Nobuyuki Yuasa: November 15, 1966

The Poetry Center presents renowned Japanese scholar-translator Nobuyuki Yuasa talking on Basho and the haiku tradition, and reading from his volume of translations and commentary, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Basho, translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa (Penguin Classics, 1967), a book which still remains in print.

Originally Recorded By
San Francisco State College
Total Run Time
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  • Yuasa introduces himself and his subject, which is haiku (00:00)
  • Describes the haiku form (00:20)
  • Reads famous Basho frog pond haiku "Breaking the silence of an ancient pond..." in Japanese and English (00:35)
  • Explains complexity and intellectual character behind simplicity (01:06)
  • Explains biographical approach to presentation on Basho which follows (02:54)
  • Begins Basho's biography starting with birth in 1644 (03:44)
  • Basho begins study of linked verse at age 16 under Kigin (05:20)
  • Reads two of Basho's earliest known poems (06:12)
  • Notes Basho's early influence (06:54)
  • Basho contributes to anthology in honor of Teitoku (07:05)
  • Basho leaves for Kyoto after death of close friend Sengin (07:38)
  • Basho studies classics in Kyoto (08:17)
  • Reads poems from Basho's Kyoto period - a greater range of freedom (08:35)
  • In 1672 Basho edits his first hokku anthology with his own critical comments (10:21)
  • Two selections of hokku from Basho's anthology with Basho's comments (10:50)
  • Haiku written by Basho upon leaving for Edo in 1672 (12:52)
  • Describes cultural and social background of Edo (now Tokyo) (13:01)
  • Four haiku written by Basho under influence of Soin (14:18)
  • Yuasa comments on poems read - 'absolute freedom of movement' (15:20)
  • Yuasa notes that Basho learns the importance of the everyday from Soin (15:53)
  • Haiku written upon Basho's visit to his hometown (16:35)
  • Haiku written by Basho in Edo during period of influence Soin (17:20)
  • In 1680 Basho moves to the house near the Sumida River on the outskirts of Edo and plants the banana tree from which he gets his new penname - 'Basho' (18:23)
  • Selections from Basho's haiku during his Fukagawa period (20:48)
  • Basho begins practice of Zen meditation (21:45)
  • Haiku written during period after Basho's house was destroyed by fire (22:53)
  • Selection from Basho's diaries - development of Buddhist thought and move away from Soin influence (23:57)
  • Basho diaries after house in Fukagawa rebuilt (25:10)
  • Basho leaves on first of his poetic journeys in 1685 (25:35)
  • Haiku from the beginning of Basho's mature period (29:16)
  • Remarks on mature developments in Basho's haiku (30:38)
  • Basho's famous frog pond poem, which was written during his mature period, and translation of commentary on this poem by one of his disciples (31:43)
  • Yuasa comments on Basho'd developing poetics of this mature period (35:31)
  • More haiku reflecting mature developments since frog poem (36:14)
  • Yuasa reads from his translations of Basho's travel diaries, which are haibun sequences (a prose passage followed by one or more haiku) (37:24)
  • Reads from translations of the last of Basho's travel diaries, in The Narrow Road to the Deep North by (44:29)
  • Concluding remarks, difficulty of haiku (48:00)

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