Basho Haiku

Basho HaikuMatsuo Munefusa (Basho), 1644 — 1694, became well known in the intellectual Edo part of  Japan, which is now modern Tokyo. He had a future in the military since he was born into a samurai family, but he preferred to live in poverty as a wanderer. At times he’d return to a hut made of plantain leaves, basho, which he took as his name. His haiku helped to transform the verse form from a social pastime into a Japanese poetry genre.  One of his familiar haiku is

 

 

an ancient pond

a frog jumps in

the splash of water

Generally, haiku uses the 5-7-5 form, meaning five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Some haiku ignores that pattern and the typical topic of nature, earth, the natural world.

One of my Basho favorites is:

lark on the moon, singing–

sweet song

of non-attachment

Punctuation is controversial. The form can use a capital for the first letter and a period at the end or it can be written with no capitals and no period. The latter makes the poem appear to float. The concept is that the image starts in the mind, and the hand moves over the paper before any writing appears as if the process is ongoing in space and time and the haiku is just a small part of a larger whole. With small letters and no full stop, the haiku imitates a timeless, spaceless poetic process that wouldn’t be as effective if capitals and periods were used.

Here is one of Basho’s that shows his preference for nature over humans:

all my friends
viewing the moon –
an ugly bunch

Another Baso with a different opinion than we would have:

sparrows in eves
mice in ceiling –
celestial music.

Here’s a haiku I wrote:

hello sweet kitty

you greet my return each day

smiling face I love

I’d like to read your haiku. You can write it in the comment section below.

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