Versus Natural Sources:
In my global comparison of haiku, I have chosen George Swede and Basho. Swedes approach to haiku is more psychological than nature. And Bashos approach to haiku is more nature than psychological. Swede writes haiku based on memories, experiences, nature, non-fiction and fiction. He usually brings himself, if not another person into the haiku. He leaves the haiku open though, for us to step into the words and imagine or recall a memory. Basho writes haiku based on nature and unappreciated creatures, like the flea and the frog. When both authors haiku are placed side by side, we see the differences of each culture. Swedes memories, experiences and fictional writings are so different from Bashos nature and occasional tell-it-like-it-is haiku. Basho appreciates nature so much that he writes what he sees and notices in everyday life.
following haiku have been selected from Almost Unseen
by George Swede, and Traces of Dreams a book about
Bashô by Professor Shirane. The comparison between each
matching pair varies from feelings, to different types of
I am comparing these two because I think they have in common the "humble treat." In Swedes memory haiku, he is rummaging through boxes of old junk that brings about many memories. He comes across a pair of his grandfathers old boots. His "treat" is to take them for a walk. Simple and humble, he puts them on and takes a walk, remembering his grandfather and all the good times with him.
Bashos haiku, I see a man in a field searching for strawberry
plants. This is his free time, and he chooses to spend it
looking for strawberries. He is a humble man, and doesnt
want much. But every now and then, he needs a special treat.
The delicious sweet taste of the berries makes his day complete.
Unlike Swedes, this isnt a memory associated haiku.
It is the present, and he is telling it like it is.
Paris pond is a very simple haiku. Someone is in Paris, staring into a beautiful pond. Trees surround it, and flower petals fly in the air. Its a warm, sunny day. The person stares at himself in the pond. A frog is startled and jumps into the water, making ripples in the persons reflection. There could be more behind this haiku. For example, Swede might have been depressed. And when he looked at his reflection, it was rippled by the frog, symbolizing that he needs a change in his life.
"an old pond," Basho captured a moment that not
many people would care about, or even think twice about. His
appreciation of nature and its dwelling creatures shines
through in this haiku. The silence of the pond, the warm breeze
on your face, makes this place a good spot to relax in peace
with nature. As he sits quietly, a frog leaps into the water
breaking his silence.
In Swedes new haiku, roadkill racoon, he is combining memories from childhood and recent memories. He remembers his childhood, when a vicious wild dog lunged at him in the forrest and his own dog counter-attacked the wild dog until it surrendered and ran away. When he has enough courage to go back into the forrest, he saw the wild dog, lying dead on the side of the path. It had maggots crawling all over it. He probably saw a dead raccoon on the side of the road, and it was snowing out. The same goes for the dead wild dog in the woods. It was probably almost winter, and everyday he walked by the dog, he had to look at it. Even in winter, when the snow started to fall, he got to see it one last time before the snow covered its decaying body.
I believe this is a good match for Bashos haiku. Basho also brings out the cold feeling in his haiku, but he is writing about the present. It would make more sense if Basho had written this in America because all birds fly south for winter. And this seagull didnt, and he now must endure the freezing waters. Its too cold for him to sleep. But since he wrote it elsewhere, I would say that he wrote this in sympathy for the birds in the water. Its cold to humans, but birds can handle the cold water. Basho is all tucked into his nice warm bed, and he hears the cry of the lonely seagull in the water. Basho sympathizes with the seagull, and has a restless night while the bird cries into the night.
In Swedes haiku, he takes himself out of his writing, and instead, writes fiction about a girl. This girl has had an abortion. It was more like a weed to her. Weeds are unwanted, much like her unborn child. She is young, alone, and doesnt need to have weeds in her life right now. The baby would take over her life, just as the weeds would take over the garden and ruin it. So there she sits, weeding the garden of the unwanted.
Bashos haiku gives a feeling of lonliness and unwantedness. The tree branch is leafless and one single crow picks that branch to rest on. This is another one of those simple haikus that cant be read into very much. There is no hint of emotions that would give the haiku a more meaningful explanation.
After comparing these two magnificent authors, I have seen the difference between the cultures in a more enlightened way. Basho came from a simple life, and is very in tune with nature. From reading his haiku, I picture a habitat full of flowers, ponds, fruit fields, and people, all living in harmony together. From the way he writes, he shows a hint of his religion which could very well be Buddhism. Swede, on the other hand, comes from a life that is a bit complicated. His writings about memories, romance, sadness, and nature show that he doesnt have the perfect life. He brings his feelings into his haiku, when Basho leaves them out. These authors are great in their own way.
©2002 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors