2013 Poetry Month #3 – Narrow Road to the Interior

These selections are from Matsuo Basho, a Japanese writer born in 1644. He is most famously known for the style called “haibun”. It encompasses prose along with a poem, typically a haiku, about nature or travelling.

These are from the collection “Narrow Road to the Interior”, published in 1998 by Shambhala Publications and translated by Sam Hamill.


From the collection “Travelogue of Weather-Beaten Bones”

I left my rundown hut beside the river during the eighth month of 1684, placing my trust in my walking stick and in the words of the Chinese sage who said, “I pack no provisions for my long journey – entering emptiness under the midnight moon.” The voice of the wind was oddly cold.

Weather-beaten bones,
I’ll leave your heart exposed
to cold, piercing winds

After ten autumns,
it is strange to say Edo
speaking of my home

From the collection “The Knapsack Notebook”

It was early summer when I walked along Suma Beach, thin clouds overhead, the moon particularly beautiful as nights grew shorter. The mountains were dark with new growth. Just as I thought it must be time to hear the first cuckoo, the eastern horizon began to glow and the hills around Ueno grew red and brown with wheat fields except where fisherman’s huts dotted fields of white poppies.

At dawn, the brown faces
of fisherman emerge from
fields of white poppies.

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