Cover image for The essential Bashō
The essential Bashō
Matsuo, Bashō, 1644-1694.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Shambhala, 1999.
Physical Description:
xxxiii, 184 pages : maps ; 24 cm
Narrow road to the interior -- Travelogue of weather-beaten bones -- The knapsack notebook -- Sarashina travelogue -- Selected haiku.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PL794.4 .A24 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



     Here is the most complete single-volume collection of writings by one of the great luminaries of Asian literature. Includes a masterful translation of Basho's most celebrated work, Narrow Road to the Interior, along with three less well-known works and over 250 of Basho's finest haiku. The translator has included an overview of Basho's life and an essay on the art of haiku.

Author Notes

Basho (1644-1694)--the most revered poet of Japanese literature--is best known in the West as the author of Narrow Road to the Interior , a travel diary of his journey through northern Japan. Basho elevated the haiku to an art form of utter simplicity and intense spiritual beauty. His travel diaries of linked prose and haiku created a new genre of writing that inspired generations of Japanese poets.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

One of Japan's most famous poets, B asho (1644-94) spent much of his life writing as he traveled around Japan. Here Hamill, a poet and translator of Chinese, Japanese, Greek, and Latin, presents sensitive and beautiful translations from B asho's most famous work, Narrow Road to the Interior, along with Travelogue of Weather-Beaten Bones, The Knapsack Notebook, Sarashina Travelogue, and a large selection of haiku. The Japanese original is included in Romanization. In the excerpts, B asho combines prose descriptions of his route with poems by himself and by friends. Many of the poems are grounded in a sense of place ("The winds that blow/ through South Valley Temple/ are sweetened by snow"), some reflect on life ("It's good now and then/ to go out snow-viewing/ until I tumble"), but most depict nature, his favorite theme ("The bee emerging/ from deep within the peony/ departs reluctantly"). Hamill introduces the works with explanations of poetic references and conventions and appended notes that explicate specifics. Some poems will still be obscure, but this is recommended as a good overview to this major poet.‘Kitty Dean Chen, Nassau Community Coll., Garden City, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Hamill's translations of Bash=o's poetry and prose are occasionally brilliant but often unreliable. And his introduction is inaccurate. Haiku can be delightful when taken straightforwardly as the juxtaposition of images intended to trigger fresh insights into the nature of the world; but the poems usually have multiple levels of meaning and to understand them fully, readers needs to be aware of the context of the composition and of poetic conventions. One example will suffice. "This water's too cold--you'll not get a moment's sleep, Mr. Seagull" seems merely a cute anthropomorphic moment of sympathy for a bird. But as Haruo Shirane reveals in Traces of Dreams (CH, Jul'98), a headnote explaining that the poem constitutes a thank-you note for a gift of wine prompts a sophisticated reader to assume the poet has been similarly suffering but tonight anticipates wine-induced warmth to help him sleep soundly. No Japanese anthology would leave out the headnotes as Hamill and other Western translators usually do. To this reviewer's mind, the romantic impulse to treat Japanese poetry as purely lyrical and universally accessible leads to an impoverished appreciation of haiku and perpetuates Orientalist stereotypes. Not recommended. M. H. Childs; University of Kansas