May 16th 2016

Yesterday’s haiku was loosely inspired by Buson’s haiku:
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piercing chill
····stepping on my dead wife’s comb
········in the bedroom
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mi ni shimu ya/naki tsuma no kushi o/neya ni fumu

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Buson’s haiku is very well known among readers of haiku in English—if not famous. It’s also famous in Japan though for a different reason. When Buson wrote the haiku his wife was alive and well and would outlive him by 31 years. In some circles the haiku looses its burnish because of its lack of emotional veracity—it doesn’t express the poet’s feelings genuinely. More to the point: Buson’s chill is a literary feint rather than an expression of true feeling. Implied in this critique is the assertion that haiku aren’t meant to be fictional but are, ideally, deeply personal, truthful and spontaneous expressions of realized truths—an aesthetic that, perhaps, reflects the influence of Zen Buddhism and the ideals of satori, a “state of sudden spiritual enlightenment” .
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It’s an idealization of the form that one often encounters, but it’s belied by the poets themselves including, of course, Basho, who frequently revised his poems.
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There’s also the implication that the reader, who is apt to identify with a poet like Buson and Basho, feels cheated when their empathy is bestowed on a work of fiction. They want to experience the poet’s emotional life, but fail to comprehend (this being my criticism) that the poet is always writing literature, is always (in a sense) telling a lie, and that the work of creating literature (as distinct from truth-telling) is also a part of the poet’s emotional life.
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To experience Buson’s haiku about his dead wife truthfully is to do so as an artist and a poet—and that, if you ask me, is just as moving and authentic.
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falling
·····on the early morning snow—apple
········blossoms
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Snow fell in the early morning hours. The tops of the mountains were capped with snow and the cars and trucks carried it into the valleys.
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192 May 16th 2016 | bottlecap
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