What Goes Up

I went indoor climbing on Wednesday night and right as I was about to reach the top of a wall, I fell onto the soft mat below me and stayed there for about 2 minutes before getting back up.


The mat underneath me -

The last grip,

I feel nothing.

As we studied Basho this past week, I am most interested in the way evanescence and form play such an important role in his work.  In many ways, Basho combines elements of modernity, and what preceded the modern (Lecture, 2/25).  Professor Inouye said it best when he wrote “His haiku were meant to be inclusive without being vulgar, and modern without being dismissive of tradition.  They express change as truth and truth as change” (Inouye, 75).   I agree with this statement as I read many of his poems and travel stories in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. It’s not so much that the subject matter of his poems are novel, but he writes with a certain, for lack of a better word, inclusiveness, which tells the truth but is not “vulgar,” as Professor Inouye notes.  For example, Basho writes, “ I am awe-struck / To hear a cricket singing / Underneath the dark cavity / Of an old helmet” (Basho, 134).   Here, he is inclusive in that he alludes to the battle of the Minamoto and the death of Atsumori, but abides by the tradition of simplicity in Japanese poetry by not being too descriptive.  It’s interesting that within these lyrical moments, when Basho combines the modernity of truth and the tradition of form, Professor Inouye believes that “Basho was a self-concerned poet even as he advocated selflessness” (Inouye, 77).  This was a difficult concept to grasp at first, but I love these contradictions that I keep finding within every aspect of Japanese culture.  I honestly do believe that in ordered to be selfless, you must first be selfish; the desire to reach a higher state, for example, is technically a selfish desire, yet it’s the only way to retreat from that state and achieve selflessness.  Basho achieved this in his poetry and prose, giving us insight into how we can potentially follow this same journey.

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