Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Matsuo Bash, known as Bash, combines his talents as a poet and essayist in the writing of the poetic diary, a form of literature that was prized highly during Bash’s time. Bash, whose name is a nickname meaning “banana tree,” had been called Kinsaku as a child and Matsuo Munefusa as an adult. When he first began writing poetry, he called himself Sobo, and later, for about eight years, he used the name Tosei.
Planted in the garden near one of Bash’s residences was a banana plant that had wide leaves, especially enjoyed by Bash. When people sought directions to his house, they were told to go to the house with the banana tree; gradually Bash came to be referred to as the “banana tree person.” Around 1681, he took Bash as his pen name. Changing names and taking pen names was not unusual in Japan at the time, especially for a person such as Bash, who was of samurai, or feudal warrior, stock.
After Bash moved to Edo, now Tokyo, he became a teacher of haikai, a special kind of poem that was at first something of a light-hearted diversion from the more serious renga, or linked verse. This type of poetry has an opening stanza composed by one person and is completed by another person, hence the name “linked verse.” Largely because of Bash’s artistry, the haikai developed into a serious kind of poem. The word haiku developed from the hokku, or “starting verse” of a linked verse. A...
(The entire section is 1740 words.)
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