Kametaro article


- Basho's Biography -

by Kametaro (Japan)

source : www.meister-z.com/meister_z


Basho's Biography
by Kametaro (Japan)

Basho's "Here and Now"

Western writings on haiku frequently assert that in Basho's view a haiku is what is happening here and now. But Basho wrote no discourse on the principles of haiku and his works contain few traces of theory that we can draw upon to reconstruct his concepts. I (Kametaro) have asked for help from colleagues who are specialists in the literature of Edo Period (1600-1868; Matsuo Basho lived from 1644 to 1694), but none has found a clear statement of the "here and now" principle.

In my opinion (Kametaro) this principle was established long before Basho. It seems to have been regarded as fundamental when haiku were still called haikai. Certainly every one of Basho's haiku testifies to the principle, though he never uttered it.

Mukai Kyorai (1651-1704) was one of the ten major disciples of Basho. His Kyoraisyo is considered the most important work dealing with the principles of haiku in Basho's time, but I cannot find anything in it that bears directly on this topic.

Kagami Shiko was another of Basho's ten most important disciples. A chapter called "Sonentei yo-banashi" in his Fukuro-nikki reports a discussion about haiku by Kyorai in which he stated that haiku are concerned with "what is spontaneous on the spot." Shiko added that Basho praised that statement.

As a peripheral note, I mention a story about Basho found on page 285, volume IX of the complete works of Basho published by Kadokawa Shoten, (1967):

"In the second year of the Jokyo period (1685) at dawn on the 14th day of the Ninth Month, Basho had a strange dream in which he was caught in a rainstorm and ran into a shrine to take shelter. The priest scolded him and turned him away, but then said he could stay if he could make a haiku that fit the moment. Basho replied, 'Oh, well, at this very place ...' and produced a haiku."

End of Kametaro Introductory Brief -- (January 1972)


Followed by

by Stephen Kohl

One day in the spring of 1681 a banana tree was being planted alongside a modest hut in a rustic area of Edo, a city now known as Tokyo. It was a gift from a local resident to his teacher of poetry, who had moved into the hut several months earlier. The teacher, a man of thirty-six years of age, was delighted with the gift. He loved the banana plant because it was somewhat like him in the way it stood there. Its large leaves were soft and sensitive and were easily torn when gusty winds blew from the sea. Its flowers were small and unobtrusive; they looked lonesome, as if they knew they could bear no fruit in the cool climate of Japan. Its stalks were long and fresh-looking, yet they were of no practical use.

The teacher lived all alone in the hut. On nights when he had no visitor, he would sit quietly and listen to the wind blowing through the banana leaves. The lonely atmosphere would deepen on rainy nights. Rain water leaking through the roof dripped intermittently into a basin. To the ears of the poet sitting in the dimly lighted room, the sound made a strange harmony with the rustling of the banana leaves outside.


MORE in the WKD library
. BASHO'S LIFE - Stephen Kohl .