Japanese days – Following in the footsteps of Basho ?

11/11/2007  Sun
Received answers to our e-mails form Akira Suzuki and Paul Cunningham. Akira san lives about 15 minutes walk away from where we are living in Suitengumae. I was just looking at the map and we are right in the area where Basho lived during the 17th century across the river from us almost directly opposite. Last time we were here Akira san took us all around the area and I remember looking across the river at a row of cherry trees which were about to start blossoming and thinking how good it would be to live around this area. By accident that is exactly where we have ended up, following in Basho’s footsteps so to speak. Basho was a poet who made journeys all over Japan writing about what he saw and felt on the way in the form of Haiku (three lined verse).Basho was interested in the spirit of place. He visited various places to commune  with the memory of those with whom he shared the same attitude to life. Though they were dead the surroundings were infused with their presence and would give inspiration to the visitor who was sensitive to their presence. Places, were specific historical events had taken place either religious military or artistic, were of special significance to Basho as a means of reestablishing a spiritual and temporal link with the past.

Basho says of a great teacher from the south. Do not follow the ancients but search for that which they searched for. It is true for Poetry. In other words in order to make poetry like the ancients there is no need to to copy them or imitate them but follow the same path as them, see what they saw, enrich oneself with there creative worries but write your own way, find a fresh way of expressing something which may have been expressed thousands of times over by other poets. Basho struggles to do this himself. Whereas many Japanese poets wrote of nature and had almost exhausted its capacity for expression, for Basho nature takes second place often allegorically showing people and life. Many poems by Basho are honed from legends and folk tales, his understanding of beauty had deep roots in folklore. For Basho there was an indissoluble link between nature and people and on the shoulders of the people of his time he always felt a breath stretching far back into the centuries. In this breath he found the durable source of art. In the epoch of Basho many people both in the towns and country endured severe hardships which Basho witnessed at first hand in his travels and which he included in his poetry.

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