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Unformatted text preview: e 1670s and early 1680s of another group of
poets called the Danrin school was haikai finally freed, in terms of both
language and subject matter, from the heavy hand of the linked-verse
masters of the past. It was as a member of the Danrin school that
Saikaku poured forth his great and indeed overflowing stream of haikai
But the newly risen Danrin movement, despite its importance in making possible the subsequent flowering of haiku, was itself seriously restricted by the fact that its followers concentrated mainly on clever wordplays, allusions, and references to current fads and fashions. The Danrin
poets soon exhausted the possibilities of such an ephemeral approach to
poetry and found themselves left with a corpus of verse that held little
prospect of appealing to posterity.
It was Bashò who led Japanese poetry out of the Danrin impasse.
Although he never fully abandoned the writing of haikai, Bashò adopted
as his principal medium of expression the seventeen-syllable haiku. Certainly one of the world’s briefest verse forms, haiku derives from the first
phrase or link of the classic waka and consists of three lines of 5, 7, and
5 syllables. Since the rules are simple, almost anyone can compose these
seventeen-syllable poems, and indeed Japanese of all classes have written
haiku through the centuries from Bashò’s time. But the haiku is something like the ultimate in deceptive simplicity, and out of a vast number
of acceptable ones only a fraction are apt to be truly fine. Bashò’s output
of haiku was not numerically great (perhaps a thousand or so have come
down to us), but it is of such an extraordinary quality as to make him
without question one of the greatest of Japanese poets.
With little more than a handful of syllables at his disposal, the writer
of haiku obviously cannot hope to enter into extended poetic dialogue.
He must seek to create an effect, capture a mood, or bring about a sudden and sharp insight into the truth of human existence. Bashò found
much of his inspiration in Ze...
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- Spring '13