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  >  The Physical Body  >  F-04


Sing the Body Electric

5 Basho haiku, 14 renku, 3 letters, one bit of speech about body parts and sensations

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

  Walt Whitman sang of:

"The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter,

weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings"

 

Basho also writes of intimate body parts most poets do not speak about. In this article are Basho poems about breasts, laps, shoulders, hips, buttocks, umbilical cords, skin under underwear, and skin naked. (Poems on hands, faces, and hair appear in articles so named.)

 

From the bath
heat lingers, tonight
skin be cold

 

Naked getting out from the hot pool, steam from every pore, aware of how cold skin will become tonight; exactly the experience anyone of us can have going to a hot spring on a winter evening. This is poetry for the body.

 

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

 

This young peasant woman’s entire body is stained by omnipresent dirt and mud, yet still she tries to keep her face clean and her heart hopeful. As her baby’s lips enclose her nipple, she looks into the eyes and forehead to see the dreams within. Every word conveys humanity -- face, rice planting, soiled by mud, breast-feeding, lap, dreams, my and you: so physical and intimate with the body. This is Basho.


A beautiful child
asleep on her lap

Far from village
under cherry in bloom
broiling tofu

 

A lap is a comfortable place on the mother’s body for a baby to lay or sit, so the two can touch and speak to each other; the lap is where intelligence and language evolved. Yugo takes this woman to a picnic under a cherry tree in bloom. She is an icon – a symbol for something far greater: mother and child surrounded by nature: under cherry blossoms, the most iconic of Japanese seasonal events, she prepares food to sustain life while life sleeps on her lap.

 

At an age
to take care of dolls
she is lovely

Weight of the zither
she holds on her lap

 

Ordinarily the large harp lies flat on the floor, and a woman sitting on her heels has to lean forward to reach the strings -- not so convenient. This little girl with short arms has her own way to play the instrument. She hugs the small-size koto on her lap as she would a doll, as she would a baby – and so we return to the first stanza. From Sukan’s ideal of loveliness, Basho jumps into body sensation; the words he uses – omotaki, heavy in weight; kakaeru, “holds”; hiza, “lap” – all so physical and intimate

 

Basho wrote this provocative stanza of renku:

 

Plump and healthy
the young son sitting
on the lap

 

A picture of chubby baby boy in an advertisement for baby food: we are certain this male child is getting the best. His sisters may not fare so well. Basho is not condoning preferential treatment for male babies; rather he is photographing what he sees, for us to judge. In his letters to Ensui, he says with complete and utter clarity: Cherish the female as well

 

A strong but penniless man saw the famous Yoshiwara prostitute Little Murasaki in a procession, and was so enthralled with her beauty that he killed 130 people to obtain the gold to make a statue of her which he offered to the brothel in exchange for her contract. Instead he was caught and executed. When Little Murasaki found out what he had done, that she had been the cause of so many deaths, she committed suicide beside his grave. (What would you have done?) This happened in 1679. Four years later, in Empty Chesnuts, an anthology of linked verses selected by Kikaku, Kikaku wrote and Basho followed:

 

Ridiculed for
his Little Murasaki
cast in gold.

Black as fins of bream
nipples on big boobs

 

People made fun of the man and his obsession with Little Mursaki’s beauty. Imagine that: he cast her in solid gold; what an ego-trip! LOL Even her nipples were gold!! Basho counters with the nipples of Otafuku, a legendary character who anthropologist Michael Ashkenezi calls a “full-checked, plump peasant woman laughing happily”; her name means “large breasts.”

 

Kurodai are often caught by fisherman; they are actually only black on the backside and fins; the rest of the fish is silver-grey – so I guess to Basho it could look like dark nipples on a light-colored breast. Her breasts may be huge, but Japanese men adore slender women, so Otafuku will never be loved by a brilliant shining Emperor, never be depicted in a golden statue. Unlike the golden nipples of the fool’s Little Murasaki, her nipples will be “soiled by rice-seedling mud.”

 

From emaciated breasts
squeezing tears of dew

In his absence
meal tray placed inside
mosquito net

 

Still sick and weak from a difficult delivery, she provides sustenance for a new life. As she sits nursing the baby in her arms, “tears of dew” are her tears falling on the baby, the thin watery fluid coming from her malnourished breasts, the summer sweat between two feverish bodies, the utter misery of their existence – while the father is…The net is a small one where she and the baby sleep.Sitting inside to eat and nurse the baby, her world is reduced to the smallest dimensions, as small as her hopes for herself and her baby,  as miniscule as his concern for their welfare.


The diaphanous net hangs loosely from four ceiling points over her with head tall in the center. Can this represent an emaciated breast with its nipple? The “meal tray” then is the milk-producing glands inside the breast.

 

Rice planting
maidens are lined up
to drink sake -

Holding snow in summer
twin peaks of Tsukuba

 

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.

 

Visiting his hometown at the end of 1687:

 

My native place
over navel cord I weep
end of the year

 

Last time Basho was here, in 1684, his brother showed him a lock of their dead mother’s hair this time, the remains of his umbilical cord, by tradition kept as a memento. Kon reminds us that this navel cord is the “physical remains of Basho’s connection to his mother.” Furu sato, ‘old village’, is among the most poignant of words to the Japanese. ‘End of the Year’ contains one’s feeling for the passage of time, so the verse overflows with sentiment.

 

As graceful as
the slender figure

of a goddess
She wrings out red dye
into the white rapids

 

Basho writes two stanzas in succession about a sennyo – in Hiroaki Sato’s words, “a woman who has acquired magical powers, suggesting the legendary world of ancient China.” First he focuses on her ripe body, then on her hands gracefully wringing out fabric soaked in the red dye akane, madder, into the swift current which carries away all traces of red. The red flowing away suggests female bleeding -- 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” -- yet Basho’s goddess at work can be of any race in any time. His worship of the female transcends all boundaries. He honors women for their bleeding

 

Mother of a lost child
is your pelvis upset?

 

Basho is suggesting an idea women may appreciate, however is difficult to imagine coming from the austere impersonal monk that Basho is said to have been: the idea that a mother feels her child’s unexplained absence physically in her pelvis where she carried that child for nine months. The verse is so physical, in the body – yet not sexual –

 

Cold to the skin,
unused to coin hanging
from his neck

Black hair spilling power
of a baggage carrier

 

Ensui shows us an old wandering beggar usually with no money, but now having a single coin -- with a hole in the center so it hangs on a string round his neck. In the same area, below the neck and around the chest, this strong man’s shaggy black hair spills freely. The power of this hunk who everyday carries heavy baggage for miles and miles, comes from his long shaggy hair – as when the Sun Goddess prepared herself for battle with her brother the Storm God, she unbound her hair -- as Samsom drew power from his hair before Delilah cut it off.Both stanzas are noticeably physical, material, bodily. Basho’s stanza especially highlights raw physical manhood without culture, religion, or philosophy.

 

To caress
a tumor, willow
drooping low

 

The slender flexible willow branches caress the earth with the gentleness and sensitivity of a mother, lover, or nurse soothing away the pain. We may feel uncomfortable with a word such as “tumor” in a haiku, but Basho goes beyond the limits we set for him; he is far more personal and body conscious than we expect. I hope nurses who work with the sick and injured will find in Basho’s verse a prescription for gentleness and a healing touch.

 

“Weak as green willow”
the wife is despised --
‘Path of blood’
her day by day misery
in the spring rain

She drops a tea bag
in steam from her chest

 

Willow branches are pliant and flexible, submissive to every breeze, so we may think them weak. Women too are flexible, and in a patriarchal society expected to submit to every male desire. Men admire strength and rigidity, despising the flexibility of willows or women, as they despise the ‘path of blood’ from women’s reproductive organs, and also the sickness that comes with bleeding. During her period the long spring rains make this woman feel weaker and more shameful. For some relief, she boils the herbal tea bag in the steam rising from her inflamed heart.

 

For some coolness
they throw off their clothes
to wait for the moon 

Straw mats their shields

 running and jumping about

 

Ryoban shows us little children with no inhibition at all about taking off their clothes when the heat is so oppressive even in the evening.They are waiting for the moon to rise, but this may carry the hidden meaning of “waiting for puberty.” Basho says naked is okay, but how about a bit of restraint? The kids hold thin straw mats about a meter square in front of them as they dash about screaming. Still we see their “moons.” Children still in the paradise of innocence, but feeling the first hints of that shame to emerge when their bodies show sexual traits.


Orange-yellow thistle-like safflowers bloom in July on waist-high stalks. Red dye from these flowers is used in lipstick and rouge, and also to color a woman’s under-kimono which shows at the neckline.


In the future
whose skin shall they touch?
these safflowers

 

The safflowers become the dye in women’s underwear. Think about it for a while. The verse is deeply, vividly erotic, so erotic that Basho left it out of his literary masterpiece and never confirmed that he did write it; he just let the verse drift away from him. If we allow this verse to be erotic, thinking of where the safflower dye touches a woman, it becomes quite amusing in its frank feminine intimacy.


In a letter to Chigetsu in 1691, Basho writes:


My sick bowels for 53 days now have felt fine
and this spring I will take care of my health
and become fierce as a demon. Needing no cushion
in palanquin, shoulders and hips painful, I entered Iga.

 

Basho counts the days he is free from his chronic disease. Really? Exactly 53! In a letter to a woman, he tells the condition of his bowels; now that’s personal! He rode into Iga in a palanquin carried by four bearers, but his butt was so pain-free he did not need a cushion underneath that butt -- however the space within the palanquin was confining so after many hours his hips and shoulders hurt. So much body consciousness.


On his final journey, accompanied by his grandnephew Jirobei, Basho observes the body energy of himself and the 15 year old:

 

For three days Jirobei rested his legs
and my energy too was nourished,
so in happiness we encountered the water.
I wrote you before that Jirobei got exhausted.
Well, after his three-day rest,
he became robust and really makes an effort.
However when returning horses are discounted,
for four maybe five miles, I let him ride
After another 60 miles down the road:
both his shoulders and legs became strong together,

 

On the same journey, in a letter to Sampu, Basho says

 

On the 11th we got going, the water still high,
high enough to cover my horse’s butt-strap,
however the people we stayed with are good friends
who have knowledge of horses crossing rivers
and I crossed one-handed, so well they treated me.

 

His host's people know how to rig a horse so the saddle will not slip off the wet back. In addition to the usual chest and girth straps there is one extra, under the tail (which I am told does not interfere with defecation. I should hope not.)

 

The poets in Nagoya, Iga, and Zeze
still rest their butts in a comfortable place.
They know not the elegance of your poetry in Edo.

 

This autumn
oh how I have aged,
a bird in the clouds

 

About this verse Basho told Shiko,

the phrase ‘a bird in the clouds’ tears my bowels to pieces

 

Basho feels the power of words in his body. His chronic disease is in his bowels, so literally will tear them to pieces.

 

                    basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Long Black Hair (F-03 ) (F-05) Sickness and Health >>


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