When living in Osaka, the place where the famous 17th Century Haiku poet Matsuo Bashō 松尾 芭蕉 died was just a few blocks away from our Shinmachi apartment. The Buddhist temple on the site was being renovated, so I could never see the actual site.
I did see the Taiko Bridge at Sumiyoshi Taisha Grand Shrine 住吉大社 where he read poetry during the 住吉大社 観月祭 harvest moon festival, fell ill shortly after, then died three days later in Osaka. There is supposed to be a monument to Bashō’ at Sumiyoshikoen park, but I could never find it!
I attended a haikai, poetry reading party, at Rakushisha, the House of the Fallen Persimmons in Kyoto’s Saga-Arashiyama area. A wandering poet, Basho stayed there twice, and I weathered the second typhoon of the season and a two-hour journey to attend the haikai for the Hailstone Haiku Circle published its anthology, Persimmon.
A haiku I wrote during my journey –
lots of rain, one persimmon
— a book of haiku
I have practiced writing his famous poem in Shodo class, that just about everybody knows:
古池や蛙飛びこむ水の音 furu ike ya / kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto
an ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the splash of water .
But no one but a man by the name pf Jeff Robbins has dedicated his life to translating Bashō’s many works and translating them from a feminist and caring side of the poet. His website, Humanity4Basho is replete with his translations and commentary about the poet and his life.
I met Robbins, who lives in Fukuoka, at a Writers in Kyoto event when I first arrived Japan. He had published many pamphlets that were free for the taking, with subjects ranging from war and peace to love and sex to Ganja Bashō. (Cannabis was sacred to the Shinto religion and only banned after WWII.) I learned a lot of Japanese that way, and started enjoying the language and translation!
He gave me two of his books: Take Back the Sun: Basho’s Praise for Woman – The primordial power of the feminine emanating from Bashō’s poetry and What Children Do – Young and Alive with Bashō – Works about Children, Teenagers, Caregivers.
They are all a delight to read and his commentary enlightening. I hope you enjoy his website, translations as well as contact him to purchase his books. Robbins said that there are hundreds of works by Bashō’ that remain untranslated. Maybe you will be inspired to learn Japanese to read and translate Bashō’ too!