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Haiku -- Matsuo Basho

Guest poem submitted by Rachel Granfield:
(Poem #802) Haiku
 Snowy morning--
 one crow
 after another.
-- Matsuo Basho
Trans. Lucien Stryk.

I have to say, it was difficult to pick one haiku over the rest in my book
of Basho. I decided on this one because it exemplifies one of my favorite
characteristics of Basho, his ability to create a vivid, lingering image
with incredible economy of words. I'm not hard-core enough to have this poem
in the original Japanese, but anyone who does, please do write in.

My minimal biographical information on this poet: he was born near Kyoto in
1644 and studied the art of haiku in his youth. At the age of 23 he moved to
Edo (now Tokyo) and continued to write. Later in life he became a recluse,
although he would sometimes travel to temples and the homes of other poets.
Along with his poetry, he is also noted for his travel diaries. Basho was
strongly influenced by the philosophies of Zen Buddhism. He died in 1694.


28 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Matthew Chanoff said...

Beautiful. Here's a complementary piece, also about crows. It's
considerably more verbose, but achieves a kind of Haiku-ish compression
and regard for nature in the first two stanzas. Warren looses it in
stanza four, as far as I'm concerned, but regains coherence by the end.

Grackles, Goodbye

Black of grackles glints purple as, wheeling in sun-glare,

The flock splays away to pepper the blueness of distance.

Soon they are lost in the tracklessness of air.

I watch them go. I stand in my trance.

Another year gone. In trance of realization,

I remember once seeing a first fall leaf, flame-red, release

Bough-grip, and seek, through gold light of the season's sun,

Black gloss of a mountain pool, and there drift in peace.

Another year gone. And once my mother's hand

Held mine while I kicked the piled yellow leaves on the lawn

And laughed, not knowing some yellow-leaf season I'd stand

And see the hole filled. How they spread their obscene fake lawn.

Who needs the undertaker's sick lie

Flung thus in the teeth of Time, and the earth's spin and tilt?

What kind of fool would promote that kind of lie?

Even sunrise and sunset convict the half-wit of guilt.

Grackles, goodbye! The sky will be vacant and lonely

Till again I hear your horde's rusty creak high above,

Confirming the year's turn and the fact that only, only,

In the name of Death do we learn the true name of Love.

Robert Penn Warren

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