Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Basho Poetics 2: The Disease of Knowledge

There is a disease characteristic of the skilled artist. In the Master's words, "haikai should be entrusted to the very young" and "it is the poetry of those with a beginner's mind that is most trustworthy." He often made comments such as this, and would point out all the maladies of the skilled.

Upon entering the inner life of an object’s makoto, one can either cultivate the spirit or kill it. If one kills the creative energy, the poem cannot move with the spirit. The Master said, "haikai should move with the spirit," and "if the rhythm is bad, the harmony will be spoiled." In this way the spirit is disrupted and killed.

In addition, sometimes the Master even said "in making a poem it may be good to coax the spirit." This is an injunction to cultivate it by beguiling it back to life.

Skilled disciples can lapse into bad habits, fostering a self which desires to make only excellent poems. Their discriminating minds then shut the gate to free expression, and they grow weary in their deliberations. In this condition, they are oblivious to the spirit, and their minds are foolish.

trans Barnhill

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