I tried to delay my posting as long as I could to have a last minute poetic moment, but it just didn’t happen this week.
To be honest, when this week’s lesson began I was a bit confused. The concept of the order of here and now is not new to us. It is one we have been referencing since our first lecture, usually with respect to animism and its role in the ongoing themes of evanescence and form in Japanese culture. I thought we had covered what needed to be covered, and thus I was surprised when these ideas came back to visit. This time, however, we dove deeper and intimately examined what permanence and change means using the work of Matsuo Basho as our frame. In Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North he observes the ruins of what once was the mansion of a Lord of the mighty Fujiwara family and writes “A thicket of summer grass/Is all that remains/Of the dreams and ambitions/Of ancient warriors” (Basho, 118). This poem really drove home many of the discussions we’ve had. It truly is “a lyrical blending of the poet’s emotions” and expresses Basho’s central concept of “fueki ryuukou” or “’the unchanging and the ever-changing’” (Inouye, 74). I could feel and see the contrasts between the faded ruins of generations of a powerful family and the assertion of nature over all, centuries after Basho’s experience. It was a powerful moment, and continues to be. Interestingly, this poem also demonstrates Basho’s modern tendencies and his ability to be “modern without dismissive of tradition” (Inouye, 75). He certainly sticks to the roots of Japanese poetry with elegant lyricism and close ties to nature. However, Basho also demonstrates his “synthetic eclecticism” by exploring the decline of the Fujiwara, a concept reminiscent of the inevitability of failure and Buddhism discussions of week 3 (Inouye, 79). We see Basho’s modern poetry again when he writes “Under the same roof/We slept together/Concubines and I—/Bush-clovers and the moon.” (Basho, 132). This poem also visits some interesting features of Basho poetry that Inouye mentions including the evident “’impersonal nature” of his poems and the modern contradiction of a “self that is trying not to be a self” (Inouye, 77-78). Unfortunately, discussing this poem would run my reflection way too long, so I’ll have to save it for another day. Ultimately, this week’s lesson and Basho reading really solidified some important concepts for me, definitely one of my favorite weeks so far. Also, favorite quote of the week: “Horse urination is amazing!”