Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A little Basho

Sam Hamill co-authored one of my favorite books, The Essential Chuang Tsu. S. found another of his translations at the library, and it’s just as good: Narrow Road to the Interior, which is an “essential Basho”.

Matsuo Basho is one of the great exponents of haiku. I hadn’t realized, until I read this work, that his poetry was grounded in his travels. Basho's ability to evoke a place and the traveler’s response to it reminds me of my favorite travel book: Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana.

Here’s an excerpt:

Set out to see the Murder Stone, Sessho-seki, on a borrowed horse, and the man leading it asked for a poem, “Something beautiful, please.”

The horse turns his head –
from across the wide plain,
a cuckoo’s cry

Sessho-seki lies in dark mountain shadow near a hot springs emitting bad gases. Dead bees and butterflies cover the sand.

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