Dr. Roshan Benjamin Malik
24 November 2008
An Approach To Basho’s Haiku: Principle and Western Ideas
Ordinarily, it is mostly common for readers new to haiku, particularly Basho’s haiku, to find it immensely difficult to understand. Substantially, it is for good reasons to find difficulty with Basho‘s haiku. For one, it forms a mental images in the readers mind arousing…
An Approach to Basho’s Haiku: Principles and Western Ideas
Ordinarily, it is mostly common for readers new to haiku, particularly Basho’s haiku, to find it immensely difficult to understand. Substantially, it is for good reasons to find difficulty with Basho‘s haiku. For one, it forms mental images in the readers mind arousing “emotions solely by rendering concrete objects, sounds and aspects” (Yasuda 4). Secondly, “Verses are not, as people imagine, simple feelings; they are experiences” (Yasuda 11). It is for these reasons above that an approach to Basho’s haiku is worth mentioning. The best qualified person to inform readers new to haiku to develop a more thorough, appreciative understanding of haiku is Matsuo Basho (1644-94). Notable, Basho is recognized as the master of haiku, a Japanese verse form “(a three-lined poem of 17 syllables consisting of lines following the 5-7-5 syllabic pattern)” (Jackson second edition 753). Not only was Basho a great poet, also he was a talented teacher of haiku. Basho taught his disciples certain poetic principles that were set apart from other poets and are still “the highest ideal for most Japanese haiku poets today” ( Ueda423). Also, additional insight that offers an understanding of haiku poetry is Western aesthetic principles. Kenneth Yasuda, a Western scholar, concepts of the “aesthetic attitude”’, the “aesthetic experience” and the “haiku moment” are closely connected to Basho principle of haiku, thereby worth explaining. Although, Japanese haiku are written in a simple compact form, Yasuda states that these “little poems represent a complex and intricate poetic form” (Yasuda xiv). To approach an understanding of Basho’s haiku, I share in Morris comments, “One cannot define a field until it has been explored, together with its surrounding fields” (Morris 1). As noted, Basho was a teacher of the verse-form of haiku and practiced certain poetic principles. One being of most importance is the “poetic spirit.” Basho states,
… It is the poetic spirit, through which man follows the creative energy of
nature and makes communion with the things of the four seasons. For those who understand the spirit, everything they do becomes a lovely flower, and everything they imagine becomes a beautiful moon. Those who do not see the flower are no different from Barbarians; those who do not imagine the flower are no different from beasts. Detach yourself from barbarians and beasts’ follow the creative energy and return to nature (Ueda 423).
Basho’s idea of the “poetic spirit” is insightful for understanding the important element of the seasonal theme or kigo, a word that suggest a season of the year. According to Basho, each haiku must contain a season and present an atmosphere of nature. The seasonal theme is the natural object and symbolizes the relationship of man and nature which can only be experienced by “mans’ close communion with nature.” Basho’s ideal of the “poetic spirit” assumes “the creative power of the universe. The universe creates beautiful flowers and the lovely moon, and so does the artist; they are both creative, and appreciative of things beautiful” (Hume 153). Thereby, the “poetic spirit” is an attitude that a haiku poet should strive to attain because as Basho explains, “it is a spirit which seeks beauty in nature, which tries to escape from the collisions of everyday life. Anyone who wishes to become a happy artist should strive to gain this spirit, because it is in this way that he learns to assume an aesthetic attitude toward life”...
Cited: Hume, Nancy G. Japanese Aesthetics and Culture. State University of New York Press, Albany: State University of New York, 1995
Jackson, Wendell. Humanities in the Modern World An Africana Emphasis. United States: Pearson Custom, 2001
Ueda, Makoto. “Basho and the Poetics O Haiku.” The Journal O Aesthetics and Art Criticism Vol. 21. No 4 (Summer, 1963) pp. 423-431.
Yasuda, Kenneth. The Japanese Haiku. Charles E. Tuttle Company of Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan: Japan, 1957
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