"Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone ..." William Wordsworth

29 November 2020


A wanderer all his life both in body and spirit, Bashō concerned himself less with destination than with the quality of the traveller’s attention. A poem, he said, only exists while it’s on the writing desk; by the time its ink has dried, it should be recognized as just a scrap of paper. In poetry as in life, he saw each moment as gate-latch. Permeability mattered more in this process than product or will: "If we were to gain mastery over things, we would find their lives would vanish under us without a trace."

Bashō set forth a simple, deeply useful reminder: that if you see for yourself, hear for yourself, and enter deeply enough this seeing and hearing, all things will speak with and through you. "To learn about the pine tree," he told his students, 'go to the pine tree; to learn from the bamboo, study bamboo." He found in every life and object an equal potential for insight and expansion.

Jane Hirshfield, from The Heart of Haiku 

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