I am glad to join the Poetry Friday community again this week with a picturebook that celebrates poetry from Japan – in keeping with our current reading theme: Buffet of Asian Literature. Do drop by Buffy’s Blog for the poetry round-up this week.
I think I do know quite a bit of Basho’s poetry before, but this is the first time that I am learning more about his life. I marveled at its quiet simplicity and grace and sheer intensity packed in a few powerful phrases – that’s haiku for you. The Author’s Afterword provides a very brief description of Matsuo Basho’s (1644-1694) life and made reference to his haibun, his “diary of prose and poems” as he traveled in his grass sandals. While this picturebook is not really written in verse, there are direct quotations from Basho’s poetry which I would love to share with you:
In a world that is rife with materialism, driven by consumerism and greed, and rabid acquisition of things we don’t really need, one chances upon Basho’s life story who brought the following essentials as he travels from one town to the next:
“a rainhat made of tree bark, a raincoat made of thick grass to protect his black robe. He prepared for his journey by sewing his torn pants and stitching a string on his hat so that it wouldn’t fly off in the wind.”
Basho’s friends were kind enough to bring him a few more presents for his journey:
“a paper coat to keep off chills, writing paper, an ink stone, and for his feet on their long walk, woven grass sandals.”
His haiku is a tribute to the environment: his eyes wide open to nature, where everything that he sees is a gift and filled with beauty. Reading the book is a quiet reminder for me of the things that are truly important and the things that we have and constantly aspire towards, and that which really matters. Basho seems to have captured that in these lines:
A monk sips morning tea,
the chrysanthemum’s flowering.