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Welcome, Poets, to another Haibun Monday, where we blend prose and haiku into that hybrid form called haibun. Frank J. Tassone here, and I’m excited to present two master poets: Basho and Shakespeare!

Basho and Shakespeare

Basho was the most famous poet of the Edo period; today, many consider him the master of haiku:

Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉, 1644–1694), born 松尾 金作, then Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa (松尾 忠右衛門 宗房),[2][3] was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as the greatest master of haiku (then called hokku). Matsuo Bashō’s poetry is internationally renowned; and, in Japan, many of his poems are reproduced on monuments and traditional sites. Although Bashō is justifiably famous in the West for his hokku, he himself believed his best work lay in leading and participating in renku. He is quoted as saying, “Many of my followers can write hokku as well as I can. Where I show who I really am is in linking haikai verses.”[4]

The Bard needs no introduction:

William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616)[a] was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist.[2][3][4] He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon” (or simply “the Bard”).[5][b] His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays,[c] 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.[7]

These two masters, continents and generations apart, surprisingly share some common accomplishments. Both transformed the fashionable poetic form of their time. Both significantly influenced the literary culture of their respective societies. Finally, both achieved international renown, with an impact felt to this day.

Shakespeare’s innovation to the form, as evidenced in Sonnet #18, revolutionized its power to convey deep emotion through metaphor and hyperbole:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Basho’s haiku, meanwhile, as illustrated by some of his most prominent, demonstrated how a simple verse structure of a poetic drinking game could embody the deepest longings of the heart—through simple imagery that shakes us out of our compacency:

In Kyoto,

hearing the cuckoo,

I long for Kyoto.

The summer grasses.

All that remains

Of warriors’ dreams.

Old Pond,

A frog jumps in:


Today, I would you like you to write a haibun that alludes to either (or both!) of these poetic masters. You could comment on their lives or accomplishments, write a mock-memoir from their point-of-view, explore some aspect of their art, reflect on their impact—whatever you like!

For those new to haibun, write a prose paragraph or two, followed by a haiku, in which you include a seasonal reference, and a complement of divergent images that provokes insight.

New to dVerse? Here’s what you do:

  • Write a haibun that references Basho or Shakespeare (or both!)
  • Include a link back to dVerse in your post.
  • Post it on your personal site/blog.
  • Copy your post’s URL link onto the Mr. Linky.
  • Remember to click the small checkbox about data protection.
  • Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work.
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.

Have fun!