One of the many remarkable things about The Narrow Road to the Deep North is how it points towards a conception of the poet and the poetic vocation that would come to fruition in the modern period. For the modern poet, what matters more than anything else is not mere description of the world around us but the expression of highly subjective experiences that give us a privileged insight into the poet's consciousness. And in The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Basho reveals a lot about his consciousness and the thoughts and images that flow through it with such rapidity.
Like a good proto-modernist, Basho isn't concerned with giving us a detailed description of all the many things that he sees on his long journey. Instead, he seeks to use the objects of perception as raw material for his poems, generating vivid images that form the basis of his work. In doing so, he doesn't just transform his inner world, but the outer world as well, a world that now stands revealed as a much richer, more complicated place than was previously conceived.
As with modernist poets, Basho wants to get at the truth beneath the glittering surface of our daily lives. Somewhat inevitably, this means that he is separated from the rest of humanity, who remain satisfied with accepting everyday appearances as reality. What Basho calls sabi, or poetic loneliness, is certainly a phenomenon with which later generations of poets would readily have identified.