Basho, Robert Aitken and Haiku 4

As referred to in previous posts of this series, personal reflections are combined in these posts with the very personal selection from Aitken’s book Zen Wave.

In the foreword, R.S. Merwin, the late US poet and contemporary of Aitken, talks of Aitken’s upbringing and the character of Zen.

He exposes the reader to an understanding: Zen does not belong to one culture (and this reader is inclined to add: and not one religion).

Merwin: Zen is Poetry. But, of course, he also quotes also from the early evolution of Zen:

Mind that abides nowhere must come forth.

Preconceptions are of no use – neither in haiku nor, incidentally, in the translation of poetry.

Referring to the well-known frog haiku, Merwin puts forward: Stillness and movement are one. Aitken, says Merwin, reaches us to listen – not just to Basho, or the frog, but ourselves in this way.

Basho does not create a canon but direct and real poems. Can you and I read haikus then with the same attitude of surprise they were written in? Presence to a child’s sense of wonderment may help – the opposite of an academic or religious exercise? In Aitken’s translation:

Old pond!

frog jumps in

water’s sound


~ by Barbara S on April 28, 2022.

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