Matsuo Bashō


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Matsuo Bashō was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. He is today regarded as the master of haiku and one of the greatest poets in the history of Japanese literature. In his own times, Basho was particularly famous for his renga, collaborative poems in which a group of poets would take turns writing linked stanzas; today, however, Basho is known worldwide for his clear, piercing haikus.

Prior to Basho, the haiku form was generally seen as little more than a literary pastime; most haiku were constrained by formal rules and overloaded with allusions to classical literature and contemporary gossip. Basho, drawing on his own studies of Zen Buddhism, revolutionized haiku by crafting poems that focused on microscopic scenes from everyday life that touched upon enormous truths. Basho showed how volumes of insight can be compressed into just seventeen syllables. His name and his legacy have virtually become synonymous with the word "haiku" itself, and his influence not only on Japanese literature but on literature the world over is tremendous.

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