Basho's thoughts on...
• Women in Basho
• 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
• 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  >  Praise for Women  >  B-08


The Sensual Female Basho

4 Basho renku and 4 haiku about women's sensuality.

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

 

 

 

 

Rarely is Basho is abstract or philosophical; instead his usual focus is on the physical and sensory; in this article, we follow him exploring the contours of the female body and her sensations as she moves.  (This article has a brother, C-4 - Men Like Sex.)

 

Hokushi begins, then Basho writes two stanzas in succession:

 

Cloudsof rain clearing 

loquats have ripened

the long slender

figure of a goddess

so gracefully 

She wrings out red dye
into the white rapids

 

As the month of summer rains ends, the sky clears yet soon fills up with clouds moving sideways to bring more rain. Also in this season biwa or loquats ripen: plum-like, growing in clusters, oval, 1–2 inchs long, smooth or downy yellow or orange skin, succulent tangy flesh yellow or orange flesh with flavor sweet to slightly acid. The oval shape of the fruit also appears in the lute known as a biwa, and in Lake Biwa near Kyoto. “Clouds and rain” in traditional Chinese and Japanese poetry suggests sexual intimacy, and “loquats have ripened” is also suggestive.

 

Basho changes the clouds into the form of an Asian goddess who lies across the sky with the slender graceful curves which Richard Bernstein in The East, the West, and Sex: A History of Erotic Encounters describes as “more plumlike than melonlike of breast, spare rather than full of buttocks and hips," the  round contours of the loquat fruit and ripe flesh beneath soft downy skin. The BRZ says, “Basho makes the ripening of biwa a symbol for the gracefulness of the goddess’ body.”   A sennyo, according to Hiroaki Sato, “a woman who has acquired magical powers, suggesting the legendary world of ancient China.”

 

Basho's second stanza changes that goddess into a mortal women beside a fast stream; her two hands squeeze fabric soaked in the red dye akane, madder, in opposite directions so the red liquid drops into the swift current. The red flowing away may suggest menstrual bleeding and the part of a woman that bleeds. Sato says Basho “painted with words a picture of a Chinese goddess that Utamaro – ukiyoe artist famous for sexual imagery – might have drawn with a brush.” This is a Basho not found in any other book or site: a physical sensual Basho who seeks to know the “slender figure of a goddess.”

 

 

Here is another renku about breasts: Rice-planting women are, tradtionaly, teenage girls or unmarried women, whose fertility is believed to transfer to the fields -- however in reality older women joined the crew.  They work together planting every field in the village, then comes time to celebrate.  This would be one of the very few times in a year a teenage girl could get a small cup of sake.  


Rice planting
maidens are lined up
to drink sake --

Holding snow in summer
twin peaks of Tsukuba

 

The women sit together at a long table covered with food;  the right of each robe over the left side of her body, then the left side over the right, and tied with a sash.  Each one's long black hair parted in the middle  flows down both sides of her face.  Mount Tsukuba, 45 minutes by train north of Tokyo, is famous for having two peaks almost the same height. The last bits of snow up there do not melt until early summer. Notice how Basho brings our attention to those “peaks.” The great poet leads us to the "mountains" growing under the robes of those maidens lined up to drink sake lowering their inhibitions. We feel the sake flowing through their skin into their sensations, their eyes shining and nipples taut against their robes. 


Basho apparently wrote another haiku which seeks to see the woman’s body inside her clothing. On his journey to the Deep North, he is in Obanazawa, a town  famous for growing safflowers and producing the orange-red dye used in make-up and to color a woman's under-kimono.   A red under-kimono is usually worn by young girls and women, although an older woman can wear one if that's what she is into.  It would not be appropriate to wear for a formal occasion - such calling on someone at home - and is more suitable for parties. 

 

In the future
whose skin shall they touch?
these safflowers

 

The flowers are crushed to produce the orange-red dyestuff.  Basho looks at the flowers alive, and sees into the future the female flesh this bit of dyestuff will touch and move over, and he wonders who is this women having fun at a party?  

 

Basho wrote another haiku about safflower dye in makeup which he included in his travel journal A Narrow Path in the Heartlands; this is undoubtedly by Basho, but lacks the sensuality to appear in this article.  Inastead I give you IN THE FUTURE which scholars consider "authorship doubtful."   If I thought that Basho was austere and detached from sexuality, I would have trouble believing that Basho wrote this haiku of "seeing" a woman's underwear - but since I see him as the most sensual of all classical poets, and he very often focuses on the female body and transcends the barriers of time to see the future, this haiku both suits Basho and belongs in this article. 

 

Basho went to a "teahouse" near the Ise Shrine, and there met a woman named Butterfly who used to be the courtesan of this establishment.  She asked him for a haiku on her name, and he wrote this ode to her sensuality.

 

Orchid fragrance
on wings of butterfly
smell the incense

 

Basho visited the home of his follower Ichiyu and wife Sonome.  Sitting in the guestroom, his mind passes through the vertical slit in the doorway curtain to Sonome in the "northside" or woman's part of the house:

Doorway curtain
behind it, deep within
northside plum  

 

"Northside plum" is both a tree on that side of the house, and Sonome herself. My daughter Shanti notes that everytime she reads this verse, it seems more suggestive. Again, whether you see this as an ode to Sonome's female sensuality, is up to you. 

 

Summonned to the palace

ashamed by the gossip

Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow

 

Sora begins with a scene resembling the first chapter of the Tale of Genji where a young woman Kiritsubo becomes the emperor's favorite, and bears him a son who will become Prince Genji.  The Emperor's older women, led by the mother of the Crown Prince, spread rumors about Kiritsubo and give her a hard time.  Being women themselves they know exactly how to shame a young woman having sex with an older man, so Kiritsubo sickens and dies.

 

Basho, however, aims for life, not death. He focuses on this woman alive and gently moving her hand and arm through the space under his neck as he lies on his side. In spite of the gossip about her and the shame it brings her, the woman in EASING IN manages to love the Emperor with all the gentleness in her forearm and hand as well as in her heart.   Basho’s stanza coming from Sora’s empowers women to overcome bullying and shame by concentrating on their feminine sensuality both delicate and powerful.

 

 Higashi Akimasa in his book 芭蕉の愛句, Basho no Aiku, “The Love Poetry of Basho,” notes the sensuality in this stanza comes not from the words about the body – “her slender forearm” – but rather from the unspoken suggestion of “the form of woman’s body in the bedroom.” Higashi says

 

This is a truly sensual love-stanza. Looking back over the history of Japanese tanka and renku, so daring a love verse is unusual, however should we not be a little surprised that the author was Basho said to be a paragon of wabi and sabi?”

 

Higashi does not answer his rhetorical question, however I will. The notion that Basho is a “paragon of wabi and sabi” is an illusion, based on a narrow selection of impersonal and lonely haiku. Once we broaden our selection to include his linked verses, we find him to be a paragon of romance, passion, and physical sensuality. 

 

Folding the robe she wore
placing irises in the folds

A daughter named
San, afterwards, her
thoughts of love

 

This is the robe she wore when she was with him. Irises are put in folds of clothing in storage to keep away bugs, but her thoughts here are more romantic.  Whether you see eroticism in the image of flower between folds of clothing, or do not, depends on you.  


Basho deepens the focus on the female; giving her a name gives her an identity. Meanwhile there is no male presence anywhere in the stanza-pair; he is only there in her memory. San is, in Japan, the name of a town girl rather than  a villager. She has a bit of sophistication; she is not covered with rice-planting mud. Mono omoi, is literally “thoughts of things” but is an idiom for love or love’s desire.  So here are her thoughts of love as she places the irises between the folds of robe.  In the link between the two stanzas is the teenage girl’s experience of first love.

 

Like a navel cord
his visits to the Yoshiwara
shall be cut off

He resents the thunder
of the midnight drum

 

Money getting tight, after tonight he cannot afford to rent a woman in the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters. He realizes that the connection of his penis to a courtesan’s womb resembles the connection he had with his mother's womb. When his opportunity to reconnect with a womb-an ends, he recalls the moment his navel cord was cut. To see Basho thinking of, comparing, exploring the penis and umbilicus disposes any notion that he was impersonal or detached or non-sexual.


 

He has enjoyed her body and spirit until midnight when a taiko, or great drum, sounds  telling men who cannot stay the night they must leave the walled quarters. Parting from this woman he feels like being born, hearing for the first time sounds of the world unmuffled by the womb, a sound like thunder which he resents.

 

Next is another verse about  arm and hand  moving something in between body parts, having nothing do with sex, but still sensual if you wish it to be: 

 

Wrapping rice cake
with one hand she tucks
hair behind ear

 

Hair over the forehead, neither cut nor tied up, must be parted to flow down either side of the face, so while a woman works, it can easily fall before her eyes. A mother preparing sweets for the children bends over a bucket of rice dough, forms into cones, wraps leaves of bamboo grass around each one, and ties with a strip of rush.  Some of her long hair moist with sweat has come loose from the band in back and fallen before her face. Her fingers and palms are coated with residue. Without thinking or breaking her stride, she reaches up with the clean surface on the side of her hand above the thumb and forefinger to tuck the hair between her ear and the side of her head  – with nothing getting on her hair.

 

Women in every land and every time where hair is worn long make this precise,delicate, and utterly feminine movement with the side of the hand around the ear. Whether you are female or male, with hair long or short, make the movement with your hand and you will recall exactly what Basho is showing us.

The verse strikes a chord of recognition in anyone who reads it with attention.  WRAPPING RICE CAKE is Basho’s Mona Lisa, his most graceful hidden woman. Only Basho has the delicacy and precision to draw such a moment out from the sensory-motor flow of a woman’s everyday life.

 

We end this article with is a sensual prose passage he wrote in 1693:

 

Beneath plum blossoms on the dark mountain unknown to people, unexpectedly we may be stained by the fragrance.

 

On a hill of deep longing,
with no one to guard the gate,
somehow indiscretions occur.

 

Yes, they do. 

 

 basho4Humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Women at Work (B-07) (B-09) Rice Maidens >>


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...
• Women in Basho
• 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
• 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