Tonight, Richard Duffee will be leading a discussion on haiku and Matsuo Bashoo, the acclaimed Japanese seventeenth-century poet who first developed the poetry form between 1662 and 1694.
Richard will explain how it evolved from the structure of the Japanese language (including earlier Japanese and Chinese forms) and, via examination of 32 examples, how haiku’s meaning is highly dependent on various facets of Japanese life, such as the self-reflective bent of Buddhist philosophy and the inclusive animism of Shintoism—two existential perspectives Bashoo was uniquely adept at combining.
Most prominent in the 1670s, Bashoo taught poetry and founded a tradition of literary criticism while writing haiku and populist, yet contemplative, nature-themed travel diaries incorporating it, for which he is most cherished to this day (much like Thoreau or Woody Guthrie in the United States). The most renowned poet of the country’s economically- and artistically robust Edo period, Bashoo has remained Japan’s national poet since about 1685.
As Japanese is a much more an allusive language than the more literal English, the 17-syllable structure of haiku of three lines in a 5-7-5 distribution embodies an intimate, collaborative pattern of expression particular to its language and society of origin, fostering an especially personal sense of connection with the poet.
A faithful contributor to PoemAlley for many years, Richard is the author of The Slow News of Need (available at the bottom of the blog though Yuganta Press) and has run several times for office with the Green Party of Connecticut, including twice for Congress in the 4th district (click here for a clip from a debate with Christopher Shays in 2006).