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By combining the ideals of 'karumi'--lightness of touch--and oneness with nature, Basho (1644-94) rose above the artificiality of previous haiku poets to become the new master of the genre. A follower of the Zen sect of Buddhism, he spent much of his life travelling, and his exquisite compositions reveal an inspired and dedicated perfectionist who constantly seeks to express himself in the purest possible form. In these limpid translations Lucien Stryk captures the feeling of the original poems with an artistry that their creator could not have failed to admire.
Basho, one of the greatest of Japanese poets and the master of haiku, was also a Buddhist monk and a life-long traveller. His poems combine 'karumi', or lightness of touch, with the Zen ideal of oneness with creation. Each poem evokes the natural world - the cherry blossom, the leaping frog, the summer moon or the winter snow - suggesting the smallness of human life in comparison to the vastness and drama of nature. Basho himself enjoyed solitude and a life free from possessions, and his haiku are the work of an observant eye and a meditative mind, uncluttered by materialism and alive to the beauty of the world around him.
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Basho was born near Kyoto in 1644. A poet and diarist, he spent his youth as companion to the son of the local lord, and with him studied the writing of poetry. In 1667 he moved to Edo (now Tokyo) and continued to write verse. Eventually, he became a recluse. His writings are strongly influenced by the Zen sect of Buddhism. Lucien Stryk is a well-known translator.