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Basho Haiku

Basho Haiku

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Published by: Esteban Alonso Ramírez on Jan 13, 2012
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09/22/2014

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“You know, Basho¯ is almost too appealing.” I remember this
remark, made quietly, offhand, during a graduate seminar on
haikupoetry. I’m not sure the other student even noticed the
comment, but it spoke volumes not only about the scholar, but
about Basho¯’s impact on Japanese culture and now our own. It
was about one hundred years ago that Basho¯ became known in
the West through the translations of Basil Hill Chamberlain
and, more importantly, the influence on the poet Ezra Pound.
That influence expanded in midcentury, with R. H. Blyth’s volu-
minous and high quality translations of haikuand the surge of
American interest in Japanese culture following World War II.
The last fifty years has seen increasing interest in Basho¯ among
scholars, poets, nature writers, and environmental philosophers.
In this translation of Basho¯’s haikuand the accompanying
volume,Basho¯’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho¯,
I offer a collection of his poetry and prose that I hope will help
extend that interest and his influence even further. It has been
decades in the making, with a numerous people who have
impacted it in a variety of ways. Professor Lee Yearley first
introduced me to East Asian culture, the study of religion, and
the intellectual life. Poets Kenneth Rexroth and Gary Snyder
intensified my interest while enriching my perspective. Profes-
sors Edwin Good and Susan Matisoff were instrumental to my
graduate work on Basho¯,as was Makoto Ueda, whose scholar-
ship on Basho¯ has been extraordinarily important. Friends Scott,
Jerry, Phil, Zack, and Bill helped ensure the trip would be a long
and strange one. My wife, enduring my solitary character and

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obsessive work, has been a true companion along the way. Guil-
ford College provided a nourishing environment for someone
dedicated to interdisciplinary approaches to learning. And I am
grateful to Nancy Ellegate and the State University of New York
Press for their support of this project.

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