Matsuo Basho, Matsuo Basho poetry, Buddhist, Buddhist poetry, Zen / Chan poetry,  poetry,  poetry Matsuo Basho
Japan (1644 - 1694) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Poems by Matsuo Basho
Books - Links

Basho took his name from the Japanese word for "banana tree." He was given a gift of a banana tree by a student and the poet immediately identified with it: the way the small tree stood there with its large, soft, fragile leaves. (See his banana plant haiku.)

Basho was probably born in 1644 in Iga Province outside of Kyoto, Japan. His father was a poor samurai-farmer.

As a teenager, Basho entered the service of the local lord, acting as a page. The young lord was only a couple of years older than Basho, and the two became friends, enjoying the playful exchange of haiku verses.

When Basho was still a young man, his friend and lord died. In reaction, Basho left home, abandoned his samurai status, and took to a life of wandering.

After several years, he settled in Edo (Tokyo), continuing to write and publish poetry. His haiku began to attract attention and students gathered around him. At about this time, Basho also took up Zen meditation.

Basho remained restless, even in his fame. A neighborhood fire claimed his small house in Edo leaving him homeless, and Basho once again took up the itinerant life, visiting friends and disciples, taking up residence for brief periods only to begin another journey. It was during this time that Basho composed some of his greatest haiku.

Basho returned to Edo in 1691 and died there in 1694.

Poems by Matsuo Basho

Recommended Books: Matsuo Basho

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Four Seasons: Japanese Haiku
On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho A Box of Zen: Haiku the Poetry of Zen, Koans the Lessons of Zen, Sayings the Wisdom of Zen The Narrow Road to Oku Classic Haiku: An Anthology of Poems by Basho and His Followers The Complete Basho Poems
Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson & Issa Matsuo Basho Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics)

Related Links

Matsuo Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North

A good exploration of Basho's life and poetry.

Poem Hunter: Matsuo Basho

A complete list of Basho's poems.

On the Poet's Trail - National Geographic Magazine

A fascinating article with beautiful photographs tracing Basho's travels.
Matsuo Basho