Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694) ... The Most Famous Poet of the Edo Period in Japan


Journal Éveillé is an informal exploration of awakened mind in the art of poetry....

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Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉?, 1644 – 1694), 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 (then called hokku). Matsuo Bashō's 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 young, 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 then 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.


Oku no Hosomichi (奥の細道?, originally おくのほそ道, meaning "Narrow road to/of the interior"), translated alternately as The Narrow Road to the Deep North and The Narrow Road to the Interior, is a major work of haibun by the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō, considered "one of the major texts of classical Japanese literature."

The text is written in the form of a prose and verse travel diary and was penned as Bashō made an epic and dangerous journey on foot through the Edo Japan of the late 17th century. While the poetic work became seminal of its own account, the poet's travels in the text have since inspired many people to follow in his footsteps and trace his journey for themselves. In one of its most memorable passages, Bashō suggests that "every day is a journey, and the journey itself home." The text was also influenced by the works of Du Fu, who was highly revered by Bashō.

Of Oku no Hosomichi, Kenji Miyazawa once suggested, "It was as if the very soul of Japan had itself written it."


月日は百代の過客にして、行かふ年も又旅人也。舟の上に生涯をうかべ馬の口とらえて老をむかふる物は、日々旅にして、旅を栖とす。古人も多く旅に死せるあり。予もいづれの年よりか、片雲の風にさそはれて、漂泊の思ひやまず、海浜にさすらへ、去年の秋江上の破屋に蜘の古巣をはらひて、やゝ年も暮、春立る霞の空に、白河の関こえんと、そヾろ神の物につきて心をくるはせ、道祖神のまねきにあひて取もの手につかず、もゝ引の破をつヾり、笠の緒付かえて、三里に灸すゆるより、松島の月先心にかゝりて、住る方は人に譲り、杉風が別墅に移るに、 草の戸も住替る代ぞひなの家 面八句を庵の柱に懸置。


The months and days are the travellers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers. Those who float away their lives on ships or who grow old leading horses are forever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels take them. Many of the men of old died on the road, and I too for years past have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud drifting with the wind to ceaseless thoughts of roaming.....English translation by Donald Keene

Donald Keene (b. 1922) is an American-born Japanese scholar, historian, teacher, writer and translator of Japanese literature. Keene is University Professor Emeritus and Shincho Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature at Columbia University, where he taught for over fifty years.


Basho ...Haiku....

Don’t imitate me;
it’s as boring
as the two halves of a melon.

"So simple, elegant; and, at the same time, mundane and ordinary. But isn’t that it? Isn’t the point of creativity to lead us back into our lives, give us back again the truth of our ordinariness: our ordinary lives in the mundane, day to day activities, where for the most part we act unconsciously, automaton like; and, in this awakening of the power of poetic or conceptual revelation to once again help us realize that, yes – that’s it exactly: to wake up and be blessed by the truth of our ordinary lives, our lived moment, the traveling of this road that is our singularity? No longer to live unconsciously, but to cherish even the triviality of spliced water melon, or a conversation, or the flight of a bird? This is where the natural occurrences break across an awakened mind…"



San Francisco

September 2016


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