NotaBene .

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Renku, Haiku, and Buddhism

It is commonly known that the one-breath poetic form of haiku evolved from the starting verse of Japanese rengathe linked verse form that is widely referred to today as renku. Not commonly known is that renku was shaped over time by Japanese poet-priests to become ultimately a Buddhist ritual designed to lead its participants on an imagined tour of the Mandala of All Creation with the sole purpose of helping them to realize the transience of the universe, thereby taking a major step toward enlightenment. This paper traces the development of renku and haiku to the present day to show how twenty-first century haiku poets stand at a crossroads: they can either continue Masaoka Shikis trajectory of de-spiritualizing haiku, or they can cultivate a more traditional spiritual understanding of haikus art and deep purpose.

This essay first appeared in David G. Lanoue, My Journal with Haiku Sprinkled in (HaikuGuy.com, 2019).
Joint publication with Haiku world

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ISSA AND PROSTITUTES: HAIKU PORTRAITS OF EARLY MODERN JAPAN

Abstract: Japanese haiku master Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) considered beggars, peasants, orphans, and even ethnic minority outcastes, the Ainu, to be worthy subjects in his one-breath sketches: not looked down upon but rather appreciated as human beings. As a male poet acculturated in the male-dominant Japan of his era, did Issas penetrating sympathy for fellow creatures extend also to the economically, socially, andin some casesphysically enslaved women of his time? An examination of his haiku about prostitutesfrom the highest class courtesans of the Yoshiwara down to the lowest grade of streetwalkerreveals that, while there are exceptions, for the most part his haiku portraits of prostitutes coax readers toward deeper understanding and compassion.

Key words: poetry, haiku, Kobayashi Issa, haiku portraits of prostitutes.

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Abstract: Japanese haiku master Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) considered beggars, peasants, orphans, and even ethnic minority outcastes, the Ainu, to be worthy subjects in his one-breath sketches: not looked down upon but rather appreciated as human beings. As a male poet acculturated in the male-dominant Japan of his era, did Issas penetrating sympathy for fellow creatures extend also to the economically, socially, andin some casesphysically enslaved women of his time? An examination of his haiku about prostitutesfrom the highest class courtesans of the Yoshiwara down to the lowest grade of streetwalkerreveals that, while there are exceptions, for the most part his haiku portraits of prostitutes coax readers toward deeper understanding and compassion.

Key words: poetry, haiku, Kobayashi Issa, haiku portraits of prostitutes.

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Abstract: The Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa (1763 - 1828) advocated a childlike state of consciousness for composers of haiku. This essay firstly examines Issa's aesthetic approach in the context of cultural antecedents, including Chinese Taoism and Japanese Pure Land Buddhism; and secondly it relates the approach to recent research in neuroscience concerning the development of the Default Mode Network (DMN). Issa's desire, expressed in one of his early poems, to become a child on New Year's Day can be understood as an attempt to return to a primary state of consciousness that preceded the development of the DMN or adult ego. The essay argues that this state of primary consciousness continues to be an important prerequisite for excellent haiku.

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