When it comes to maximum results from an economy of language, few poets rival the Japanese haiku no renga master, Matsuo Bashō.
I was first introduced to the hokku form in high school in Okinawa. My teacher wove a story of the poet lying drunk on sake in the bottom of a boat on a lake, composing odes to the night sky and the full moon. To this day I can’t find any collaboration of what may well have been a fabrication, but I recall thinking that if poets could lie drunk in a boat, then they weren’t the effete, limp-wristed, frill-wearing artistes I imagined them to be. Lying drunk in a boat staring up at the night sky actually sounded like decent work if one could get it.
After the teacher had us write a few haiku, I thought it was pretty easy work, too.
This was before I understood what was going on inside the poems. Today I admire the simple genius of Bashō’s work. My own efforts are frustrated by it. Elegant simplicity is harder than it looks.
Maybe I need a boat, a lake, a night sky, and a bottle of sake.
Scarecrow in the hillock
How unaware! How useful.
(Day seven in a month-long celebration of poetry.)