|Posted by Susan Shand on January 5, 2013 at 9:35 PM||comments (6)|
Who is Basho, what is he, that all the swains commend him?
You CAN write haiku without ever reading another haiku poet, just as you could write a sonnet without ever reading Shakespeare. However, no serious student of English Literature will NOT have read at least some of the English classics. Reading the work of classical haiku poets will immeasurably improve your own work, both in the breadth and scope, and in the craft. In addition, reading good modern poets, both Japanese and western, should give you a good balance of perspective.
We would be diminished as modern poets if we only ever read Shakespeare, and poetry.com is teeming with people who have never read any poets at all. The idea is not to glorify these writers, but to recognise their part in the canon of literature upon which we hope to build.
A note of caution, The translation of Japanese haiku into English is difficult, it often says more about the translator than it does about the original work. Check out a few different versions of anything that interests you.
So here are a few of my favourites…
Basho is the Big Banana of haiku, the cultural equivalent of Shakespeare. His work is varied and easily available in translation. It spans everything from the immediacy of a sudden exclamation; to the complicated interweaving of inference, literary references, dual readings, and puns.
“…he wrote about any subject that came along his daily experience, from the pissing horse (when sleeping at a pass called “pissing”) to .. you name it, daily life in Edo Japan comes to live.
It is not all about the bees and the butterflies, far from it.
For Basho, all expressions of the human experience seemed to be fodder for his poetry.” — Gabi Greve
There is a fairly comprehensive and informative history here http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Basho.aspx
and some comparative transations here http://www.haikupoetshut.com/basho1.html
If you don’t ever read anyone else, read Issa. He is a total one-off with no pretentions and an earthy and self-depreciating sense of humour which comes over in his work quite a lot. This is the definitive site for Issa’s prodigious work translated into English.http://haikuguy.com/issa/
Kaga no Chiyo was a woman, and a haiku Master. We all know how women get left out of the cannon of literature don’t we? People still call her a “woman haiku master” and miss her off the list of the greats, but there is an excellent book available by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi. http://www.amazon.com/Chiyo-ni-Woman-Master-Patricia-Donegan/dp/0804820538
Some of her work here http://thegreenleaf.co.uk/hp/women/c/chiyo/00haiku.htm
Anyone who would like to add a comment with links to their favourite poets is welcome and invited to do so.