Basho’s Unfinished Haiku

This prompt by Chevrefeuille leapt out me while I scrolling through blogs this morning – Basho’s Unfinished Haiku  –   “recently I ran into an “unfinished” haiku of Basho. I love to challenge you this week to create the third, missing, line and than write a haibun with that completed haiku in it. Your haibun may have a maximum of 150 words (including the completed haiku).”

Here is that unfinished haiku:

missing a wife
putting on bamboo grass


While I can’t promise to stick to the word count I’d like to offer this as a possible way of finishing the haiku.

misssing a wife
putting on bamboo grass
– rainbow colours

Some thoughts on what Basho’s unfinished haiku might mean –

In his work Matsuo Basho the Professor of Japanese Studies (Stanford University) Makoto Ueda asserts that Basho was probably gay.    Uedo writes about the sexual mores of 17th century Japan.    Wakashudo was the way of homosexual love, nyodo was the way of loving women.   There was no stigma attached to the choice between the two.  Like the ancient Greeks homosexual relationships often occurred between an older man and a younger man.   The word chigo appears in some of Basho’s haiku.   Ueda translates this as ‘handsome youth’ and ‘boy-lover’.

I have read accounts that suggest Basho actively discouraged including women in his haiku circle.    A woman named Jutei appears to have been the only woman he was particularly close to.    For many years scholars thought that Jutei had been Basho’s lover and that he was the father of her children.   There is no legal record of this but it wasn’t until 1991 that an alternative explanation was offered when a previously unknown letter by Basho was discovered and published.   This letter makes it clear that Jutei was his nephew Toin’s wife.  (from “The Essential Haiku” by Robert Hass)

Leaving questions of Basho’s sexuality aside I’m wondering if the line “putting on bamboo grass” might refer to some kind of cloak made of grass.   In the Edo period in Japan wearing cloaks of grass or straw was common among poorer people.   There are many haiku that talk about this.   Straw cloaks can also been seen being worn by porters in woodblocks by Hokusai.  Perhaps because Basho was missing a wife who could sew him a cloak he had to wear one made of bamboo grass.

I once read that clothes in the Edo period were sometimes made from washi paper that had been treated with oil to make it waterproof.   It’s quite possible that Basho wore such a coat when he walked the narrow road to the deep north.   The idea appealed to me so I made this haiga about it.

paper coat.jpg


Rainbow notes

Chevrefeuille of Carpe Diem Haiku Kai has posted two haiku by Sōen Nakagawa (1907 – 1984) – a monk who has had a major influence on contemporary interpretations of Zen Buddhist – for inspiration and revision.
one note of the shakuhachi
resounds endlessly
piercing the winter clouds 


snow on mountain peak
unfurls a Rainbow

© Soen Nakagawa (1907-1984)

Here’s my response –

rising cadence
church bells over the town
punctuate time


breaking waves 
sunlight on the spume
making a rainbow


Writing poetry

The equinox and suddenly the light here has a whiter, sharper look to it.  Autumn begins down here in the south.   How can it be that it comes so suddenly?   On Saturday bush fires raged.  Today, Tuesday and the wind has a touch of winter to it.

This is why I write haiku.  This is why I am inspired by Matsuo Basho.

Attuned to nature’s rhythms. the subtle shifts and changes and the sound of frogs leaping into ponds Basho wandered through the years

Now as my life reaches its autumn I turn to his poems.    I pick up my pen.

Writing a haiku
with autumn blowing in
– a crow cawing

crow cawing

“– why/who inspired you to write poetry?

– what is your style?

– why do you write poetry?”