Lyrical moments are hard to come by

I did not have a lyrical moment this week.

Our discussions last week made me think about the nature of Basho’s poetic journey and his idea of fueki ryuko, “the unchanging and the ever-changing” (Inouye 74). We find ourselves once again returning to the philosophy that has been propelling us through Japanese history, this notion of evanescence and form. This time however we look at through the lens of poetry. Here we have one of the greatest Japanese poets of all time, Matsuo Basho, who traveled around the country looking for inspiration and enlightenment (Lecture 2/25). Through his minimalist poems he conveys not one specific scene, but rather lets you fill in the details.  “How still!/Piercing into the boulders,/ The cry of the cicada” (Inouye 74). His words, while simplistic and few in number, take you on a journey to create your own depiction of the scene. As we saw in class, we all feel the power of the poem and yet we imagine it in different ways. While the form of the poem conveys certain feelings, we all have unique ideas about what the scene looks like. He doesn’t so much as describe the scene to you as he does to show it. In this sense, the poem plays into the notion of fueki ryuko on two levels.  Basho’s haikai, the formalization of poetry, contrasts with the expansive scene that he depicts.  “What could be more constricting than the various rules and conventions of haikai? Yet what could be more generalizing and vast than the imagery of these tiny poems?” (Inouye, 79). We have both the concrete (form) and the changing (evanescence). In this poem fueki ryuko is also expressed through “the ephemerality of the cicada’s song contrasted with the solidity of rocks” (Inouye 74). I really wish that we had read Basho earlier in the semester, so we would have a better feel of how to write our poems. On the other hand, it took Basho years of traveling, experiencing these moments first-hand, before he wrote his masterpieces. Perhaps it was necessary for us to embark on a journey of ourselves, honing our poems through trial and error until we reach the perfection Professor Inouye demands.

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