The Narrow Road to a Deeper Understanding of Haibun


In seventeenth century Japan, Matsuo Basho wrote The Narrow Road to the Deep North in an innovative style that is much admired in contemporary English language critical theory, and emulated in various forms of practice. The immense difficulties in integrating sections of prose and poetry, (traditionally haiku), in the same text continues to engage and intrigue. Rich Youmans describes "the special excitement of encountering Basho's one-two punch: his gracefully evocative prose shifting into the deeply entwined, limpid poetry of his haiku". The evolution of contemporary Western haibun, by writers such as John Ashbery, Jack Kerouac, and Robert Wilson (Vietnam Ruminations, continues to prompt ongoing debate. Attempts have been made (for example, by the Society of American Haibun) to codify what the form should and should not contain. These efforts to harness this cross genre approach have failed to successfully define what should constitute any aesthetically coherent interdependence of prose and poetry in an English language context, in the USA, UK and Australasia. This paper argues that Western writers must revisit the way trodden by Basho, as he grappled with his own literary encounter, between classical Chinese and Japanese prose and the new style he evolved for his integration of this prose with traditional haiku. What principles did he establish which have been overlooked and how can these be successfully integrated in diverse Western cultural contexts?

Author Information
Susie Utting, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2013
Stream: Literature

This paper is part of the LibrAsia2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Utting S. (2013) The Narrow Road to a Deeper Understanding of Haibun ISSN: 2186-2281 – The Asian Conference on Literature and Librarianship 2013 – Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon