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Book of the Month > Narrow Road to the Interior discussion

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message 1: by Becky (new)

Becky Norman | 657 comments Mod
Please enter your comments regarding Narrow Road to the Interior here.


message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) I recently read Sam Hamill's translation of Issa's The Spring of My Life and it was amazing, so I was eager to reread his translation of Basho's Narrow Road. I read it a long time ago, but that was before I became so thoroughly enchanted by haiku and haibun.

Although I loved Hamill's translation of Issa, with Basho I had a choice. There are other translations to choose from, so I compared the opening passages of four:

1. “Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives travelling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind — filled with a strong desire to wander.” ~ Nobuyuki Yuasa

2. “The months and days are wayfarers of a hundred generations, and the years that come and go are also travelers. Those who float all their lives on a boat or reach their old age leading a horse by the bit make travel out of each day and inhabit travel. Many in the past also died while traveling. In which year it was I do not recall, but I, too, began to be lured by the wind like a fragmentary cloud and have since been unable to resist wanderlust, roaming out to the seashores.” ~ Hiroaki Sato

3. “The months and days are the travellers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers. Those who float away their lives on ships or who grow old leading horses are forever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels take them. Many of the men of old died on the road, and I too for years past have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud drifting with the wind to ceaseless thoughts of roaming.” ~ Donald Keene

4. “The moon and sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on. A lifetime adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. From the earliest times there have always been some who perished along the road. Still I have always been drawn by wind-blown clouds into dreams of a lifetime of wandering.” ~ Sam Hamill

Hamill was my favorite.


message 3: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Looking at these four, I like Hammill best. Do the other three ranslations also include all four travel journal


message 4: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Journals?


message 5: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments I find the references to Saigyo interesting. In the introduction, Hammill quotes Basho as crediting Saigyo's poetry with demonstrating harmony with nature and the seasons.
I also see a parallel between kokoro, discussed by Hammill in the introduction, and the Duende spoken of by the poet Lorca.


message 6: by Becky (new)

Becky Norman | 657 comments Mod
I like Hammill but also Nobuyuki Yuasa. Interesting how different translations completely alter the rhythm of the work!


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) Hi Ray! I don't know about the other writings besides The Narrow Road. I only own the Hamill translation.

Hi Becky! I agree with you about the rhythm. I like Hamill's simple sentences. They seem more direct and haiku-like to me.

Hamill says: "The moon and sun are eternal travelers." The other translators all use prepositional phrases:

“Days and months are travellers of eternity."
“The months and days are wayfarers of a hundred generations...."
“The months and days are the travellers of eternity."


message 8: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments OK. I am sticking with the Hamill translation. It has a nice selection of Haiku at the end as well as all four travel journals.


message 9: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments OK. I am sticking with the Hamill translation. It has a nice selection of Haiku at the end as well as all four travel journals.


message 10: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I recently read Sam Hamill's translation of Issa's The Spring of My Life and it was amazing, so I was eager to reread his translation of Basho's Narrow Road. I read it a long time ago, but that was..."
Hi Susan:
Thanks for joining us! I thought you would enjoy this book.
Great idea to share four translations. I also like Hamill best with Yuasa coming right behind. I'm glad Hamill is the translation I ended up ordering.

Sher


message 11: by Sher (last edited Mar 06, 2016 07:56AM) (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Anyone have any comments about the Introduction? I'm still reading Arctic Dreams, which is fantastic, but I am setting it aside, so I can join in with Basho.

I got the sense the translator felt Basho was both aligned with Zen practice and also, that Basho found Zen practice "superfluous" (Hamill xxv, xxx). This contradictory sense reminds me much of how it is for someone moving with Tao.

At any rate-- I love the idea "Abide by the rules...then throw them out!--only then may you achieve true freedom" (Hamill xxx).

As though Zen and whatever learned influences could only take Basho so far. The concept that foundation is helpful only in so much as it helps set you free, but without that foundation your may never be able to truly express nature. It reminds me of students I have had over the years who struggled to conform. Those who did get the rules were able to later go beyond the "rules of academia" and create captivating works of the mind. Those who could not get the rules--dropped out and seemed forever held back by the inability to conform. (Much more could be written about this and other perspectives on nonconformity and expression presented- what I have written above is a slice.)


message 12: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) Sher wrote: "I got the sense the translator felt Basho was both aligned with Zen practice and also, that Basho found Zen practice "superfluous" (Hamill xxv, xxx). This contradictory sense reminds me much of how it is for someone moving with Tao"

I could never sit zazen. I could never meditate because I can’t silence my mind for two seconds at a time. But when I need to clear my head, I like to take a long walk. I especially like to walk in nature (or as close to nature as one finds in the city). It’s my own form of meditation. Maybe Basho’s too. I think that’s what his perpetual travelling was for him.

Perhaps Zen practice was “superfluous” for Basho because he was already living Zen. His way of experiencing life may have been the ultimate Zen practice.


message 13: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
"Perhaps Zen practice was “superfluous” for Basho because he was already living Zen. His way of experiencing life may have been the ultimate Zen practice. "


Nicely said Susan. I will think about this as I get into the reading- a really good point. More soon!


message 14: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Basho's first profession was as a Samurai, undertaken at age 11, according to the chronology. This is a very disciplined undertaking pursued upon the death of his father who was a minor figure in Samurai culture. He served in a Samurai household as a companion to the son. When he reached age 21, taking the chronology literally, his Samurai master died and he went to Edo to study as a Monk - a typical transition for Samurai leaving the profession, and an equally disciplined career. Later he became a poet. Each of these professions were stages of growth.


message 15: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments It is also important to note that the courtesans and functionaries of the imperial court neither wrote nor read nor appreciated Haiku. The poetry of the imperial court was a wholly different form written in Chinese. The merchant class gravitated to the Chinese forms in order to please the imperial court. Haiku was the the poetry of Zen Monks, Samurai, and Shogun.


message 16: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Those references to Cherry Blossoms and Moon Viewing are significant. I am searching out references on the subject/


message 17: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Anything in the notes Ray. I have been referring to the notes and also I keep going back into the introduction. Now that I am inside the text the intro is meaning more to me. Let us know what you find.


message 18: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Going back and forth between the notes and the text is difficult on Kindle since the pages are not numbered.


message 19: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Sher wrote: "Anything in the notes Ray. I have been referring to the notes and also I keep going back into the introduction. Now that I am inside the text the intro is meaning more to me. Let us know what you f..."
I wondered if you could search terms inside the book and see if it leads to any commentary. But Moon will be everywhere I suspect...


message 20: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Cherry blossom references will also be everywhere. One reference I looked at said that they symbolize the transient nature of existence, as well as feminine beauty and power and the springtime renewal of life. A friend who had studied Japanese culture extensively once told me that the term cherry blossoms could also refer to fallen warriors. I have not been able to verify this, and the friend who said it is no longer available to answer questions, being deceased.


message 21: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Ray wrote: "Cherry blossom references will also be everywhere. One reference I looked at said that they symbolize the transient nature of existence, as well as feminine beauty and power and the springtime rene..."
Makes sense, because Basho was expressing Buddhist values in his writing and the idea that all things change and are impermanent we would expect to see. I have one other book in my library that has biographical information on Busho. According to Robert Hass's The Essential Haiku, "at the core of Buddhist metaphysics are three ideas about natural things: that they are transient, they are contingent [dependent]; and they suffer" (xiii). Apparently compared to Issa and Busom, Basho's writing is filled with "loneliness and a sense of suffering (xv).

Do you get a sense of loneliness and suffering when you read Basho?

And, how do you find the Narrow Road's structure with the switching back and forth between prose and poetry? Distracting? Grounding?


message 22: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
I just realized that this book is giving me an entirely new way of viewing landscape. For Busho this walk allows him to explore past poets and verse from long ago. He sees the cherry blossom and a line from another poet's brush arises. All the shrines he encounters along the way. So, different from the rural countryside here in Oregon! Ha!

But, we have a few things in my landscape that remind me of ancestors--pioneers, those who settled here. Just above the farmhouse is Razorback Ridge and the old stagecoach route where I hike with the donkeys and dogs in good weather. That road is still visible and feels very much a presence speaking of past happenings.

If we all explored our landscape and wrote haiku I wonder how our moments and memories and reimaginings of past lives would be reflected in verse.


message 23: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments I like the structure of haiban . I have used it in my journals and have published one haiban in the weekly Avocet. I would say my main response to this structure is that I felt at home and it


message 24: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Reading a bit more in Hass's book - he explains that the style was common for travel journals to combine the Haibun with the Haiku.

So this is familiar to you Ray whereas it's new for me. By it's I mean the poetry of Basho... and this journal style. I've read haiku and never done any study of the form.

The Haibun lets the writer provide place and time that isn't necessarily provided in the haiku. Sometimes the Haibun informs the poetry and is helpful, because it sets the scene, and at other times, I don't find it particularly helpful. This is just my response.

You have written Haiku. I like short form prose very much, but I haven't tried Haiku. Do you have a link to the piece in Avocet? Sounds like a bird magazine...?


message 25: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments I have been experimenting with another form called Haiga. This form combines haiku with visual art -Stephen Addiss has a book about this form called Tbe Art of Haiku


message 26: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments The Avocet does not have much of an online presence. After A few days I will post the poemo online and post the link here .


message 27: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Ray wrote: "The Avocet does not have much of an online presence. After A few days I will post the poemo online and post the link here ."
Sounds great- looking forward.

Interesting idea to combine the visual with the words. I wonder how this influences what we see in our minds when we engage the words. I mean will it influence how we respond to the poem?


message 28: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) Ray wrote: "I like the structure of haiban."

Me too. It gives me the context I need to fully appreciate the haiku. I never heard of Haiga, but I'm sure I would like it. I especially like art in a book on nature because it helps me visualize what I'm reading. Thanks for mentioning The Art of Haiku. I totally want it now.


message 29: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) Sher wrote: "I just realized that this book is giving me an entirely new way of viewing landscape....

If we all explored our landscape and wrote haiku I wonder how our moments and memories and reimaginings of past lives would be reflected in verse. "


Your Oregon landscape sounds rich in history—pioneers, stagecoaches—as well as natural beauty.

When I explore my landscape, I try to avoid the grand sweep of things and focus on the little things. The only way I can mentally time travel to the past and see the connection between past and present is to narrow my gaze so I only take in that which is unchanged. A flower, for example. The sunflower I admire is not different than the sunflower admired by someone a hundred years ago. But if I look up, a skyscraper gets in the way, spoiling the view and my reverie.

It's a shame that we erase so much of the past in order to move forward. It costs us our connection to history as well as to nature.


message 30: by Annis (new)

Annis Pratt | 33 comments http://www.elizascidmore.com/eliza-s-...

This is a link about my cousin Eliza Scidmore who became acquainted with the Jaoanese reverence for cherry blossoms and worked to have them planted in Washington.


message 31: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "Sher wrote: "I just realized that this book is giving me an entirely new way of viewing landscape....

If we all explored our landscape and wrote haiku I wonder how our moments and memories and rei..."


Susan- I remembered you living near the city, and I think that is such a nice way for you to enjoy and appreciate by focusing in on the those eternal details. They can connect us to the past. Yes. Thanks for sharing that perspective.


message 32: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Annis wrote: "http://www.elizascidmore.com/eliza-s-...

This is a link about my cousin Eliza Scidmore who became acquainted with the Jaoanese reverence for cherry blossoms and worked..."

Thanks for sharing this link Annis. Your cousin seems like quite the adventurer . I noticed there was a link about cherry blossoms also. It struck me how fleeting their beauty is, but while they are in bloom so stunning. I live in a region of apple and cherry orchards, so we will see hundreds of cherry trees in bloom each spring, and our small city of 16, 000 has a week long festival in honor of the blossoms- a parade, live music, and all sorts of craft and community booths.


message 33: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) All this talk of cherry blossoms ~ Now I want to see them! Fortunately, this is the right time of year and the trees will soon be in bloom. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are several places to see cherry blossoms right here in NYC and there's even a Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

Reading Japanese literature has awakened me to the idea of ephemeral beauty ~ so often symbolized by the cherry blossoms. I am reminded of what Emerson says in "Nature":

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

We don't appreciate the beauty that is ever-present; we appreciate the beauty that is ephemeral. If the cherry blossoms were in bloom everyday, would we become immune to their beauty? Maybe so. Maybe that's just human nature. And maybe that's why we need ephemeral beauty ~ to remind us that it's all fleeting and to teach us to appreciate whatever beauty the moment offers.


message 34: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "All this talk of cherry blossoms ~ Now I want to see them! Fortunately, this is the right time of year and the trees will soon be in bloom. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are severa..."

Susan -- thanks for your thoughts on ephemeral beauty. The next day I was on my way to a music rehearsal, and I passed a small yard in a neighborhood that had a single blooming cherry tree standing above a large patch of white and yellow daffodils. It made me want to write a haiku and I tried to put down some lines as everyone was tuning up.

I look back on these words now, and they don't capture what I saw and felt at the time...sigh...


message 35: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Do you have any favorite lines from our March read ?


message 36: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Hi All:
I've been thinking about Basho's journeys and how he traveled and met with other poets and how everyone seemed to be a poet. :) His friends writing lines and giving poems as gifts to one another.

Do we do anything like this in our travels? Can you think of any examples?

The closest example that occurred to me was when musicians travel and they gather at other musicians' homes and play music together. The tunes- in this case fiddle tunes- are gifts to each other. I've never thought of it like this, but this gathering of music players reminds me of Basho and his poets. But in our case the expression isn't inspired by nature; whereas, Basho's creativity is directly connected to the landscape and the journey.

I wonder who our great haiku writers are of today? Do they take journeys -- is it part of the tradition?


message 37: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Here is the haiban I promised, as published in The Weekly Avocet.

Greater Sandhill Cranes
A Haiban - Ray Zimmerman

Greater Sandhill Cranes are sojourners in Tennessee, caught between summer nests in Wisconsin and wintering grounds in Florida. Their rattling call is a trumpet in the skies. They gather at their staging area near Birchwood and call me to watch flights and arrivals. My friends and I watch the red headed dancers proclaim a restless domain on the shore, gray wings jostling like nervous shoppers on Black Friday. Cold air bites my nose and cheeks, sends needles through my gloves. Warm air and tang of Barbeque revive me at the program hall.

Cranes line windy shore
Lift and call across cold water
Homeward then we fly


message 38: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Sher wrote: "Hi All:
I've been thinking about Basho's journeys and how he traveled and met with other poets and how everyone seemed to be a poet. :) His friends writing lines and giving poems as gifts to one an..."


The Weekly Avocet publishes haiku regularly and occasional haiban. It is a journal for nature poets.


message 39: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
I hope you will be able to see this - it's a lovely tribute to cherry blossoms paid for by the Japanese Embassy -- Basho quotes and lovely images and some history too.
http://paidpost.nytimes.com/embassy-o...


message 40: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Ray wrote: "Here is the haiban I promised, as published in The Weekly Avocet.

Greater Sandhill Cranes
A Haiban - Ray Zimmerman

Greater Sandhill Cranes are sojourners in Tennessee, caught between summer nests..."


Really wonderful Ray- captures so many moments. Let's me see...
Thanks for sharing your work .


message 41: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) Sher wrote: "I hope you will be able to see this - it's a lovely tribute to cherry blossoms paid for by the Japanese Embassy"

Great link Sher. I love the photos!


message 42: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) Ray wrote: "Here is the haiban I promised"

Thanks for sharing your haibun, Ray. It's beautiful!


message 43: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) Sher wrote: "Do we do anything like this in our travels? Can you think of any examples?"

There's an artist's group here in NYC that meets once a month. I've been to it a few times. It's for creative people of all stripes: poets, artists, musicians, people who just want to share their favorite thing whatever it is. Whenever I go, it's an amazing cultural experience.


message 44: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Sher wrote: "Ray wrote: "Here is the haiban I promised, as published in The Weekly Avocet.

Greater Sandhill Cranes
A Haiban - Ray Zimmerman

Greater Sandhill Cranes are sojourners in Tennessee, caught between ..."

Thank you - it will appear in my next book, which is now in the editing stage.


message 45: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Sher wrote: "I hope you will be able to see this - it's a lovely tribute to cherry blossoms paid for by the Japanese Embassy -- Basho quotes and lovely images and some history too.
http://paidpost.nytimes.com/..."


Lovely images.


message 46: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Sher wrote: "I hope you will be able to see this - it's a lovely tribute to cherry blossoms paid for by the Japanese Embassy -- Basho quotes and lovely images and some history too.
http://paidpost.nytimes.com/..."


Lovely images.


message 47: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Ray wrote: "Sher wrote: "Ray wrote: "Here is the haiban I promised, as published in The Weekly Avocet.

Greater Sandhill Cranes
A Haiban - Ray Zimmerman

Greater Sandhill Cranes are sojourners in Tennessee, ca..."


Ray--please let us know when it is available. Sher


message 48: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "Ray wrote: "Here is the haiban I promised"

Thanks for sharing your haibun, Ray. It's beautiful!"


Susan- I'm so glad you were able to see Ray's haiban; I thought you would appreciate it since you are also a poet.

I was thinking about your comments regarding the creative artists coming together. We went to a jam last night where various musicians and singers came together to play old country songs for 40 or so dancers. Such energy in that room! All stemming from a common love of music. Nature and art connects us in such deep ways.


message 49: by Ray (new)

Ray Zimmerman | 637 comments Here in Chattanooga. there are a number of collaborative events. I have given poetry readings backed up by a jazz band, and we have an open mic for both musicians and spoken word artists.


message 50: by Sher (new)

Sher (sheranne) | 935 comments Mod
Ray wrote: "Here in Chattanooga. there are a number of collaborative events. I have given poetry readings backed up by a jazz band, and we have an open mic for both musicians and spoken word artists."

That's very cool! I like how different genres are combined.


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