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  >  Introduction to this site  >  A-11


Three Myths Confining Basho

Going beyond his haiku and travel journals

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

Basho is confined by the myths built up around him. These myths have little to do with the reality of Basho’s life expressed in his letters, or the reality in his major form of poetry, renku or linked verse -- but scholars who know neither his letters nor his renku have spread these myths through the universities and books and internet. They are preconceived notions about Basho, barriers preventing people from making any sustained effort to know Basho’s works beyond some number of his haiku, one travel journal, and maybe some more of his prose, while hundreds upon hundreds of his most joyful and caring works lie unnoticed and never discussed, promoting more and more misconceptions about this warm affectionate man with many close friends.

 

Myth #1
That Basho can only be understood and
appreciated by a select group of specialists.

People - who are not haiku fans - think that Basho belongs to some select group which does not include oneself. The general idea is that Basho is too difficult for anyone to understand without specialized knowledge. I remember two high schools, one in Fukuoka, Japan, and one near Seattle, Washington where I offered to share Basho’s works on teenagers. The heads of both schools, without looking at even one single poem,said exactly the same thing: “We have no haiku experts on our staff, so the students will not be able to understand.” And I remember a woman in a anti-sexual-trafficking organization in Tokyo, who when

I tried to show her Basho’s many works condemning sexual trafficking, merely, without reading one word of them, said “Take this to a literary journal!”


The strange thing about this myth is that it is prevalent even in people who know and love Basho haiku; yes, they understand numerous Basho works, but assume the rest of his works belong to the specialists. This myth has effected me as well, and still does: I studied Basho haiku, journals, and haibun, and even his letters for decades without ever looking into his renku; I just though they would be too difficult to understand. I read them in books now and then, but never explored them in Japanese and thorugh my own experience. And now, after eight years of studying them, still when I see a Basho renku for the first time and do not immediately understand, I imagine there is some specialized knowledge I lack so I cannot “get” the point. Sometimes there is, but usually not, and all I have to do to ‘get’ the verse is to shift my way of looking at it, to give up my preconceived notions, and simply receive Basho’s simple ordinary words.

 

I have heard and read numerous discussions of how difficult the language is in Basho’s works – and this mystifies me. In his works Basho almost always uses clear simple words in ordinary Japanese grammar.    He said:

Poetry benefits from the realization of ordinary words

 

Interpretations of Basho, however, are full of difficult words and grammar, and people who read these interpretations come to believe the difficulties are in the originals as well. In particular the Zen people make Basho study so difficult with their wordy abstract philosophies which have little or nothing to do with Basho. The Zen interpretations of Basho can only be understood by a select group of specialists – while Basho’s actual works can be understood by any one who can see beyond the myths.


Basho also said

Poetry? Let a three foot child do them

 

A three foot child would be 5 or 6 years old, so have little of the cerebral brain activity to explore abstract words and sentences, so they naturally go straight to the sensory reality Basho portrays in his simple ordinary word.


Here is a renku to counter the myth:

 

Glaring about
she orders the children
to “behave”

While she puffs the ash
from broiled miso

 

The children are scattered about the room, so mother at the hearth in the center has to “glare about” to address them all – not that they listen. The first poet speaks of human activity: the three lively active verbs, “glaring about” “order” and her spoken command “behave” and Basho follows with two more active verbs: she is broiling the balls of soy bean paste on skewers and purses her lips to blew a puff of her breath at the ash. Basho speaks not of beauty or virtue, sin or regret, suffering or tragedy; in fact he speaks of no

adult man or anything men are concerned with at all. The woman by herself is ALIVE and she expresses her life force in that puff, as she did in ordering her kids to behave.


What can we get from this renku? The woman’s breath, her life force – which is a lot more than any abstract Zen philosophy. We need no abstract literary or specialized knowledge to understand this pair: experience of cooking on an open fire, of cooking miso, or dealing with young children would be more useful. Women, rather than any male, are more likely to have the experience that makes this stanza-pair powerful.


Myth 2
That Basho writes does not write
about anything interesting to us today

The well-known poems of Basho are mostly about impersonal nature or lonely desolation, The many verses about human personality and body parts and lively activities and sensuality and compassion are unknown. Again, this myth gains dominance if you know only the haiku of Basho. In his linked verse and tanka,

Basho is totally personal and attached to human concerns. If people could simply realize that Basho wrote poems entirely different from the poems they know.

 

If women knew that Basho wrote hundreds upon hundreds of poems about women, in fact the most pro-female works in old-time literature, they would be quite interested. Poems such as this overthrow this myth:

 

Seeds starting to sprout
for our treasured grass

Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself

 

For Basho the "treasured grass" is rice which when it sprouts looks like ordinary grass, but four months later provides the stable food of Asia. The beautiful form of the mother giving birth to a child who receives love within the world. Blending the thoughts of two poets, we go from woman bearing human child to Mother Earth giving birth to billions of plants; living woman merges with Earth.

 

Myth # 3
That all, or at least all that is worthwhile,
of Basho has been translated and is known to
students of Japanese literature.

 

Students of Japanese literature do not themselves know all of Basho that has been translated, but they believe that somewhere, in some book or site, enough of Basho can be found. The truth is totally

opposite. Only a number of Basho haiku and his travel journal Oku no hosomichi – I translate A Narrow Path in the Heartlands – have been translated widely; his four other journals, his Saga Diaryand more of his haiku can be found in numerous books and sites – but all 1000 of his haiku and his five travel journals and one diary are still less than one third of all Basho wrote. Even these haiku and travel journals plus the 370 renku stanzas and 60 Basho letters I know are only about 30% of all there is; who knows what gems lie unknown to me?

 

The scholars have selected the verses they translate, selected them to fit in with the theories they have already formed about Basho. Verses which do not support the myth are ignored. So the tanka blessing a newborn baby girl, SPRING PASSES BY, which I believe is the greatest work in all of Japanese literature, is almost completely unknown.

 

Spring passes by
again and again in layers
of blossom-kimono
May you see wrinkles
come with old age

 

This tanka is extensively discussed in H-11 SPRING PASSES BY and many other articles; the important point is to realize that "again and again in layers" has three meanings: the two layers of the kimono over an underrobe; the succession of kimono a woman goes through from bright colorful robe as a young girl to mature sedate one as as an older woman; and the succession of each kimono to her daughter and granddaughter; with these three meanings, the tanka becomes profound beyond any poem ever written.


Part of this myth is the notion that even if there are untranslated works of Basho, they must not be very interesting, since no one has translated them. In reality, however, Basho’s linked verses and tanka are many times more interesting than his nature haiku because they are all about humanity and life’s experience. Blossoms and butterflies are wonderful but realitively simple, but in renku we learn something even more wonderful and far more complicated, the nature of our own species, humanity.  Basho said:

 

Many of my followers write haiku the equal of mine
In renku is the bone marrow of this old man

 

Basho found the haiku in three lines the ideal form for capturing the essence of flowers, birds, the moon and snow – while the three lines by one poet and two by another, containing the link between two minds was the ideal form for exploring to the depth of humanity or human nature. 

 

This is another renku to defeat the myth:

 

With her needle
in autumn she manages
To make ends meet

Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven

 

This woman has enough work sewing before winter comes. She may “make ends meet” in autumn, but has to survive the rest of the year. Into this poor struggling home, Basho introduces a daughter and a koto, or 13-string harp, an instrument of  refinement played only by women. Notice the link between the form of needlework and the strings and frets on the harp. Both stanzas convey the diligence and constant effort of the female, the action of her hands producing order, rhythm, and beauty.


Basho praises the young girl in the early stages of her discipline. We imagine the pride the hard-working mother feels hearing her seven-year-old daughter produce such beauty. With utmost subtlety and grace, through the powerful effect music has on the brain, Basho portrays the bond between mother and daughter, the hope for a better future that the growing and learning girl evokes in her mother, hope rising on the lovely notes emerging from her harp.   


I believe there are millions upon millions of women worldwide who could be inspired by  DAUGHTER PLAYING KOTO and SPRING PASSES BY, if only they knew of them – yet every time I try to introduce these messages of Hope to somebody, as soon as I say the name Basho, they have already decided one or more of the following:


A) the poem will be too difficult and specialized for them to understand

B) Basho doesn’t write about anything interesting to them, or

C) we already know enough of Basho; we don’t need to know any more.


If they only knew what they were missing.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com 






<< Samples (A-10) (A-12) Basho’s Reverence for Life >>


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