Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• 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  >  Praise for Women  >  B-13


Empowering Women

6 Basho verses and 2 journal passages to empower women today

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

Can women today be empowered by poems and prose written in a different language by a man 330~350 years ago in a  patriarchal society? Basho never shows us women lifting heavy loads, fighting ferocious beasts, or getting angry or aggressive: such is not the empowerment he concieves for women.  His interest is rather in women finding the power to maintain themselves, their womanhood, in the face of bullying and abuse, to sing in harmony with others, to work steadily and consistently, providing for the future, to be "heroically brave" in spite of utter misery and gloom. 

 

Consider the meaning of this term according to Wikipedia: 

 

The term empowerment refers to measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights. Empowerment ... enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence, and to recognize and use their resources. To do work with power.


Maybe you will not feel empowerment by a Basho verse today, but tomorrow or a year from now, when you consider the verse again, maybe when you are in a similar situation, the power will come to your mind.

 

Young Japanese today (knowing no Basho renku) consider him old-fashioned, desolate and lonely, having no relevance to modern life -- however here he penetrates to the heart of a problem plaguing society today: bullying.

 

That clique of
smart-ass co-workers
hates on her
Cinder burns her hem
so she rubs it out

 

才ばりの / 傍輩 中 に / 憎まれて
焼き焦がしたる / 小妻 もみ消す

Saibari no / houbaichuu ni / nikumarete
Yaki kogashitaru / kozuma momi kesu

 

Female servants are working together in the kitchen around the wood-burning stove, Kyokusui portrays the underhand cruelty of teenage girls who think they are so great to one who does not fit in with their clique. Saibari, literally “talent stretcher,” is someone with little talent who pretends to be an expert – so “smart-asses” they are.


Basho focuses on the young female responding to a physical problem – a cinder from the fire burns a hole in the hem of her house robe – with a simple direct action that immediately puts it out. She does not fuss over the bit of burning matter, or complain about it, or get angry at it. She simply crushes it between her thumb and forefinger. The girl who is bullied does not give up and submit, nor does she get upset in fighting back. Instead, she remains cool and calm, and with her attitude, she “rubs it out.” She rubs out the power of the bullying to upset her. With this small physical action, she "increases the degree of autonomy and self-determination" in her self.  

 

Demi Lovato puts it this way:


Confident women don't let anyone — men or other women — trash talk or

undermine their dignity. They make their own choices about self-identity

and to be who they are, flaws and all. Don't let anyone tear you down.

 

                     -------------------------------

 

Summoned to the palace
ashamed by the gossip
Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow

 

宮 に めされし /うき名はずかし
手枕 に / ほそき 腕 を /さし入れて

 

Miya ni mesareshi / uki na hazukashi
Ta-makura ni / hosoki kaina o / sashi-irete


Sora takes us to Chapter One of the Tale of Genji where a young woman, Kiritsubo, becomes the Emperor’s favorite.   His jealous older concubine spreads bad vibes toward her throughout the court. As Kiritsubo  walks about, women hide from her, saying horrible things about her; older women themselves, they know just how to shame a young woman; this is heavy stuff; girls commit suicide from shame such as this. Kiritsubo herself died from sickness brought on the ill will of those bitches at court.

 

Basho however gives his poetic creation life, not death. Lying on the futon beside the Emperor, she maneuvers her hand and arm into the space under his neck, watching for any signs of awakening, adjusting her hand and arm movements so he will not. In spite of the gossip about her and the shame it produces, she manages to love the Emperor with all the gentleness and devotion in her heart – a love so pure shame cannot interfere with it.


If we judge this woman according to our own principles of feminism, democracy, or anarchism, she may become the servile minion to a bogus diety – however if instead of those principles, we consider her within her own world-view, we see the remarkable power Basho has given her: awake in bed with him asleep, she has total control of one she and her entire nation believes is divine; right now, she has more power than any woman in Japan.


Basho’s stanza by itself contains no Emperor, so the one asleep can be your lover, husband, or child: as you care for this one, allow the physical body activity and spiritual depths in Basho’s words to empower you.

 

                       ----------------------------------

 

Beneath her eyelids
overflow the stars
Forced to stand
against her will, she dances
so delicately

 

まぶたに星の / こぽれかかれる
引き立て / むりに舞する / たおやかさ

 

Mabuta ni hoshi no / kobore kakareru 
Hiki tatete / muri ni mai suru / taoyakana

 

In the 12th century the shogun Yoritomo sent henchman to capture his younger brother Yoshitsune, but unable to find him, they took Yoshitsune’s mistress, the dancer Shizuka, and brought her to Kamakura to dance for the bully-in-command. Starlight shines from Shizuka’s tears as she struggles to hold them back in defiance of that horrible Yoritomo. Basho continues with a remarkably active, motionful stanza. Yoritomo roughly yanks Shizuka to a stance and demands that she dance, renouncing her love for Yoshitsune. Shizuka mocks him by dancing superbly while singing a song of her love for Yoshitsune. Shizuka stands up to Yoritomo’s patriarchy, dancing for the dignity of women who tell the truth.  She "becomes stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights." 


Shizuka’s defiance of Yoritomo brings to mind Emilia, in Othello, boldly accusing her husband Iago of deceiving Othello.


Iago.       What, are you mad? I charge you, get you home.
Emilia.     'Tis proper I obey him, but not now.
                Perchance, Iago, I will ne'er go home.

 

Emilia realizes that her insistence on truth can only lead to him killing her; she could retreat, stay alive and go home, but she presses onward with stupendous moral courage until Iago does stab her. She dies, honoring the truth. May the female power, the adherence to the truth, in these images of Shizuka and Emilia be resources for  women (and men as well) today to find empowerment.

 

                      ----------------------------------------------------

 

The stanza before this is about a boat;  Shoki turns it into a love poem:

 

Her semblance of power,
pebbles thrown in vain
Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus

 

ちから に 似せぬ / 礫 かい なき                                                                              
ゆるされて / 女 の 中 の /音頭 取り

 

Chikara ni nisenu / tsubute kai naki
Yurusarete / onna no naka no / ondō tori

 

The boat carrying her lover has left harbor; she tries to reach it with pebbles – i.e. her love - but her slender arm cannot throw them any distance against the wind. Shoki actually uses the word “power” (chikara) in the sense of having only an imitation of it. From the weakness of the lone woman, Basho switches to a chorus of women allowing one woman to lead them, so their sound goes far. Basho  refuses to go along with weakness and solitude; he instead affirms the power and solidarity of women in plural. I find it interesting that Japanese commentators say the leader of the chorus is male – and I suppose most choral groups today are led by men – however in the original Basho gives us freedom to have everyone here be female.


If women explore or recite Basho’s stanza, either by itself or with the previous stanza, they may find it an anthem to female solidarity and mutual empowerment. Basho recommends that women empower each other by singing together. This "enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence, and to recognize and use their resources."  Many women today will agree. Natalie Maddix says,


"Singing really has this healing property. There is a truth inside of us that maybe we're not ready to face and sometimes it's not until we sing together that we even become aware of our feelings."

 

                          ---------------------------------

 

Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet

 

声澄みて / 北斗にひびく / 砧かな
Koe sumite / hokuto ni hibiku / kinuta kana

 

 

Before machine-woven thread was available in Japan, women spun plant fibers by hand, and wove fabric on simple looms. Such fabric had a rough texture, and when washed, became all the more coarse. Before the clothing – especially underwear – dried, the damp fabric had to be pounded with a mallet to soften it and remove wrinkles.  The sound of women pounding cloth could be heard in all Japanese villages into the early years of the 20th century. 


Basho wants something stable in the night sky for these sounds from a woman on Earth. What could be more stable than the Big Dipper, always and forever pointing to the North Star, a fitting symbol for the constancy of women? To produce a sound so clear it reaches the Seven Stars light years away, the heart of the woman doing her work, "working with power," hour after hour, year after year, must be exceedingly clear.

 

“Pounding cloth” can be more than merely what our foremothers did generations ago: it can be a symbol for ALL the labor women do to maintain fabric and clothing in wearable condition. In TONE SO CLEAR, Basho offers women at work on cloth an avenue to a greater Power in the sky, a passageway through the heaviness to the divine.

 

It may help to remember that the Big Dipper is the ‘Drinking Gourd’ Black escaping slaves followed to freedom in Canada; to keep on their way North, they chanted over and over again, “Follow the Drinking Gourd” – the very best advice they could give themselves. I hope that by blending this power from African-American heritage with Basho’s haiku TONE SO CLEAR, both women and African-Americans can look up into the night sky to find inspiration and empowerment.

 

                         ----------------------------------------

 

 

By moonlight washing hair
with lather of rice bran -
Lighting lantern
and providing a mallet
to each daughter

 

月夜に 髪 を /あらう 揉み出し
火 とばして / 砧 あたがう / 子供 達

 

Tsukiyo ni kami o / arau momidashi                                                                   

 Hi  tobashite / kinuta atagau / kodomo-tachi

 

Mother works from sun up to sun down; finally she takes a break in the evening, to wash her long black locks. Beside the well, she rubs a cloth bag of wet rice bran powder between her hands; the saponin or soap-like foam that emerges through the fabric has been used for shampoo, as well as face and body wash, since ancient times. Rice bran is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals which moisturize and strengthen hair, protect it from ultraviolet rays, and prevent hair loss. So she provides for her hair’s future. Where does Basho go from this female chemical wisdom?


A wooden mallet, used to pound fabric of hand-spun yarn after washing so it would dry smooth and wrinkle-free, can represent all the work women do on cloth to keep it wearable, or all the work do with the power of their arms and hands.  This can be an individual mother giving her children work to do in the evening, or she can be iconic, a symbol for all mothers passing on the torch to their daughters, first the older, then the younger, for as many girls as there are in the household. She gives them Light – a bit of the Sun emerging from a lantern – and Work, the long tradition of females working day and night without complaint, simply working, hour after hour, generation after generation – providing for the future, her children – only taking time off to care for their hair. He empowers not only the individual woman, but also the succession from mother to daughter.


In the 21st century, millions of women do physical work hour after hour while other millions do not. Can this stanza-pair promote the empowerment of both types of women? I believe the keys are to see the images as metaphors, and to link them together so each image empowers the following image:  


Rice brain shampoo nourishs and empowers a woman's hair, and women feel power coming from their hair. "Lighting lantern" can represent education: the means to overcoming poverty and deprivation. A mallet gives weight and power to the slender hands and arms of the female or child.  Binding these three images together - chemical nourishment plus education plus physical strength -forms a most powerful trio to empower women worldwide. 

 

                            --------------------------------

 

In his world-famous journal A Narrow Path in the Heartlannds, Basho tells two stories to empower women.

First, seeing the tombstones of the two women married to two brothers who died in ferocious battle to protect the hero Yoshitsune.  History and literature remember the men while women (aside from romance) are forgotten, but Basho is different: 


Although they were women,
the fame of their heroic bravery
is heard with awe in the world,
so we shed tears on our sleeves.

 

Basho says these women were kaigaishii, a word usually used for men, meaning 'gallant, heroic, brave,' - but instead of writing it in the masculine Chinese characters ordinarily used for this word, he writes in hiragana, the script used by women, which femininizes the word and makes the reader pause to search for the meaning.  Basho honors these two widows for gallantly progressing through the lonely years doing the utmost they could for their children and household. Only Basho would consider this female conduct as brave and heroic as dying in ferocious battle to protect a hero.  This is his feminism. 

 

Later on in the journal, Basho encounters another two women, prostitutes at a brothel in Niigata City, but now on a spiritual pilgrimage to the Ise Shrine.  He records their speech:

 

“The safe way unknown,
road we travel is gloomy,
the uncertainty makes us sad…

 

Yet for all the weakness and uncertainty they express,  they had the courage to leave Niigata to walk more than 600 kilometers (400 miles) in which they could be be robbed, raped, or killed.  The widows of the Sato brothers suffered the loss of their husbands, but they still had fine houses to live in.  The play-women from Niigata went on a pilgrimage with nothing to comfort them; they only had their inner strength to endure hardship and misery, but they also had something else: eachother. Two women on a pilgrimage and two women surviving without husbands, each has a source of strength no single woman has: solidarity.  

 

“For if one should fall, the other shall lift up her companion.
But woe to her who is alone when she falls
and has not another to lift her up.”
                                                                   Ecclesiastics 4:10

 

 

 basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Oppression of Women (B-12) (B-14) Female Icons in Four Seasons >>


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...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• 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