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  • Writer's pictureJohn McQuade

Basho as a Season Word

By: John McQuade

Celebrating Basho Day.

Classic Haiku includes a Season Word. The Season Word situates and infuses the haiku happening within the whole way of the Cosmos through the mutual whole way of Nature and Humanity.

Across the many, many moons of haiku engagement and expression the Classic Haiku practitioners discerned the holistic aspects of this Season Word. They discerned and articulated some basic features of the contemplative universe.

Some features were more obvious: plants and animals. Each Season issues through the whole and detailed phenomenal manifestation of particular animals and plants: robins as Spring, red maple leaves as Autumn.

There were other aspects that are perhaps less obvious. One is Observances or Celebrations. Christmas or Hanukah or - for the Americans – Independence Day are examples.

Sometimes a particular person is celebrated. There is Basho Day. This haiku honours Basho on the anniversary of his Death: Nov 26

On this occasion I wrote this haiku:

I think of Basho -

all across the centuries

a Deep Resonance

There is a book – One Hundred Frogs – that presents one hundred different English translations of the classic and definitive Basho haiku: Old Pond.

Old Pond,

a frog jumps in –

the sound of water

Here is another translation:

the Ancient Pond,

a frog jumps in –

a deep resonance.

This translation is awkward in its expression and its attempt to make a point. But the point is resonate. Its point is Resonance.

How old is that Pond? It is timeless before the measure of time. How deep is that Pond? it is a depthless depth beyond measure. And the sound: appears and simultaneously disappears. The ripples fade back to the surface which is a Surface of a Depth.

A deep resonance.

I was presenting a Moon and Sun haiku course and two of the participants wrote haiku for Basho Day.

Basho great master –

gossamer echo through time

touching our heart still

Sherab V Manoukian

thinking of Basho -

his journey out of Kyoto

a very long walk

Tommy Kelly

Of course any haiku can be received and read in many ways. Here are a few ways.

Sherab’s haiku echoes my haiku. This is a practice in the way of a haiku community. Sort of a call and response. It is not an imitation but a resonance. In this case, Sherab’s haiku gives a more subtle heart presentation of my more formal haiku.

Tommy’s haiku is an example of Surface and Depth. On the surface it simply describes, in a general way, an event in Basho’s life. This is a kind of “insider’s haiku”. To discern the deep resonance one would need to know something about Basho’s times and life.

At that time Kyoto was a spiritual center of Japan. There were many shrines, monasteries, temples, memorial’s and so forth. Basho wrote a famous Kyoto haiku.

although in Kyoto

I long

for Kyoto

This is deep resonance itself. It is the heartbreak at the heart of haiku: the undeniable presence of the phenomenal world and its inexhaustible richness and consequent absence.

How long was that walk? Basho is renown for his many long sojourn’s to sacred, historical, memorial and poetic sites and places.

Yet for Basho the journey was always the surface of a depth. However long the walk might be it was always the day in day out venture of a path. He began an account of his most famous journey with this contemplation:

“ The Moon and Sun are travelers through Eternity…even the days wander and each day is a journey and the journey itself is home.”

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