku along with its great cultural significance for Japan and its people. Cor van den Heuvel states in his essay “Lafcadio Hearn and Haiku”7   that Hearn was the first Westerner who offered the Anglophone world, despite his Greek origin as is mentioned above, a personal view of the Far East as well as the silk of its heart.

31 Lafcadio Hearn’s essay “Japanese Lyrics – Haikus” (Lafcadio Hearn, Japanese Lyrics-Haikus, 1915, in English) was published posthumously in 1915 (he died in 1914) in English, positioning him as a significant literary figure that translated this genre from Japanese into English and serving as the ground on which he built his reputation of a great interpreter of Japanese culture to the West. His strong acumen and vivid poetic imagination enabled him to penetrate deeply up to the core of concepts conveyed by the Japanese language. As an “exporter” of Japanese aesthetics, he conceived the subtlety and earthly realism of both ancient and modern Japanese poetry. His verses were collected in this spirit, crossing the fertile ground of love, spirituality, longing, merriment and lullabies through the enchanting sphere of “Goblin” poetry. Some of his short stories were used as scripts for films made in the USA. Lafcadio Hearn would conceive Japanese poetry as a universal, indispensable, and vital - like the oxygen we breathe - treasure as well as a calligraphic decoration to our eyes and music to our ears apart from being a moral duty or internal need characterised by density and lightness in its style. In other words, I daresay, he saw Japanese poetry as a “cosmic wholeness” spread among all people as well as a therapeutic treatment for various human conditions such as birth, love, inutility, injustice, unluckiness and sorrow for a beloved deceased person or a woman’s preference to die than to be dishonoured or the brevity of a man who decides to leave behind him a few lines in the form of an elegant verse as a moral exercise before committing “hara-kiri”, etc. I think that a poem, a haiku, for instance, occurs as a “relieving confessor” facing bravely any problem whatsoever that all of us may come up against even today.

32 Nevertheless, even Hearn would be sceptical at times about the simplicity of Japanese haiku poems, mainly in the sense that they did not manage to live up to their Western readers’ and Western literary society’s expectations (an example of our “outdated, cantankerous minds” is given above). His writings on the subject vacillate from apologies for their not giving us the kinds of philosophical speculation about the natural world found in Western literature to words of praise for the unique way in which haiku creates a direct awareness of nature, which gives the impression that Hearn offers praise with one hand and takes it away with the other. He puts this appreciation in more emotional terms whereas he often uses the word “delight” to describe the Japanese haiku poet’s reaction to nature. We can say that this poetic genre was transferred to the West by a Greek person directly from the country of chrysanthemums. There are sources referring to a work of Hearn related to haiku. In addition, he delivered two university lectures: in  the context of the first of which he compared the ancient Greek epigrammatic poetry to haiku poems and in the context of the second, very impressive one, he compared ancient Greek bucolic (idyllic) poetic traditions to the respective Japanese ones. Furthermore, studies were performed from 1890 to 1904 by Japanese researchers on Hearn’s relationship with Japanese haiku! Let us consider the first haiku translated by Lafcadio Hearn. It is crystal clear that the pulses of intangible deeds as well as the conspiracy of the substance pertaining to this genre would not evade him nor did he fail to acknowledge and to pay tribute to Bashō, the reformer of haiku and the ecumenical, sparkling, refined, spiritual, philosophical master. Here are some of his translations:  

    Matsuo Bashō  ( 松尾芭蕉 ) 1644 -1694 

Furu-dera ya:

Old temple:


kané mono iwazu;

bell voiceless


sakura chiru



33The bells are so utterly reticent that even the cherry flowers can be heard when falling. Hearn emerges here as the observer of the sensitivity characterising an infinite courtesy.


Sémi no tatsu,

when the cicadas cease


ato suzushisa yo!

what coolness!


matsu no koë

the voice of the pines


34This excellent poem of Baijak is in the same mood as that of Bashō: as soon as cicadas have stopped singing, the chill of the evening is felt and pines’ rustle is heard like a human voice. Everything has its own presence. Haikuists’ values and roles employed for the purpose of bringing to surface what most people will not “see” or/and “hear” are manifested through such sublime haiku poems. Frugality in expression accentuates the abundance of blessings existing in the world.



Taking the shade,


kumo mata satté

the clouds have gone


sémi no koë

cicadas’ voices

- φωνέςτζιτζικιών

35This haiku stares at things with a penetrative glance and thought: when cloudiness is dispersed, cicadas’ voices are enlivened by the sun and heat, causing the return of summer.


Té no hira wo

The firefly;

H πυγολαμπίδα,

hau ashi miyuru

as it crawls on my palm,


hotaru kana!

its legs are visible




When dawn comes,


kusa no ha nomi zo

only grass


hotaru-kago κλουβί

in the fire-fly cage


36        Kaga no Chiyo. ΗFukuda Chiyo-ni (Kaga no Chiyo - 福田千代尼, 1703–1775), a picture framer's daughter, was an important Japanese poetess of the 18th century, specialised in the description of nature. She is regarded broadly as one of the greatest female haikuists. She started writing poetry when she was seven years old, having already become popular throughout her country at the age of seventeen.

Kaga no Chiyo

Kayane  te wo

Detaching a corner

αποσπώντας μια γων

Hitotsu hazushite,

of the mosquito net,


tsuki-mi kana!

lo, I behold the moon

να, βλέπωτοφεγγάρι

37        “Lo and behold! This is a finely-woven connection showing that similar songs of the ancient Greek literal genre of “comus”8were employed by sprightly groups of merry people roaming in the streets of a town in groups and singing – actually scoffing at– their emotions beneath the windows of their loved ones after departing from sumptuous banquets, which shows that similar forms are noticed also in Greek antiquity”, I thought.

38       A sample of this poetic genre in the form of a two-line verse of an ancient Greek Alexandrian epigrammatist, Callimachus (circa 305–240 BC), is given below.

39Ούτωςυπνώσαις, Κωνώπιονωςεμέποιείς    I wish you also sleep Mosquito as you make me                   
κοιμάσθαιψυχροίςτοίσδεπαραπροθύροις      sleep i by these cold windows

40       This is a charming piece of poetry approaching the essence of Issa’s popular style: a haiku-like adage which, like haiku, lends itself to the employment of humour.  

41Here comes also the ancient Greek bucolic (idyllic) poetry, to which also Lafkadio Hearn refers, of the ancient Syracusan-Greek poet Theocritus (315–260 BC), who was one of the most significant poets of the Alexandrian Hellenistic Period as well as a pioneer in the field of bucolic (idyllic) poetry.          

Theocritus  (315-260 BC)


I sing my love for Amaryllis and  


μουοΤίτυροςτιςαίγεςμουβοσκάει  (πα’ στοβουνό)

Tityrus, my friend, grazes my goats (in the mountain)                                                                                        

42 (This is a sample of a “crispy” Greek sense of humour)

43       Hesiod9 (7th or 8th century), the second most important ancient Greek poet after Homer, states that: “Έργονδ’ ουδένόνειδος, αεργίηδετ’ όνειδος” (work is not a shame but idleness is), which sends my mind to popular Japanese poet Issa.

44     The elegiac two-line verse – that is a line in dactylic (heroic) hexameter and a line in dactylic pentameter – was used in epigrams. The first line – the one of the Homeric epic poetry – can be said to have generally been a triumphant prelude in epigrams inscribed on tombs and dedicated to the virtues and glory of the dead persons buried in them. In the second line (the one of lamentation, as it is implied by the cuts it contained, the voice was interrupted in a way that gave the impression of sobbing in the manner, I daresay, of a social, collective outburst.

45The epigram appeared many centuries ago, inscribed on tombs, monuments and artefacts. Its wording changed according to the needs, requests and expressions of intellectuals as well as of arts. In addition, epigrams stopped being exclusively funereal and became erotic, votive, satiric, exhibitive etc in the wake of time. The cultural past of Greece also resembles evidently – albeit differently – the style of a haiku or tanka but lacks metric rules. Nothing is done on purpose but the internal need of expression will push inner contents outwards like “oestrus” (inspiration), as it has been called since Greek antiquity.     

46 Here is a maxim of the ancient Greek philosopher Heracleitus10of Ephesus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC), called “The Obscure”:

47(the inostensible harmony is better than the ostensible), which is an outstanding diamond in itself.               

48This adage stands on its own, functioning almost as an oracle, not to mention that the Zen Path is, so to speak, a substructure of haiku.

49     Therefore, it seems that a certain substructure existed with, at least, ancient Greeks in the form of epigram, which appeared during the Archaic Period (750–479 BC). We ascertain today that what is required for –frequently burdened with platitudes or diffusions– free poetry is the sense of “opening up”, which allows us to express anything we want through this specific poetic genre restricted to 5,7, 5 syllables. Syllabification, epoch and spirit pertain all to haiku. Thus, the substance of things lies in the sound knowledge of this poetic form as well as in its requirements. I, personally, have never said, “I will sit back now and write haiku poems” since the element of the adventure of thought subconsciously underscores a brilliant conclusion, which comes down as an intolerable definitive agent falling in the form of words upon a sheet of paper or a drawing or incision or a Zen secret enterprise or a rain of sunrays at times and is not interested in explanations.                      

Involvement in Haiku Appears to Be Progressing in Greece Eventually

50 In the first period haiku was mentioned in a theoretical text of Spyridon De Viazis (1904). Then, it emerged in the context of the first recognised attempts of its composition several years later, in 1925, with the appearance of G. Stavropoulos.

G. Stavropoulos, 1925


a black swallow                                                                                                                                                          


in an old attic                                                                                                                                        



Paul Crinaeos-Michailides, 1926

χλόη, πεταλούδες, λουλούδια

grass, butterflies, flowers  


chirps and rustles,                                                                                                                                                                      


and loving hearts

51        In 1940, George Seferis (1928-1937) was the most prominent modern Greek poet who wrote haiku poems and published them in his “Sixteen Haikai Poems”,in a poetry collection titled “Exercises Notebook”. He is believed to have been the introducer of haiku into Greece due to his high reputation and his successful attempts to deal with it despite some negative criticism he received at times. These sixteen haikai poems, as he called them, may reflect a strange poetic idiosyncrasy, but they are milestones in the history of this genre and represent a significant contribution to the development of haiku poetry in Greece. Although George Seferis was an important poet, diplomat and Nobelist (a laureate of the 1963 Nobel Prize for Literature), he would not comply with the required metrics in all of his 16 haikai poems, which may manifest a digression from haiku stereotypical pattern, but they will bear witness to their creator’s high quality and poetic mastery. Finally, his work was a decisive contribute on to the further evolution and development of Greece’s modern literary history, testifying that the haiku poetry form reached its maturity.   

1940, George Seferis:


I am lifting now


a dead butterfly


without cosmetics  



a naked woman                                                                                                                                                              


the broken pomegranate


was full of stars                                                                                                                                                

52The Second Period: 1900-1972 – Sample:

1969, Zisimos Lorentzatos

στον ουρανό σου

in your sky

μια μπαταριά σε βρήκε

a gunshot hit you



D.J. Antoniou:


the wind blows                                                                                                                                                       

μα τα σπαρτά δεν γέρνουν

but crops stems will not bend:                                                                                                                        

- ζωγραφισμένα


53The Third Period

54         In 1972, haiku seemed to have been well established in Greece, still lagging behind a bit but progressing remarkably in terms of the poetic being in this country. A dramatically growing haiku poems production has been noticed since 1972 despite the scepticism about it shown by some artists some of whom are of progressed age as well as by certain theoreticians who find it difficult to believe that transplanting such poems-cum-models into other countries of different mentalities and spiritualities involves a backhanded venture. At this point we call to mind Lafkadio Hearn’s anxiety and scruples about the acceptance of haiku poems by the literary circles in the West. During a forty-year period many, extremely interesting things have happened and many poets have successfully dealt with this poetic genre. Here are some examples.

Zoe Savina, 1979


cloudiness, you play


with February’s days


on your knees

Tassos Corfis – “Pain-killing Sonnets and Haiku Poems”, 1987


insects buzz


in the muddy waters


of a dried lake

George Pavlopoulos,


your one eye

     στοποίημα· καιτ’ άλλο

stares at the poem and the other


condemn  you  

56        The poetic approach of Greek poets to haiku calls upon Japanese aesthetics in the same way in which the latter call upon Greek poetic speech in the fields of humanities, philosophy, ideals and symbols that have been flowing through Greeks’ blood for many centuries and are impossible to ignore. This is a great heritage of the tradition which extends from the Greek Archaic Period (750 - 479 BC) to our modern times and has functioned incessantly until this day, working its way through the trivialities of everyday life. It fights back, struggling as well as beautifying mediocre and painful things. It meets eternity as well as its matter outside the flattering picture every writer wants to gain, and principally, helps him exist, which sets a way in which he may be protected against faltering. “When you walk, stick to your walking”, says a Zen teacher and, therefore, when you sit, stick to your sitting and, what is more, do not sway. This is haiku: a buffer of “faltering”.  


58 Influences have always been present in our world and, thus, the phenomenon that a person transpires something new to another is quite natural and so is an expected event that is awakened by or through another person. Were the Japanese not influenced by their literature, music, art and architecture? However, being able to be yourself in the present time is a great issue or secret.

59         On the occasion of my visit to Japan, I got acquainted with Kenzo Tange, a famous modern Japanese architect, whose work made great impression on my husband, our son, John Moustacas, a brilliant architect, and on me and so did a Japanese ceramist Yusuke Aida, the creator of famous squares and monuments. I also met an internationally renowned sculptor, Noguzi (Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), at a conference held in Delphi. These men's creations are modern and robust, bearing all the elements of their personality, intellectual concepts and skilfulness as well as lacking other influences except for those related to the impact of “change-time”, which are all virtues characterising talented masters.

An “Unexpected” Event

60        It is quite certain that no one from the scholarly world of both Greece and Japan –as well as from the scholars of the whole world– imagined that this brief Japanese epigrammatic poem would evolve into such a unique poetic form that would exceed peoples’ origins and be spread everywhere like branches of a tree rooted deeply in the land of the Far East and stretched to embrace the entire universe. The foliage of this tree rustles in the ears of our cosmos, piercing, with its ornamental branches, heterogeneous people’s, such as scholars’, scientists’, artists’, politicians’, seamen’, businessmen’s etc., hearts. The situation in terms of this poetic genre today is exactly the same as it was in Japan many centuries ago when everyone –from emperors to servants– was engaged in it. Thus, I imagine how the great Japanese haikuist Matchuo Bashō, the principal representative of this poetic genre, would be elated to see this short poetry genre of his homeland situated at the end of the world, transplanted and re-blossoming all over the universe. Just because all these things are under the influence of beauty, this miracle is what has always surprised and enchanted me.

61Cultural Globalization

62        I have been in touch with haikuists from all over the world through correspondence since 1979 in my desire to be informed of what happens internationally. I started presenting haikuists and their works along with brief analyses of them (as well as, in the context of translations of Pablo Neruda’s poetry from Spanish and French in conjunction with my great, adorable friend Danae Stratigopolou, a legendary artist of a woman, as well as with other willing lovers of poetry) in literary magazines. I have undertaken this task on many levels, a series of translations of Pablo Neruda’s poetry from Spanish and French, which resulted in the fact that the information about this poetic genre given to magazines readers was broadened. It was in 1985, when my bilingual book The Enchantresses was published, that I “justified”, so to say, the magnificence of haiku by receiving the “Annual Prize for Poetry” by the Society of Greek Writers.

63        Thanks to my international contacts, a bold and interesting idea of creating a global anthology dawned on me, signalling, in my opinion, also a significant event in the field of Greek literature. This idea was admittedly more difficult to realise than I had expected since this venture took five years of correspondence between poets and me around the world. It was a persistent, painstaking, time-consuming and, yet, strangely tender task outweighing both the toil and the time invested in the whole project. The more I made progress towards the implementation of this idea, the more intensely I thought, “Lo and Behold! It is about a sort of ‘cultural globalization’, as stated in the preface to my anthology for the first time, as far as I remember. It is the most constructive and interesting globalization that could have ever achieved, involving a spiritual convergence through the literary means of a brief, external phrasing of speech firmly established by haikuists around the globe. I prepared and published the International Anthology Haiku: The Leaves Are Back on the Tree Again in 2002. It represents works of 186 poets from fifty countries and appropriately presents each of them on two pages with ten haiku. The anthology also contains my bibliography and illustrations done by a young painter, Alexander Moustacas. This 500-page anthology functions as a “compass” both in Greece and abroad. I came across its various sections cited in other people’s books or referred to in lectures delivered in our country and even online, at times with no reference whatsoever to their source. A Japanese friend of mine living in England and promoting haiku by organising symposia, forums, conferences, said to me once “I would expect such anthology to have come from the USA but not from Greece!” and I counter-commented by saying, “Why not? Who are Greeks culturally? What have they handed down to humankind through their philosophy, arts, sciences and theatre as well as a multitude of other cultural treasures and values? We Greeks are persistent, versatile, talented and aesthetically agreeable people, which is corroborated by the fact that such a sublime anthology exists today.” One discovers global differences of cultures, habits and even seasons through poets of the world. For example, spring, as an image of a season, is revealed in a different way to each and every one of us: some northern Europeans think of it as the time of year when snow thaws, Greeks think spring has come when they can get a glimpse of fast blossoming almonds, the Japanese see cherry blossoms as the harbinger of spring, the Finns perceive it as the sight of a swan floating on the water of a lake or the surface of a frozen sea, etc.

64Establishment and Countless Extensions

65         Having been working on various poets’ haiku poems and submitting my own to online haiku magazines and competitions, I have ascertained that traditional haiku poems containing season words pertaining to spring, summer, autumn, and winter have become obsolete even for Japanese haikuists, who, however, have not excluded them totally from their repertoire. The strict compliance with its metrics (5, 7, 5) has been overcome to a certain degree by many other poets as well. Modern haiku poems could be envisioned as having a free thematic adopted by the poets of a world without frontiers. Then, does the whole story mean a chain rebellion against traditional haiku? This freedom that has been rejuvenated by degrees in the wake of time does not result, I think, from a degenerative process but from the provisions of times, the impulsion and repulsion of events as well as from a globalised mentality that functions and, at the same time, militates against everything. The pursuit of substance and the continually intensified tendency towards this few-line poem have been manifested clearly by all poets worldwide. This fact is confirmed by the aforementioned Global Haiku Anthology, which represents poets from fifty countries. I believe that if one calls one’s poems haiku, one should also comply with certain rules because, otherwise, one may call them as one wishes. Modern haiku may make one resort to delicate solutions and dictate inhuman conveniences recognised belatedly unless it is studied, investigated and elaborated as well as if one is endowed with fine inspiration, one will succeed in acquiring a harmonious sense and drawing out of haiku without taking to a mere poetic fabrication as we may have noticed how trite and badly-fabricated haiku poems seem to be when they lack immediacy. We live in modern times with variegated stimulations and needs that make us speak about different things.

George Seferis:   

άδειες καρέκλες

empty chairs                                                                                                                                                         

τ’ αγάλματα γύρισαν

the statues returned                                                                                                                                             


to the museum



sprinkle on the lake


only a drop of wine


and off goes the sun



I wore again


the tree’s attire


and you bleat

Argyris Chionis  


still unripe


the poem has been cut                                                                                                                                     

τώρα σαπίζει

now it’s rotting

Elias Cephalas:  


I write again                                                                                                                                                                      


the minuses of my absence                                                                                                                                                            


on the black glass

Tasos Corfis:  


gone for years                                                                                                                                       


between our hands                                                                                                                                       


a river flows

John Patilis:     


only the mirror


can bear to see you                                                                                                                                           


without breaking                                                                                                                           

Zoe Savina (Award “Diogen” 2010: haiku – Bashō in Town):


a glass mansion;                                                                                                                                            

«πού είναι ο ουρανός;»


ρωτά ο Μπασσό

Bashō asks





inspects from the balcony;


e bends to the void                                                                                                                                          


«κάτωαπ’ τηγη

under the earth;                                                                                                                                                                 

ναι, όλαείναιίδια»

yes! all is the same,”                                                                                                                                                      

λέει ο Μπασό…


66 The signifying element and diffusion of invisibility intervene as well as Basho’s vigilance painting our modern world.




bottled water                                                                                                                                                    


and Coca Cola   

67 Great causes are absent and a mirror awaits our voice to reflect it and not to absorb it.                                             

John Tolias:


an old frame                                                                                                                                                      


how many deaths


it hosted?                               

68This is a ceremonial haiku.  



Therapeutic Treatment

ο ψυχολόγος


υπήρξε σαφέστατος.

was very clear:

Ν’ αφήσωνύχια

I’d let my nails grow.

In circulation

69           Many national anthologies may circulate round the globe, but the international ones are rare, obviously due to the difficulties entailed by the venture of preparation, at least, like those I had when compiling my anthology all by myself. Other, smaller anthologies circulate without problems. Editors of haiku magazines and newspapers, haiku societies and individual haiku poets work on and spread this attractive tiny poem internationally through collaborations and competitions. A global “orgasm” is in full swing. Acceptability poses as a condensed lingual expression justifying human experience and presence through time as well as a creator’s poetic apotheosis. It is a structured souvenir for the future as a final result of what is seen and what exists. I would like to lay down this globalization through random examples of several poets’ haiku poems, thinking that it is   impossible for one to include all the significant names in a single work.     

James Kirkup (ΠριγκιπάτοτηςΑνδόρρας)11


spring suddenly comes


like a wandering circus


to a bombarded village

Koko Kato (Japan)

εκείπουκύλησ’ ηπέτρα

there where the stone rolled


when they played ropes,


peach-trees bloomed

Hussain Rizvi  (India)


a tree in the shadow

βγάζεικιαυτόφρούτα …

also produces fruit:


it has no profit

David Cobb (UK)




the hill on bicycle,

μεφτάν’ ηπεταλούδα

I’m reached by a butterfly

Ban’ya Natsuishi (Japan)


Rimbaud in a circle


wandering about:


a linnet is flying

Olga Arias  (Mexico)


against fate:


my illusions are


almighty birds

Djurdja Vukelic Rozic (Croatia)


morning dew;


a cow’s tongue gathers


pieces of the sun

Anna Rosa Nunez  (Cuba)


in the shelter,


sun and shadow


converse alone

Ines Cook (Peru)

κάτωαπ’ ταπέλματα

under the hooves


of all white horses


...the sunflower

Jim Kacian (USA)


now falls

το «καλώςόρισες» σβήνει

he “welcome” is off


om the mat

Hansha Teki (New Zealand)


read of life…


light enters through

μπαίνει μέσα το φως


Humberto Senegal (Colombia)



πρώταβλέπεται …και

is firstly seen…and,


then, written

Niji Fuyuni (Japan)  

φωλιά μικρού πουλιού

a small bird’s nest

ταλαντεύεται σαν καθρέφτης

swings like a    mirror


in a flea market

Martin Berner (Germany)




says the snowball

στ’ άσπρογιασεμί

to the white jasmine

 Willy Vande Walle (Belgium)


fresh in alien land:


without salt at the studio

το πρώτο του αυγό

his first  egg

Max Verhart (The Netherlands)

μισοφέγγαρο –

half moon:


I, suddenly, fancy


a watermelon

Gurga (USA)

το φεγγάρι κοιτά…

moon gazing…


the dogs keep trying


to lead us away

RobertD. Wilson (USA)

αυτός ο άνεμος…

this   wind…

κι ένα φύλλο που παίζει

a   leaf  playing



G. Lanoue (USA)

στην κρήνη  

in the founatin

τέσσερα αγοράκια,

four little boys,

τα δύο αληθινά…

two of them real

Jean  Luis    Borges (Argentina)

η πλατειά νύχτα


δεν είναι τώρα άλλο


πάρεξ ευωδιά


D. Cirovic   Ljuticki (Serbia)   

το τηλέφωνο κτυπά

the   phone  rings

κανείς δεν απαντά

nobody   answers  it

- όλοι στο καταφύγιο-

everybody   in  the  shelter

Sasa   Vazic (Serbia)

γρασίδι καλοκαιριού…

summer    grass…

τόσα μονοπάτια χαμένα

so    many    pathways    lost

στ’ αγριόχορτα

in    the    weeds

Ingo  Cesaro


Jacob Street.


A butterfly on my hat:

-περπατώ, σχεδόνπετώ…

I walk, almost fly

Alain Kervern (France)


a bird flutters


on the table:


creaks of words


70 However, what impressed me most is the fact that haiku societies were founded in a great number of countries in the past, except for Greece,until 2002, when my anthology was published. Five years before, it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to establish a Greek haiku society. Supported by my haiku friends from abroad, I started to contact a number of Greek poets but they all wrote other poetry forms and were already members of other literary societies, which made me think that such initiative was aimless. On second thoughts, however, I reconsidered this issue and suggested to one of my haiku friends that we promote haiku poems together. He initially accepted my proposal to turn his back on me later and to found “The Society of Greek Haiku” by himself without any notice or invitation to me to become a member of its directors’ board. I overcame that incident as such things frequently happen all over the world. I continued to be active in Greece and internationally by contacting foreign haikuists and presenting their works in online magazines. I have been awarded various individual recognitions and honors for my work as is the one I received from the “Hiroshima Memory Museum” of Tokyo. It was in 2014 that my work was represented in five (5) International Anthologies, four of which deal with haiku and one with “love poems”.I daresay that no one becomes famous for merely founding a literary society but what really counts is the quality of our work and our integrity.

Ζωή    Σαβίνα




like being embraced,


the moon is dying


in Hiroshima’s lake


71 It is a wonderful thing to have a chance to express sad, strange, beautiful and cheerful images and walks of life in only 17 syllables, that sounds as if haiku invaded our space through a rift, resulting in an explosion of the haiku development and revealing haiku's silky fabric, which hasn'tbeen transformed into a plastic material. The eyelids open and shut to let the light pass:  

72               Frrrasst!  An incision has been drawn.

73Translation from Greek into English: Constantine Fourakis  


1   Domenico Theotocopoulos (1541– April 1614), also known as El Greco that is “The Greek” due to his Greek origin, was an  important Cretan sculptor and architect during Spanish Renaissance. He spent the best part of his life away from his home, creating the main body of his work in both Italy and Spain. D. Theotocopoulos was initially trained as an iconographer in Crete, his homeland, then part of the Venetian territory, and later moved to Venice. Once in Italy, he was influenced by great Italian masters of painting, such as Tintoretto and Titian, became their student and adopted some elements of their mannerism. In 1557, he settled in Toledo, Spain, where he lived until the end of his life and made some of his most famous works.

2   Constantine  Parthenis (10 May, 1878 – 25 of July, 1967. Athens), born in Alexandria, Egypt, was a renowned Greek painter whose remarkable works made a significant change in Greece’s evolution of pictorial arts in the early 20th century.

3   Matsuo  Bashō (1644- 1694). Poetry and Painting in Japanese Art:  “Bashō and the Wind-Beaten Voyage” by Claire Papapavlou, Historian Of Oriental Art.   

4   “Sixteen Haikai”, Exercises Notebook by George Seferis, first published in 1932.

5   This is called “Installation Art” in pictorial arts jargon, meaning conversion in the concept of space. Generally, this method is applied in interior spaces whereas external interventions are usually called “Land Art”.  

6 Poetic Musings: “Kasane” Tanka by Matsuo Bashō, translated by Jeff Robbins and Sakata Shoko.

7    Featured essay ”Lafcadio Hearn and Haiku” by Cor van den Heuvel / © 2002 Modern Haiku / Summer

8   Comus was the personification of the Dionysian procession according to Greek mythology, appearing also during the late years of Greek antiquity as the god of celebration. Philostratus depicts him in one of his paintings as a drunkard whose head stoops down to his chest after a sumptuous meal. The Dionysian happening of Babougeri takes place in Greece even today. There are charming representations of this motive on ancient Greek vessels.

9   “Hesiod  Advises” - Thessaloniki Arts and Culture.

10   Heracleitus: “His Life and Philosophy” – Part A. The article was based on Costas Axelos’ work: “Heraclitus and Philosophy”, published by “Exantas”.

11    Zoe Savina: All cited poets are from the International Haiku Anthology: The Leaves Are Back on the Tree.

To quote this document

Zoe Savina, «    Plentiness Out Of Littleness», French Journal For Media Research [online], Browse this journal/Dans cette revue, 6/2016 La toile négociée/Negotiating the web, LA CULTURE JAPONAISE / JAPANESE CULTURE, last update the : 28/02/2018, URL :

Quelques mots à propos de :  Zoe Savina

Poetess and writer,
Member of the  National Association of Greek Writers



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