Meditation and Poetics – 95 – Haiku – 8 (Haiku continued part 2)


[Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)]

AG: I’m halfway through this book [R.H.Blyth – Haiku – Volume 1], so actually I could zap through the chief haikuof this book, according to about twenty years of reading and re-reading, before we’re done.
Do most of you know these particular ones?  Is there anybody that knows these already?

Student 1:  Yes.
Student 2:  Yeah, some of them.

AG:  Some?  From these translations?

Student 1:  (Some)

AG:  (But) the vast majority (doesn’t) – so I’d really like to [continue]. Because they’re so dear, so perfect crystal clear.  [These are the] precious ones and they’re part of the vocabulary of Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, (Jack) Kerouac, myself, and many other people. I’d like to lay these all out because they’re part of the basic armamentarium of modern poetry — at least among the San Francisco Buddhist-influence school — and appropriate to our sitting silent listening.  (So), page 205 – Have you heard these at all?

Student 2 :  Some of them.

AG:  Well, this is a terrific [one].  This one is one of the central ones of all:
How admirable
he who doesn’t think life is fleeting
when he sees the lightning.
How admirable/he who doesn’t think life is fleeting/when he sees the lightning.
That’s always been, for me, one of the best reference points for cutting off conceptual blather.
This for space, as well as silliness.  That it’s looseness of mind — a fine silliness, or humor of a kind.
A handle on the moon
what a splendid fan.
That is putting up a handle –  A handle on the moon/what a splendid fan.
The women planting the rice.
Everything about them dirty
except their song.
Having slept,
the cat gets up and with great yawns
goes out lovemaking
The next few will be those I read to those who met with me in the credit course. 

Asking the way
all the bamboo hats

move together.


 [Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) –  from “32 Aspects of Customs and Manners” – Looking Suitable (1888)]

The fan seller
pulled one out
showing how to fan oneself.

Peddling [or] pushing the fans.  So eager.  A totally personal thing.  That’s one, I think, that’s from a painting or a brush drawing to begin with.  It’s a tiny little Dickens novel, actually. The fan seller/pulled one out/showing how to fan oneself. In anxiety, to peddle the fans.

So what’s not mentioned is that element — like the frog jumping in the water with the sound of the water — the anxiety. Simply, the action presented carries the generalization that might be made that there is anxiety by the poor, poverty-stricken, hungry little fan seller, so much so that she’s developed all these life tricks or peddler’s tricks or anxious moments to sell the fan.

 This in the realm of one that I noticed, which is – [Louis Zukofsky‘s]  “sight is where the eye hits” – I had a haiku myself after a long meditation … let’s see.
Snow mountain fields/seen through transparent wings of a fly/on the windowpane. That means you’re observing actually so sharply you’re actually looking and seeing what you can see through the wings of a fly on a windowpane.
By daylight,
the nape of the neck of the firefly
is red.
That’s Basho.

And then a little extension of that:
The snake slid away
but the eyes that glared at me
remained in the grass.
A brushwood gate
for a lock
this snail.
Then, the following would probably be in the Vajrayana area, in a sense of turning what would be considered ugliness to beauty.  Uguisu is a traditional bird with a very sweet sound that’s mentioned in haiku.
The Uguisu
on the slender plum branch.

And there’s a parallel one, which [would] again be the Vajrayanic transformation of poison to nectar.
The young girl
blew her nose
in the morning glory.
Actually it says – “The young girl/blew her nose/in the evening glory”  (Another flower, less recognizable) – And there’s another Basho haiku following that, referring to that:
Blowing my nose
on the blossom
Ah! the plum trees at their best.
Blowing my nose
on a plum blossoms.
Ah! the blossoms at their best.
I don’t know.  I don’t know the exact formation of it, but Basho’s commenting on wiping his snot, or blowing his nose. Yeah – “Wiping my snot/on the flowers/Ah! the plum blossoms at their best.” – Wiping my snot/on the flowers/Ah! the plum blossoms at their best.” 
That’s Basho.  The most dignified and celebrated of haikumakers.

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