Today I will spotlight one of my favourite poets, Matsuo Basho and I will give you some of my favourite haikus he has created. You may wonder: Why a sudden single author presentation? Well, as I was rereading some of my articles, I had the sudden realisation that something was missing from my book reviews.
I did not necessarily know what was the puzzle piece until an epiphany came down upon me and I said: I have to focus more on a particular author and their literature. I feel that talking about more authors at once, as time-efficient may be, diminishes a little bit the attention I am putting on a particular piece of work or a person and that bothers me.
That being said, I created this series called `In The Spotlight` where I will focus on one author in particular and one book in particular and I will note here my impressions, thoughts and analysis, as I try to bring to public attention books and writers I adored throughout my personal journey into the magical realm of literary works. I will still continue with my previous format as well however, I want for this format to be as a spotlight-type of presentation.
THE LIFE OF BASHO:
Thus, we come across the first book in this series, `Lips too Chilled`, a collection of haikus by the great renku and haiku master. Before I will give you my favourite haikus from this little book (as it has a maximum of 56 pages), we shall have an insight into the life of the greatest haiku poet of Edo Japan. Born in 1644 in Ueno, Japan Basho gained his name as the greatest haiku master of all time – or as Encyclopedia Britannica calls him `the supreme Japanese haiku poet` – through perfecting the craft of haiku making and establishing a more palatable artistic medium in which poets could satisfy their endeavours freely.
Matsuo Basho’s life is nothing but remarkable, a literature-loving, ex-samurai who dedicated the rest of his life to studying literature and perfecting the craft he cared so deeply about while integrating his Buddhist and Zen world views into his well-crafted verses. Should we speak about his poetic mark, one can recognise a predilection for the pastoral descriptions through his verse. What makes Basho unique and ubiquitous is his ability to intertwine present and past into three short but powerful verses.
His poetry is dynamic, it flows like a spring, sometimes aggressive sometimes calm, but endlessly moving. He combines different visual elements, either floral or animal with static images of the past, which seem almost covered in dust or which are covered with a patina of ancient, forgotten times. This predilection for ambiguous combinations permits Basho to talk about a myriad of topics while using a handful of literary styles.
Whether talking about political, satirical or simply descriptive episodes of his time, he uses the language of flowers and an ample chromatic pallet to create impactful visuals which permit the reader to fully meander through the path Basho himself projected upon them.
Now I will give you some of my favourite haikus from the aforementioned book and I truly hope you will emerge yourselves into Basho’s world, for it is a journey worth making. All poems are taken from `Lips too Chilled` by Matsuo Basho, Penguin Books, translated by Lucien Stryk.
In my new robe
the pheasant’s call –
Under the cherry –
Reeling with sake
and cherry blossoms,
a sworded woman in haori.
how precious on
a mountain path.
And my personal favourite , which masterfully sums up Basho’s poetica:
Wake, butterfly –
it’s late, we’ve miles
to go together.