Matsuo Basho (1644-94) is considered Japan's greatest haiku poet. Narrow Road to the Interior (Oku no Hosomichi) is his masterpiece. Ostensibly a chronological account of the poet's five-month journey in 1689 into the deep country north and west of the old capital, Edo, the work is in fact artful and carefully sculpted, rich in literary and Zen allusion and filled with great insights and vital rhythms. In Basho's Narrow Road: Spring and Autumn Passages, poet and translator Hiroaki Sato presents the complete work in English and examines the threads of history, geography, philosophy, and literature that are woven into Basho's exposition. He details in particular the extent to which Basho relied on the community of writers with whom he traveled and joined in linked verse (renga) poetry sessions, an example of which, A Farewell Gift to Sora, is included in this volume. In explaining how and why Basho made the literary choices he did, Sato shows how the poet was able to transform his passing observations into words that resonate across time and culture.
Vivid new translations of Basho's popular haiku, in a selected format ideal for newcomers as well as fans long familiar with the Japanese master.Basho, the famously bohemian traveler through seventeenth-century Japan, is a poet attuned to the natural world as well as humble human doings; "Piles of quilts/ snow on distant mountains/ I watch both," he writes. His work captures both the profound loneliness of one observing mind and the broad-ranging joy he finds in our connections to the larger community. David Young, acclaimed translator and Knopf poet, writes in his introduction to this selection, "This poet's consciousness affiliates itself with crickets, islands, monkeys, snowfalls, moonscapes, flowers, trees, and ceremonies...Waking and sleeping, alone and in company, he moves through the world, delighting in its details." Young's translations are bright, alert, musically perfect, and rich in tenderness toward their maker.
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