There are some poems
which would evoke, even after a long period of time, thoughts and emotions
once embedded in them and things
and landscapes once having been looked at by them. One such poem for me
is a short one of Ezra Pound in his Lustra. It has the title of
Too long .....
This is a poem
reborn in Pound's putting it in his book, because, as seen in its translation
note, it is only the readable top words of the first
three lines of Sappho's poem dedicated to Gongula in Corophon, written on
and preserved from an ancient leaf of papyrus. Sappho, a woman in Lesboa,
is a Greek
poet. By this poem spring in Greece emerges in front of me as densely as
spring itself, and I feel the sunlight in it coming to present itself
in my sight as
it was penetrated through the shower in London where Pound had lived.
again and again. Pound, in his "ABC of Reading",
told young people to read Sappho. According to Pound, "A classic
is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits
It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness".
Where, then, does such freshness come from?
Although it is rare,
it may come from within the poem where being is sealed inside as itself
and that being there conceals itself and discloses
itself at the same time. This is the aesthetics rather faintly suggested by
and for me, it is in Buson's Haiku poems that this aesthetics would turn
up most clearly.
In the light of Heidegger's
thinking, Buson's poems emerge as 'poems of being' more than anything
else. Of course Buson lived far earlier than
Heidegger, and clearly there was no direct correspondence between them. However,
this distance what weighs on my mind is, for example, such a Hokku poem
of peony as below. This poem is usually viewed as staged on a peony garden,
at it as an event inside a room.
Within the quietness
of a lull in visitors' absence, appears the peony flower!
to shite kyaku no taema no botan kana)
Possibly after a Haiku meeting, or it seems it could have been any person(s),
the poet saw the visitor(s) off and returned to the room. He then looked
at the corner, and saw the peony, which has been there for some time, as appearing
floating in a lull, as though changed to that peony as itself. While residual
scents of the visitors in the room are silently disappearing, it is calm,
not too light nor dark, and the peony is there lighted on its face by that surrounding
air. The poet stands there, veiled in ennui, where he feels both bliss and
with that time perceived as a long instant. Even if it is an instant, a time
of unworldliness is disclosed there, as a poet himself or for a man as a
Heideggerian Da-sein, to be almost continual to eternity.
way, that poem appears nearly identical with the thinking of Heidegger
that Being discloses itself as it conceals itself
and, at the same time, that Being hides itself as it reveals itself. And it
is an apparent
in Buson's good poems that he uses a technique of crossing a
poetic image of a thing in its existence with its negative image by saying
not there. In other words, it is by his skillful use of negatives
or words with negative connotation that a Heidegger-like disclosure of Being
a poem with itself being the place for that appearing. Such a
negative word in the above peony poem is 'absence', and another peony
poem of his reflecting
such a Heideggerian scenery is
'After having fallen,
its image still stands
- the peony flower'.
Here such words as 'after',
'fallen', and 'image', which all have a negative attitude towards the
visible events, are used continuously.
The place like
this, where a thing in its existence is realised at the same time with
that thing in its absence, is a cleft of existence
from where the time is to extend to eternity. It is a place where 'nothing'
crosses with 'being' or the 'clearing' in Heidegger's term, the only light
place in the
forest. Saying with another poem of Buson, it is the place
'The road has ended, close fragrance of blooming - thorn bushes!'
At the road's end, where
it suddenly becomes open, thorns' scent and figure draw to one's whole
body. Though imaginative, what a deep
experience! Even in the
more popular poem,
the moon in the east and the sun in the west',
the sky extending between
the moon and the sun
can be read to be such a cleft of existence.
attribute of this kind of nothingness is that it embraces movement. That
is to say,
by moving from the state of being to the state
of not-being, the thing realises itself to be as the thing not being
there. Because such
a movement itself is included in the state of nothingness,
the state of being, which was the starting point of that movement, is
also embraced within
In another poem of Buson,
'Peony having scattered,
two or three petals lie on one another',
such an existential movement is the essence of its poetic space. It
is in this sort of poetry that the initial meanings of such Greek
words as 'physis'
and 'poiesis' used in Heidegger are made to shine so vividly.
To say further in
Heideggerian style, it is the 'simultaneous occurrence
of appearing and concealing'.
Buson, in fact,
created these poems, but at the same time, the being of peony, for example,
has made him give birth to these poems. The poet there
was rather listening to Being, and in response, it made itself appear through
the form of poetry. Because of this, it can also conceal itself in the form
of poetry. The poet is indeed what Heidegger called 'the shepherd of Being'.
from Japanese text in Shigaku, August, 1994, pp. 24-25. Apologies
for my clumsy expression in English.—Hiroo Saga (1994)
Hiroo Saga is
the professor of Educational Media study at the National Institute of
Multimedia Education, Japan. His main research interests include
and motivational processes of learning with media, expressional styles of
visual media as an affecting factor in learning, and poetry and art of Yosa
Buson. He has been a Fulbright Researcher at the Teachers College, Columbia
University, and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education, University
of London. His full bibliography is found here: http://www.nime.ac.jp/~saga/index.html .