6 Le Hoang Yen

I went out of my dorm to grab breakfast on a Saturday morning.

The breeze

Blows lightly –

Not hot, not cold.

Matsuo Basho

This week, we focused on one of the most famous poets of Edo Period, Matsuo Bashō, and his work’s ingrained influence on Japanese culture. With the development of haiku, Bashō explores the contrasting notion of evanescence and form in his poems, which repeatedly describe the natural environment surrounding him. As he’s aestheticizing nature in its most original and simplest form, his poems possess “timeless validity” (Oku 15). His poetic concept centers on this idea of fueki ryuko. Ryuko represents the beauty and simplicity of a particular moment he experiences over the course of his journey, encompassed in his diary The Narrow Road to Oku, while fueki serves as the Oku, or “the interior”, the unchanging basis of how a poem is constructed. Using these conditions, Basho emphasizes the contrasting, yet binding relationship between change and transcendental order. His poems reflect the bond through his momentary depictions of nature formulated within certain boundaries of kata. The binding of fueki and ryuko comes from the very foundation of poetry  – “sincerity of a refined heart (makoto)” (Inouye 74) that motivates one to embrace the constantly changing truth. Only through a sincerity of emotion can one merge with nature and reach a “selfless state free of personal desire” (Inouye 77). His poems aim to convey how nothing can be everything, enabling a person with such state to be easily affected by changes and appreciate those changes through an open-minded perspective. He portrays this Zen belief through his poem: “Spring is passing by!/ Birds are weeping and the eye/ Of fish fill with tears.” (Oku 23) In this poem, Basho describes the changing season of spring as constant, depicting the notion of evanescence. Moreover, he illustrates the sincerity of the moment by having nothingness, making him blend in with the evanescence of environment and manifesting “birds” and “fish” as nonsymbolic representations that forces one to visualize the present objects or subjects as important as they are by nature.

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