Basho's thoughts on...
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com

 



Home  >  Topics  >  Humanity and Friendship  >  D-13


Madame Sonome

3 of her haiku, 3 renku responses to Basho, and a Basho statement about her

Legend:
Words of Basho in bold
Words of other poets not bold

Sonome ("Garden Women"), daughter of a priest and official at the Ise Shrine, married to an eye doctor, known for her beauty. The six verses by Sonome in this article, plus Basho's spoken word about her, reveal the consciousness of this woman in 17th century Japan.

 

Sonome, is known for writing "women's haiku" such as,

 

Hair mussed
by the child I carry
in this heat

 

Sonome shows us the hot sweaty reality of motherhood in the sultry Japanese summer . when there is Peace in the land. When there is war or tragedy, a woman has too many big problems to concentrate on so ordinary a moment. Japanese babies look at the back of mother's neck, her nape, for hours a day; it is well-known for its erotic appeal to Japanese men.

 

Sonome wrote another verse about her nape.

 

The coolness
almost to my collar
bun of hair

 

She explores the small ordinary sensations in woman’s life, the coolness that enters between collar and hair bun. The verse is incredibly unexciting: that’s the great part about it. Because in Japan the nape is erotic, the verse has a sensual side, although for a woman with a hair bun, it is an everyday in summer experience.

 

Leaves rustle,
dog starts to bark
before a storm


That feeling in the air when a storm approaches, the low-pressure zone that dogs and even fallen leaves sense. Each of the three verses by Sonome on this page show her unusual sensitivity to the physical world.

 

Basho visited Sonome’s home in March of 1688 and wrote the following verse as a compliment to his hosts -- though he mentions the husband in the headnote, his poem focusing entirely on her. Sonome follows with her stanza in this two-stanza sequence.


The wife of Ichiyu:


Doorway curtain
behind it, deep within
northside plum

Pine needles are falling
in the month of March

 

Noren curtains are often seen in Japan today, in the entrance to a shop or restaurant, and in doorways inside the house, where you walk through the slit in the middle of the curtain. The oku of the house is the interior or “northside” where the wife does her work. Oku is also the ordinary word for someone else’s wife, oku-san, or more politely, oku-sama. “Mrs. Interior” comes through the curtain to greet the guest and bring tea and cakes – but otherwise she stays in her “north side.” From the guest parlor Basho’s mind passes between the flaps of curtain to the interior of the house, where all is quiet and hidden, yet he knows she is there. My daughter Shanti says, “Every time I read this verse, the less innocent it sounds.”  (Ichiyu’s take on Basho’s sketch of his wife is not recorded.)

 

New needles grow on the tips of pine branches in May, remain for a few years, then the older inner needles, in any season, turn brown and fall. Sonome observes that the pine trees in her garden are losing needles in March before they grow new ones. With this barrenness representing her humility, she responds to Basho’s praise for her inner depths. She says “Do not call me a plum blossom; I am a barren pine. Your praise I cannot accept.”

 

After Basho visited them in Ise, Sonome and husband moved to Osaka. Now in 1694, fourteen days before Basho’s death:

 

Madame Sonome told me that for long she has wished to invite me over, so for the evening of November 14th we made preparations to gather at her home.


Basho as guest of honor begins:

 

White chrysanthemum
no speck of dust rises
to meet the eye


It is late autumn so chrysanthemums bloom in Sonome’s garden. She has arranged a few in a vase in the decorative alcove in the room where poets gather. Chrysanthemums can be many colors, but the white ones are most striking in their pure whiteness, the essence of Purity in the chill November weather.


Basho borrows phrases from Saigyo;

 

On the mirror’s unclouded any dust
that meets the eye must be of this world


Saigyo sees purity without gender, and so without life. Basho is looking for, and so he sees, another sort of purity in living and active women. It is essential to realize that this is a greeting-verse from a guest to his hostess: it communicates a personal message of appreciation for Sonome’s skill and care in maintaining her house so that the environment adds to the success and happiness of today’s gathering, and also his appreciation for Sonome as a woman.

 

According to Shiko, Basho said about WHITE CRYSANTHEMUM

 

“This is a verse about the beauty
of Sonome’s elegance.
Because I knew that today’s one meeting
would be the remnant of a lifetime,
I thought to watch for a vision in this hour.


Basho usually writes of ‘seeing’ what is hidden -- as he did with Sonome behind the doorway curtain. Here he speaks of concentrating on the woman actually before his eyes -- for this will be his final chance to see her.


According to Shiko who was there at the time, Basho said the verse is about the “beauty of Sonome’s elegance.” Japanese scholars obviously either do not know, or do not approve of Shiko’s account, since they ignore it. Ueda translates five scholars’ comments on this verse: Ueda, three scholar’s comments (Ueda 1992, p. 408)


Here are three of them:


“I would prefer to read this strictly as a poem on white chrysanthemums.”
“The beauty of the flower has no reference to anything else.”
“Basho was just writing a poem on flowers; he had no thought of Sonome at all; later on, it came to imply the poet’s respect for the hostess with no deliberate intention on his part.”


What?! Basho was at her home, and the haiku was a greeting verse to his hostess. Of course it expresses respect. Here are three fine examples of androcentric thinking. To these scholars (if Ueda’s translations are accurate) any notion that Basho cares about women is an anathema.

 

Sonome followed Basho with:

 

White chrysanthemum
no speck of dust rises
to meet the eye

Morning moon makes water
with crimson leaves flow


Shiro-giku no / me ni tatete miru /chiri mo nashi
Momiji ni mizu o / nagasu asa-zuki


Sonome counters the Purity of Basho’s stanza with a process Japanese traditionally consider impure and defiling, yet Sonome says is pure: menstruation -- the water (blood) with fallen crimson leaves (discarded lining of the uterus) are made to flow by the Moon.


Basho focuses all on one element, the flower’s whiteness. Sonome’s metaphor for menstruation is complex, even crowded, with three distinct nature images – moon, water, and leaves -- yet without ugliness or disgust: “no speck of dust rises to meet the eye.” In WHITE CHYSANTHEM Basho sees in Sonome the purity, impeccability, divinity for which he has always searched. Through MORNING MOON MAKES WATER, we can, if we choose to, see that same ideal in woman’s body functions. Sonome rejects her patriarchal culture’s image of menstruation as defilement; she says “No! It is pure as a white chrysanthemum – pure but complicated.”

 

The renku composed by nine poets at Sonome’s house began with Basho’s WHITE CHRYSANTHEMUM, and Sonome followed with MORNING MOON MAKES WATER. Numbers 3 through 9 were by other poets. Following is #10 by Basho, and Sonome’s #11:

 

Their new house
being built, in a shack
they have a fire

Resolving to stay here
the wife settles down


Basho portrays the uncertain, transient feeling of people who have torn down their old house, and are building a new one, so right now are homeless. They have a place to sleep at night, but spend their days at the construction site. They have made a firepit in a shack on the property, and there cook lunch.

 

Sonome says camping in a shack is fine for guys, but as a woman she would go crazy without a proper stove and sink and all the other convenieces of a 17th century kitchen. The woman in her stanza did get hysterical, and was ready to return to her native home, an action which could lead to divorce -- but then she thought about it some more, and resolved the matter in her mind: she stays with her husband and, by looking forward to the new home when it is built, endures camping out for a while longer.


Notice the link from the fire in Basho’s stanza to the hysteria in Sonome’s. Basho sketched a family in these circumstances; Sonome narrowed the focus to the wife. In two short lines, she manages to convey both the burning desire in the woman’s heart to get away from the mess and dirt and inconvenience, and also the cooling down as she realizes she had better stay and endure.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Widow Chigetsu (D-12) (D-14) Letters to Kyorai >>


The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

I plead for your help in finding a person or group to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material, to edit and improve the presentation, to receive all royalties from sales, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide and preserve for future generations.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
Basho's thoughts on...
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com