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haiku master

Matsuo Basho radically redefined the three-line, 17-syllable haiku poetic form from an entertaining pastime in 16th-century Japan to a major literary genre in the 17th century. An early Basho haiku provides an example of his meticulous and sensitive approach in selecting and arranging words and images to produce highly evocative allusions: On a leafless bough In the gathering autumn dusk: A solitary crow!Haiku emanates from the 31 syllable, five-line "tanka" (short poem) which was originally arranged in two parts, an opening triplet (hokku) and a couplet. The Haiku form was popularized during the Heian period (794-1185). At that time, it was customary for the educated elite of Japan to engage in writing, singing, and reciting poetry as forms of cultural entertainment. In addition, social customs of the day demanded that the aristocracy of the refined court society display both a sensitivity to nature in their poetic expression and an ability to discuss the poetic classics of Japanese and Chinese literature. Tanka, then, could express a wealth of meaning in five elegant lines expressing a single idea, emotion, or observation. By the 16th century, tanka had found expression in playful and less refined experimental forms and began to attract the participation of the merchant classes as well. But it was not until Basho came along with an artistic sensibility, reflective calm, and keen originality, coupled with his formal training in Japanese and Chinese classics and poetry, that new power was infused into the haiku. Basho's greatest contribution to the genre was to take the opening triplet of the tanka (hokku) and make it an independent, autonomous form. The term haiku was formed from the first three letters of the word haikai (a 17-syllable comical verse) and the last two letters of the word hokku. The following, well-known Basho haiku serves as an example of the beauty of nature, the fleeting image of time, and a compression of language...

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