Sunday 10 December 2017

On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho

I wish I could draw or paint.
Every time I read Basho's haiku I feel the urge to create (or recreate) the beauty I sense in his words.
Others have tried before me as the internet is full of such examples.

I've been wanting to get back into my cross-stitching for some time now and haven't felt inspired...perhaps I could try my hand at a haiku sampler with some simple blossoms or leaves as a border? 
I'm curious to discover what might be revealed when one sits for a period of time with just one haiku.

I recently read On Love and Barley - the Haiku of Basho translated by Lucien Stryk (1986).
During his lifetime (1644 - 94), Basho wrote over 1000 haiku.
This slim volume contains just 253 - a lovely accessible way to discover the beautiful simplicity of his life's work.

Zen, as an aesthetic, is something I feel very drawn to.
Basho aimed for the 'calm realisation of profoundly felt truths' according to Stryk in his Introduction.
Superficiality, trickery and artifice were to be avoided.
The solitary experience, lightness and honouring the humble were Basho's tools.
His inspiration was daily life, observation, stillness and nature.
Moments in time, 'distilled, snatched from time's flow' were enough.


Stryk provides the reader with some guidelines and explanation for the structural development of haiku: 'two elements divided by a break (kireji, or 'cutting word', best rendered in English by emphatic punctuation), the first element being the condition or the situation - 'Spring air' - the other the sudden perception, preceded by kireji (in these pieces a dash).

Spring air -
woven moon
and plum scent.

Basho encouraged muga, 'so close an identification with the things one writes of that self is forgotten.'
Zen philosophy was part of Basho's life but only occasionally was this specifically stated in his haiku.
 He preferred the reader to experience revelations through the things we know, like nature.

I have tried to source the original artist/s for the two haiku above, but get lost in a maze of pinterest pages each time.
I am happy to acknowledge the original artist if anyone can point me in the right direction.

On Love and Barley itself is dotted with black and white versions of original illustrations by Ike no Taiga (1723 -76) like the one below.

Untitled - Mountains (public domain)

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