Friday, February 27, 2009

B2: Basho, Hemingway, and Six-Worders

The blogger ZuDfunck on the site of the same name discusses a literary genre called the Six Word Memoir. Supposedly when asked to write a six word story, Hemingway offered: 'For sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn.'

[note: upon further review, it appears this was actually something written by Rob Bartlett of the Imus Show and available here in its original.]

Later in the post, after discussing some Imus-concentric six-worders and "a new New York Times Bestseller, Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith from Smith Magazine," Zud opines that he'd "like to see Basho come up with some Hexagonal Haiku that did the same thing."

I'll just copy my comment I wrote on the blog for the remainder of this post (with a couple of typo corrections from the original):

Actually, Basho wrote several "hexagonal haiku" or actually "hexagonal hokku" as they should be known. And many many more if you would discount the words that need to be used for possessive or exclamatory purposes such as 'no' and 'ya'. Furthermore, such poetry was actually written in a single line. When you read Basho in line breaks, that's actually a translation thing.

Here's just one example:
toshi kurenu kasa kite waraji kakinara.

Translated word by word:
year have-ended hat wearing straw-sandal wearing.

Makoto Ueda translates into an English poem thusly:
another year is gone--
a traveler's hat on my head,
straw sandals on my feet

It's basically a desription of Basho's life. Another year, another road to travel. Of course, the more you ponder it, the more you see in it. Which was the minimalist genius of the man.

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