Earthquakes, Tidal Waves and the Haiku
Eventually I tore myself away and went back to the book. I read while the history of this stricken country played out in my mind. Warlords and clan chieftains fought for power. Eventually, due to the efforts of three strong men, Japan unified, but it was a hard struggle.
The price for peace turned out to be seclusion (because the Jesuits had an irritating tendency to convert people which was unsettling), and while the rest of the world learnt about telescopes and gravity, Japan turned inwards and watched dramas called No or comedies called Kabuka, or puppet shows called Bunraku. They also composed Haiku.
Matsuo Basho (1644-94) was a great practioner of the Haiku, and I have discovered, at very long last, what exactly is meant by a Haiku. I've known for a long time about the 5- 7- 5 syllable rule but I'd always suspected there was more to it than that. W. Scott Morton is obviously admiring of the form and gave a good definition. It is a vignette, uses a fragment of a scene usually from nature, and then there is a sudden subjective turn indicating the effect of the scene on the poet. It is deliberately open-ended and depends on the imagination of the reader. It sounds rather like a good novel.