A Visit To The East

Basho wrote a favorite poem of mine, once translated as,

“Sitting here quietly doing nothing, the grass comes and grows by itself.”

The best and most traditional haiku always contains a seasonal reference. Like springtime above. Instructors rarely mention seasons today.

Instead, a haiku is presented as a simple poem of three lines with a certain syllable count, usually 3,7, 5. That, too, is a little off, as I think haiku is more importantly written as a two part poem first, with an exact syllable count less important.

We’re all free to write poetry anyway we want, of course, but I think it’s instructional to look at how the Japanese master poets wrote haiku. You can easily group Basho’s poems into Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.

I once knew a newspaper editor named Michael Duffett   (Rest in peace, Michael). Very British, Cambridge educated. As a joke, I once showed him a silly haiku I had written. Immediately, “Where’s the seasonal reference?” I confessed I didn’t know about that. But, since he lived for years in Japan and had made a living translating Japanese into languages like German, I, of course, deferred.

This site has fine examples of Basho’s work. As always, much depends on the ability of the translator.


This video’s narrator has had far too much caffeine but he does introduces us to Basho’s life. I needed to calm down after watching the hurried delivery. A good way to do that? Reading more Basho.

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About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.
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