Matsuo Basho

“Matsuo Basho (1644-1694): Japanese haiku poet. Basho is generally acknowledged as the developer and greatest master of this form. His haiku went through many phases, evolving from the pedantic verse of his early youth to his lighthearted poetry of his last years. The work of his peak period is characterized by evocations of man’s ultimate harmony with nature. A wanderer for much of his life, Basho also wrote travel sketches interspersed with haiku. Oi no kobumi (1688; tr The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel, 1966) is famous for its opening passages, which reveal his basic beliefs, but the best work in this genre is Oku no hosomichi (1689; tr The Narrow Road to the Deep North, 1966), which, outwardly describing his journey to rural areas of northeastern Japan, inwardly traces his spiritual quest for a beauty and lyricism all but lost in urban life.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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