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Matsuo Basho: National Geographic Article Response


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Response to article from the popular magazine, National Geographic, in relation to the revolutionary poet, Matsuo Basho. Contains paragraph analyzing photograph by Michael Yamashita.

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Matsuo Basho: National Geographic Article Response

  1. 1. Savannah Block Pre-College English Hour 2 December 2, 2008 Matsuo Basho: National Geographic Article Response In this day and age, it is very difficult to find simple things “enough.” I believe Howard Norman is attempting to convey this daily struggle (finding our unostentatiousness moments) through On the Poet’s Trail. He continues this description, providing us that Matsuo Basho’s most famous work おくのほそ道, or “Narrow Road to a Far Province” is still alive in the hearts of Japanese linguists and scholars today. Basho's younger years are an indication for a rough, or more appropriately, lack there of, a childhood. Turning to literature and poems, Basho was able to find his center. Norman is well aware of how difficult the twenty first century is. Not many people have the opportunity to lose themselves in an activity that they find both relaxing and enjoyable. Norman reiterates Basho's desire to participate in such extensive hiking trips: “Basho lived a turbulent life in a changing Japan—his melancholy was an intensifying element in much of his writing and an important part of what, in the end, propelled him on his journeys.” Without the hardships Basho lived through as a child, there would be no drive for him to walk these journeys. People that know what it is like to live a non-glitzy/non-glam life appreciate the littler things in life that much more. They know what it is like to work for their measly income. They, most importantly, understand how to value what they have. Seeing as majority of the United States (and people reading Nat Geo) fall into middle-class, these people will be able to relate to Basho. Maybe I am too much of a child of my time, but in my opinion, I do not think I could ever look at nature one sixteenth the way Matsuo Basho did. Nature and I have never had the tightest relationship to tell you the truth. With that said, my eyes are not blind to how beautiful the trees can be (especially with all this wonderful snow!) My favorite excerpt from the reading had to be a quote from Helen Tanizaki: “He’s like a quirky philosopher tour-guide who pretty much leaves readers alone to experience traveling in those remote places for themselves. Rather than trying to account for things, he just feels the obligation to take note of them, a vast striving for connection.” From what I learned in the reading, Tanizaki has hit the nail on the head, describing Basho as one that does indeed take note of the beauties of nature, (although, such observations are more than likely biased. He is after all a nature man.) but not to the extreme. Basho sounded like the type of guy that would let you make your own assumptions. If you do not find what he finds beautiful, he would not force his beliefs down your throat. I believe this behavior is exactly what makes the “Master of Haiku” so appealing. People appreciate others that appreciate. I certainly do.
  2. 2. Block 2 In this photo, taken by Michael Yamashita, my awe and stupor is not caused by the butterfly itself, but that another human being can look at this creature and be filled with the exuberance and gratification that Matsuo was most likely accustom to feeling. Being an avid photographer myself, capturing nature in its most raw form is not the easiest to master. Looking at the photograph, I take the dimensions of a picture into consideration, along with the resolution. With this high of definition, my thoughts wonder about the camera itself. My brain works backwards in that fashion, not entirely focusing to what the actual picture is, but what comes from the camera itself. Aside from the techical photography jargon, the photo as a whole is a very beautiful subject. From how dainty the butterfly looks, to the deep blue-violet color of the flower, such a picture oozes elegance. The question, “How many photos did Yamashita take of this butterfly.” suddenly popped into my head. Following was the attempting to grasp that Basho could simply look at this butterfly for a second, and its memory could very well be remembered forever.