Friday, May 31, 2013

Poetry for Today

It has been raining every day for the past week.  I chose short poems, haiku by Bashu, as appropriate for the rainy end of May.  The three spring poems from Bashu create a trilogy of beauty.

Matsuo Bashō was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as the greatest master of haiku (at the time called hokku). His poetry is internationally renowned, and in Japan many of his poems are reproduced on monuments and traditional sites. Although Bashō is justifiably famous in the west for his hokku, he himself believed his best work lay in leading and participating in renku. He is quoted as saying, “Many of my followers can write hokku as well as I can. Where I show who I really am is in linking haikai verses.”
Bashō was introduced to poetry at a young age, and after integrating himself into the intellectual scene of Edo (modern Tokyo), he quickly became well known throughout Japan. He made a living as a teacher, but renounced the social, urban life of the literary circles and was inclined to wander throughout the country, heading west, east, and far into the northern wilderness to gain inspiration for his writing. His poems were influenced by his firsthand experience of the world around him, often encapsulating the feeling of a scene in a few simple elements.


Spring rain
dripping down the wasps' nest.
from the leaking roof

The moss pure spring

beginning to melt,
with the mountains as always
at daybreak

In my home village, having sown seeds of the three vegetables in
my brother's garden

spring rain ---
just beginning to sprout,
eggplant seedlings

Basho's Haiku: Selected poems of  Matsuo Basho. David Landis Barnhill, trans. SUNY Press, 2004

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