Posts Tagged ‘ haiku ’
under the snow
by Donna Fleischer
Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology, 2003
A cloud of cherry blossoms:
The bell, — is it Ueno?
Is it Asakusa?
Basho (1644-1694). Ueno and Asakusa are adjacent districts in Tokyo. Ueno was (and is) well-known for its cherry blossoms. Both districts have numerous temples (and, hence, bells).
I believe that R. H. Blyth’s 4-volume Haiku is still (more than 60 years after its publication) the best study of the cultural, historical, philosophical, and aesthetic background of the art form. In his preface, Blyth provides this preliminary definition:
“Haiku record what Wordsworth calls those ‘spots of time,’ those moments which for some quite mysterious reason have a peculiar significance. There is a unique quality about the poet’s state of feeling on these occasions; it may be very deep, it may be rather shallow, but there is a ‘something’ about the external things, a ‘something’ about the inner mind which is unmistakable. Where haiku poets excel all others is in recognizing this ‘something’ in the most unlikely places and at the most unexpected times.
. . . . . . . . . .
Haiku is a kind of satori, or enlightenment, in which ‘we see into the life of things.’ We grasp the inexpressible meaning of some quite ordinary thing or fact hitherto entirely overlooked.”
R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 1: Eastern Culture (Hokuseido Press 1949), page 8. A side-note: Blyth’s reference to Wordsworth reminds me that his knowledge of English poetry was as wide as his knowledge of haiku. The four volumes of Haiku are interspersed with references to English poets and poems. He also wrote an interesting book titled Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics (1942).
Source: First Known When Lost: Basho
an octopus pot —
inside, a short-lived dream
under a summer moon.
Basho (translated by Makoto Ueda), in Makoto Ueda, Basho and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary (Stanford University Press 1991), page 201.
” . . . be we hero or heroine (in our own minds), somebody like Keats brings us back to earth: “Call the world if you please ‘The vale of Soul-making’. Then you will find out the use of the world.” The Chinese T’ang Dynasty poets and the Japanese haiku poets possessed this knowledge (via Taoism and Buddhism) several centuries before Keats. (Which is not to fault Keats: these messages are timeless, but it seems that we have to discover them for ourselves.)
Journeying through the world, —
To and fro, to and fro,
Harrowing the small field.
Basho (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido 1952).
At the news of the nun Jutei’s death
never think of yourself
as someone who did not count —
festival of the souls
Bashō (translated by Makoto Ueda), Ibid, page 393.
At the beginning of 1694, the final year of his life, Bashō was living in Tokyo (then known as Edo). His health was poor. In April of the previous year, his beloved nephew Tōin, who Bashō had taken into his home and cared for, had died of tuberculosis. In the same year, he had “begun to look after a woman named Jutei and her three children, although, except for one of the children, they lived separately from him. Surviving records are vague on Jutei’s identity, but they suggest Bashō had had some kind of close relationship with her in his young days. Her children, however, do not seem to have been fathered by Bashō.” Makoto Ueda, Bashō and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary (Stanford University Press 1991), page 348.
Sensing that his death was approaching, on June 3, 1694, Bashō set off on a journey to Ueno (his hometown), which is located approximately 350 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. He intended to see his relatives and friends for the last time. He arrived on June 20. Late in July, while still in Ueno, he learned that Jutei had died suddenly in Tokyo. Bashō never returned to Tokyo. He died in Osaka on November 28.
The Japanese word for “festival of the souls” is tamamatsuri. “Tamamatsuri, more commonly known as urabon (the bon festival), is an annual Buddhist rite at which each family offers prayers to the souls of its ancestors. In Bashō’s time it was held for four days, beginning on the thirteenth of the lunar seventh month. In 1694, that day was September 2.” Ibid, page 393.
Source: First Known When Lost: A Life
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