Monday, March 4, 2013

a wind-swept spirit

In this mortal frame of mine, which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices, there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit, for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind.  
This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business.  It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when it was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over others. Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering  between doubts of one kind and another. 
At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry.  The fact is, it knows no other art than writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more of less blindly.

~ Matsuo Basho
from Journal of a Travel-Worn Satchel
translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa

A wanderer all his life both in body and spirit, Basho concerned himself less with destination than with the quality of the traveler's attention.  A poem, he said, only exists while it's on the writing desk; by the time its ink has dried, it should be recognized as just a scrap of paper.  In poetry as in life, he saw each moment as gate-latch.  Permeability mattered more in this process than product or will:  "If we were to gain mastery over things, we would find their lives would vanish under us without a trace."

~ Jane Hirshfield 
from The Heart of Haiku


Anonymous said...

thank you.