Sunday guests: Basho

Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694) was born during into a Samurai family during a tranquil period in the area of Iga (present day Mie Prefecture) and entered service as a Samurai to the son of a local noble. When Basho was about 22 his master died and shortly thereafter Basho entered Koyasan monastery. Poetry had been a leisure activity of the Samurai class and Basho had begun writing at an early age and continued to study and develop his art. He is today considered one of the major forces in the development and shaping of Haiku. Here are a couple of examples:

         A withered branch,
                  at a crow's alighting,
               nearly winter.

The Japanese for this is: Kare eda ni karasu no tomari keri aki no kure – note that there is not punctuation to help define this. And, ‘keri’ can either be an indicator of past tense or poetic emphasis. Please also consider that these are translations – Basho might be laughing at every one of these feeble attempts, especially mine.

         Now the New Year,
           two liters of old rice,
             to begin. Spring!

Look for more from Basho, and many of the other classic Haiku poets as future Sunday guests.