D’s Poetry : Haiku 4 : Matsuo Bashō

D’s Poetry is a living archive of all poetry penned by me, Divvya Nirula. Join me on this journey today as we learn about the life of prominent Haiku poet, Matsuo Bashō.

“The gentle breeze sings,
For the men seeding our kin,
Hands tied money found”

Divvya Nirula

The Life of Matsuo Bashō

Bashō was born in 1644 in the Iga Province of Japan, present day Mie Prefecture. His birth name was Matsuo Kinsaku. His father was a minor samurai. It was in his early years that young Bashō became interested in literature. It was an era of great cultural evolution in Japan. The country had shut its borders to the outside world. And this allowed for dissemination of native art, literature and philosophy throughout the country.

Bashō had the opportunity to travel to Kyoto. Here, he studied under famed poet Kigin. Soon enough, Matsuo Bashō became a skilled writer. He penned haikai no renga, a type of linked verse. Interestingly, the opening verse of a renga was called a hokku. Today this age old hokku verse is known as haiku.

Haiku, erstwhile known as hokku, consists of 17 syllables. This structure of poetry does not have a rhyme scheme. Instead, it focuses on dividing the syllables in a meter of 5-7-5 over 3 lines.

The Master of Haiku

Bashō poetries were very popular. He published under various names including Tosei. Eventually, around 1680, he was presented with a Bashō tree from one of his students. And thus he adopted the name.

Later in his life, the poet studied Zen Buddhism. His also established a new structure of poetry called haibun. Haibun is a combination of prose and haiku.

I share with you here a famous haiku by the great Matsuo Bashō :

Moonlight slanting
through the bamboo grove;
a cuckoo crying.

Moonlight Slanting by Matsuo Bashō (translated by Robert Hass)

You are invited along on this journey of discovery and writing. For more poetry and verse by Divvya Nirula, please visit the archive for D’s Poetry.