Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉?, 1644 –  1694)  is recognized as the greatest master of haiku.

another year is gone

a traveller's shade on my head,

straw sandals at my feet


an ancient pond

a frog jumps in

 the splash of water


now then let's go out

to enjoy the snow...

until I slip and fall!


falling sick on a journey

my dream goes wandering

over a field of dried grass


ro no koe nami o utte harawata kooru / yo ya namida

Sounds of an oar hitting waves
my bowels get frozen
tears in the night

Tr. Natsuishi

Modernity and anti-urbanism in Basho Matsuo

A haiku of 10, 7 and 5 syllables in Japanese talks grievously about his solitude and poverty. It is true that Basho’s newly awakened anti-urbanism gave to his haiku poems mental depth and sonority, but his former urban training in playing with the multiple meanings of words provided him with the means to express depth in few words at his will. It is impossible to express something without sophisticated rhetoric, thus it can be said that Basho’s prior training provided him with an urbane sense that had accumulates throughout his education and shown hitherto in his published documents.

In addition to his retirement from being a haiku master, Basho made a trip to Western Japan under severe conditions from 1684 to 1685. The notes and haiku poems from this trip were edited into a work “Nozarashi Kikô” (Travel Sketch of Weather-Exposed Skeleton). Haiku poetry included in it announces a renewed haiku poetics of Basho based on his growing anti-urbanism.

. . . . .

the sound of oars beating the waves
brings my bowls to a chill
in the evening - tears

Tr. Gabi Greve

The impressionistic and concise nature of Basho's verse influenced particularly Ezra Pound and later the poets of the Beat Generation, such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.

English translations

Matsuo, Bashō (2005). Bashō’s Journey: Selected Literary Prose by Matsuo Bashō. trans. David Landis Barnhill. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Matsuo, Bashō (1966). The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches. trans. Nobuyuki Yuasa. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Matsuo, Bashō (2000). Narrow Road to the Interior and Other Writings. trans. Sam Hamill. Boston: Shambhala.
Matsuo, Bashō (1999). The Essential Bashō. trans. Sam Hamill. Boston: Shambhala.
Matsuo, Bashō (2004). Bashō's Haiku: Selected Poems of Matsuo Bashō. trans. David Landis Barnhill. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Matsuo, Bashō (1997). The Narrow Road to Oku. trans. Donald Keene, illustrated by Masayuki Miyata. Tokyo: Kodansha International.
Matsuo, Bashō, et al. (1973). Monkey's Raincoat. trans. Maeda Cana. New York: Grossman Publishers.
Matsuo, Bashō (2008). Basho: The Complete Haiku. trans. Jane Reichhold. Tokyo: Kodansha International.
Matsuo, Bashō et al. (1981). The Monkey’s Straw Raincoat and Other Poetry of the Basho School. trans. Earl Miner and Hiroko Odagiri. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Matsuo, Bashō (1985). On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho. trans. Lucien Stryk. Penguin Classics.                                              Shirane, Haruo. Traces of Dreams, Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the poetry of Bashō. Stanford University Press, 199 9