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Chains of elusiveness: Buson and Kito's "Momosumomo" haikai sequences.

"Momosumomo" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Peaches and plums) is a collection of haikai PM linked-verse sequences composed in 1780 by Yosa Buson [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1716-83) and his main disciple, Takai Kito [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1741-89). Unlike most Japanese linked verse--normally written in a single session--the two sequences of "Momosumomo" were composed by letters exchanged over a period of several months. What resulted are sequences that demonstrate not only the unpredictability and surprise that is customary in haikai but also a level of restraint and subtlety that is unmatched in other haikai of this period. This article explores the verses of "Momosumomo" as examples of ways that eighteenth-century haikai poets exploited the ambiguity and indeterminacy of the linked form to create sequences where voice, point of view, and identity shift with each successive link, resulting in collaborative works that create numerous loosely connected but discrete narratives.

The Linked-Verse Community of Eighteenth-Century Japan

"Momosumomo" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Peaches and plums) is a collection of haikai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] linked-verse sequences composed in 1780 by Yosa Buson [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1716-83) and his main disciple, Takai Kito [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1741-89). Unlike most Japanese linked verse, which was normally written in a single session, the two sequences of "Momosumomo" were composed by letters exchanged between Buson and Kito over a period of several months. What resulted are sequences that demonstrate not only the unpredictability and surprise that is customary in haikai linked verse but also a level of restraint and subtlety that is unmatched in other haikai of this period.

The two-verse sequences of "Momosumomo" exemplify the ways that eighteenth-century haikai poets exploited the ambiguity and indeterminacy of the linked form to create sequences where voice, point of view, and identity shift with each successive verse, resulting in works that create numerous loosely connected but discrete narratives. Although this quality of elusiveness is typical of all linked verse to some extent, the "Momosumomo" sequences are especially good examples; and the poets' letters offer us unique insight into the kinds of negotiations that were central to the composition of these complex, collaborative works.

The practice of writing sequences was itself a community-building exercise, and "Momosumomo" was both a reinforcement of and a challenge to this process. That is to say, even though linked verse was falling out of fashion during this period, collaborative verse was nevertheless composed one way or another, albeit in somewhat unorthodox or even truncated forms. Furthermore, while other forms of haikai increasingly became the focus of most of the work of other haikai poets, Buson's Yahantei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Midnight studio) School continued to make the composition of linked verse an important part of their practice. This situation was in large part because Matsuo Basho [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1644-94) and his followers, whom the Yahantei poets admired, used this technique to express and reify their identity as the members of a community. The Yahantei poets continued to do so to emphasize their community not only with each other but also with the venerable tradition of the Basho School.

Basho & Linked Verse

Much eighteenth-century haikai poetry was deeply deferential, referential, and even reverential to that of Matsuo Basho. This was with good reason: Basho and his disciples transformed haikai from a somewhat disreputable offshoot of the classical linked verse form called renga [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] into a major genre of its own. This transformation was related to the great flowering of popular cultural forms in the late seventeenth century--among them the kabuki theater of Chikamatsu Monzaemon [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1653-1725) and the gesaku OTC fiction of Ihara Saikaku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1642-93). Basho's innovations gave a form of poetry that at the time was largely regarded as a frivolous pastime a level of literary legitimacy previously reserved for the classical forms waka MIR and renga.

Basho's frequent journeys earned him a following all over the country, and the energy and devotion of his closest disciples created large and highly influential communities of poets devoted to the study and practice of his teachings in one form or another. As a result, the haikai of the eighteenth century was significantly shaped by the next-generation followers of Basho, who were divided into two main groups: the urban and the rural haikai schools, each of whom claimed to espouse the true ideals of Basho. To some extent, both were correct: the urban poets emulated Basho's early style, which emphasized wit and wordplay; and the rural poets admired his later, more austere style of karumi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (lightness). Buson, Kito & the Yahantei School

Yosa Buson was born twenty-two years after Basho died. The most important writer of haikai of the eighteenth century, Buson was also a painter; and the alternative source of income that he was able to count on from his painting enabled him a degree of freedom in his poetry that he would not have had otherwise.

The Yahantei School was founded in the early part of the eighteenth century by Buson's mentor, haikai poet Hayano Hajin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1676-1742). After Hajin's death, Buson did not reopen Yahantei until 1770, when he had gained a substantial following not only as a painter but also as a poet. Affiliates of Yahantei included Tan Taigi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1709-71), Matsumura Gekkei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1752-1811, also known as Goshun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and the poet who was eventually to become the school's third and last leader, Kito. Buson was a relatively indifferent leader, and he reserved most of his energy for his paintings. As a result, he left much of the editorial work of Yahantei's anthologies up to Kito.

Yahantei was at the forefront of what came to be called the Basho Revival movement. While Yahantei was not one of the Basho-style schools, its members frequently consorted and collaborated with poets who were, such as Kato Kyotai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1732-92) and Oshima Ryota [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1718-87). Furthermore, in letters and prefaces to anthologies, its members were openly critical of poets who did not hold to what they defined as Basho's highest principles. Such poets included those both inside as well as outside of groups that claimed some affinity with Basho. Yahantei members found the works of some such poets bland and derivative; they saw others as merely greedy for the high student fees a Basho connection could attract.

Much of Buson's reluctance as Yahantei's leader may stem from the fact that he had a capable colleague in Kito; but, on the other hand, Yahantei also served a different purpose for Buson: It provided him with a depend able source of new clients for his paintings. In this sense, Buson was little different from the majority of the commoners--both urban and rural--who composed haikai. In other words, haikai was as important for its potential for social networking as it was for artistic or literary expression--perhaps something like Facebook today is for our students or perhaps even ourselves. As we shall see, this aspect is directly related to its origins in the collaborative form of linked verse.

Linked Verse in Eighteenth-Century Japan

The history of linked verse in Japan begins far before either Buson or Basho. The classical linked verse form, renga, had its heyday in the medieval period. Renga is derived from waka, the thirty-one-syllable poem that was the aristocracy's main form of literary expression. The origins of renga were supposed to be of the greatest antiquity, and possibly even divine. For example, Nijo Yoshimoto [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1320-88) identified renga with an exchange in the Nihon shoki [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Japan chronicles, eighth century) between legendary hero Yamato Takeru [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and an old man he met while passing through Tsukuba [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (in present-day Ibaraki Prefecture) (Nijo 1961, 74, 76-77). (1) During the medieval period, the composition of haikai or "nonstandard" linked verse served as comic relief between sessions of composing the intense and very challenging renga, somewhat like the function served by kyogen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in the Noh [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] theater; and these haikai no renga [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] were typically not recorded.

However, with the rise of urban-commoner culture in the early modern period, members of lower-status groups (like merchants and farmers) began to embrace haikai for a variety of reasons--in part because the customary ex clusiveness of classical forms did not apply to haikai, but also because composing haikai with friends and business associates was a pleasurable activity.

What made haikai no renga compelling for its practitioners is the thing that makes it interesting for this discussion: its collaborative aspect. Although the examples of haikai that are most famous today are all in the genre's shortest form, the seventeen-syllable hokku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the majority of haikai composed in roughly the first half of the early modern period were in the form of linked verse. Composition involved groups of people-often the leader of a school and his disciples-gathering on a specific occasion and composing verses alternating between seventeen and fourteen syllables each, typically ending up with a sequence thirty-six links long. Because the rules of creating linkages were complicated, and because composition was supposed to be spontaneous, one member of the group functioned as the scribe and moderator, ensuring that each verse conformed to the necessary requirements before recording it. Since no verse with the exception of the opening one--the hokku--could be written without reference to the verse that immediately proceeded it, poets had to be able to compose quickly and on the spot, like players responding to the moves of an opponent in a game. Consequently, little room existed for revision after the fact.

Playful as it was in terms of content, an activity like composing haikai was extremely demanding if done well. Poets had to internalize a complicated set of conventions and to compose their verses extemporaneously and quickly in front of a group. Despite its challenges, by the early decades of the eighteenth century, the genre had developed such a following that there was an abundant supply of handbooks and teachers available to deliver instructions on how to compose haikai in such a way as to impress one's companions. However, the success of haikai actually led to the decline of formal thirty-six-link sequence composition, as practitioners shifted to forms that could be composed alone or in dialogue only with one's teacher.

Most prominent among these forms was maekuzuke [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (verse pairs): a tsukeku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a seventeen-syllable "linking verse") written to connect to a maeku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a fourteen-syllable "previous verse") to form a single mini-sequence. Although maekuzuke actually derived from the canons of conventional linked verse and was originally used as a form of instruction for beginning poets, it became popular as a game during the Genroku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], period (1688-1704). Maekuzuke was, however, looked down on by poets with more literary aspirations, like Basho and his successors, who tended to prefer hokku. This preference was with some justification: maekuzuke became a kind of competition, where students vied with one another to see whose tsukeku could get the highest marks from their teachers--often with cash prizes, and even gambling, involved.

One aspect that hokku and maekuzuke had in common, however, was that both could be written outside of the kind of gathering that was customary in linked-verse composition. It was still possible to participate in verse gather ings in the eighteenth century; but, for many poets, these events centered on winning a better grade on your verses than your friends did. Alternatively, teachers set up correspondence course-style programs where tuition took place by letter.

As indicated, then, collaboration in haikai did not necessarily require propinquity, and much of the exchange within haikai communities took place at a distance. Publication of verses was of course of central importance. Aside from that, however, poets and their disciples also took advantage of the relatively good communications and travel infrastructure that developed in the Edo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] period (1603-1868), exchanging messages both within the same urban areas and across the countryside. The emphasis that the frequently itinerant Basho put on travel, for instance, can be attributed in part to the practical factor that it was possible for him to keep in touch with disciples and patrons both on the road and after returning home. A large number of Basho's letters are extant, and they provide a good supplement to the more formal treatises on poetics both he and his senior disciples authored.

Buson's Letters: "Momosumomo" & Its Context

In the case of Buson, who wrote very little about haikai theory, almost everything we know about his views on haikai--especially his own compositions--comes from letters. A surprisingly large number of them survive: Buson shokanshu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Collected letters of Buson) contains 246. The letters are an excellent source of insight into the working life of a poet and painter in Kyoto in the late eighteenth century. Many of them are addressed to patrons, negotiating the details of painting orders with a bit of haikai criticism thrown in; others are expressions of goodwill to the important haikai poets of the day. Some of the most interesting letters are to members of the Yahantei haikai group, written in the latter part of his life and offering perspective on the practices and habits of haikai circles. Perhaps most numerous and intimate, however, are the letters Buson wrote to Kito, his most important disciple.

Kito's father Kikei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1689-1762) had been a leading disciple of Buson's mentor, Hayano Hajin; and Kito and Buson's friendship endured throughout the thirty-five years that Buson lived in Kyoto. Buson and Kito had an active correspondence (some sixty of the letters collected in Buson shokanshu are addressed to Kito, more than to any other recipient), especially when one of them was traveling. One of these letters indicates that Kito might not have been as wholeheartedly admired by others in Buson's circle as he was by Buson. (2) Nevertheless, Kito was enormously energetic and productive and had his own group of disciples in addition to serving as Buson's assistant in the Yahantei.

"Momosumomo" was written over a period of nine months: from the third to the twelfth month of Anei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 9 (1780). Buson's account of its composition in the preface is slightly counterfactual: he claims that the work originally consisted of four sequences; but the letters indicate that only two were really written. However, the preface does account for the title of the work, a play on words:
   I laughed and said, "The greatness of haikai is that in truth it
   has change, and in truth it is without change; for example, it is
   similar to going around a racetrack, running after people. It is
   like those running ahead are somehow chasing after those coming up
   behind. How can one know the difference between 'ahead' and
   'behind' in change? I just express the things in my heart day by
   day: today it is the haikai of today; tomorrow, the haikai of
   tomorrow. I call this anthology 'Momosumomo.' It is a palindrome,
   without beginning or end. To be thus is the main intention of this
   collection." (Ogata and Yamashita 1994, 193-94)

In other words, Buson chose the palindrome momosumomo for the title of the work to emphasize its circularity.

Kito's description of the work's composition, included in a letter he sent to a disciple along with the manuscript, tells a much different story:
   Long ago, in 1780 I think it was, one day I went to visit the
   Master at Yahantei. The time was spring, when the blossoms were
   falling, and the birds were singing, an evening when even the
   traces of spring were indistinct. The rain began to fall gently,
   and when there were no visitors to disturb the quiet, the Master
   himself lit the lamps, and sitting up straight in his seat said,
   "[...] I have been amusing myself with haikai for some fifty
   years, and by and by I am approaching my seventh decade. I still
   have yet to produce haikai I can be proud of; these days, as I
   expected, you have already matured in haikai. As an experiment, we
   two should do a two-person sequence." We composed two hokku for
   summer and winter, and we--master and disciple--composed more than
   one hundred verses, and days passed into months until we completed
   the sequences, making them correct, studying their variations, and
   polishing individual verses. (Oiso 1975,104-5)

Kito's letter gives an indication of the intense perfectionism that he and Buson brought to their work. The long process of drafting and revising the "Momosumomo" sequences over the course of several months was very different from the typical procedure of composing all the verses during a single session. Moreover, the process describes a much less spontaneous genesis than Buson's introduction suggests.

The earliest of Buson's "Momosumomo" letters to Kito is dated on the twelfth day of the third month of Anei 9. The latest is dated the fifth day of the eleventh month of the same year. Another letter, dated the twenty second of the twelfth month, is addressed to Buson's disciple Hyakuchi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1749-1835) and requests assistance with publishing arrangements. (3) It was not always the case that Buson was too far away from Kito for the two to meet in person: Kito did spend several weeks in Osaka during this period, but, otherwise, both were in Kyoto and saw each other frequently. Many of the letters mention enjoying the previous night's linked verse session or speak of plans for meeting the following day. Couriers were often Buson's disciples, like Hyakuchi, who happened to be passing between the two poets' houses; otherwise, the missives were carried by household employees.

Buson's tone of politeness and tolerance for Kito's views is quite striking. Although Buson generally was not sparing in his criticism of other poets, his letters to Kito show none of that. Rather, the letters include a great deal of tentativeness, even though Buson is Kito's teacher. In most cases, Kito ignores Buson's suggestions, even when Buson makes very precise arguments about what needs improving, following up with remarks to the effect that Buson will "talk with you [Kito] when I see you." Kito seems to have won the argument almost every time.

I will discuss three of the letters that offer a good representative sample. Parenthetically, I have identified the suggested verses and whether they ultimately appeared in "Momosumomo." The source for all cited letters is Otani and Fujita (1992); BSKS stands for Buson shokanshiu (Collected letters of Buson).


Sorry I missed the verse session the other day. I'm feeling better now. Don't worry about me.
   fuyu kodachi tsuki kotsuzui ni iru yo kana

   Winter trees--
   a night when the moon
   sinks into the bone

   [Verse 1 of Sequence 2; included]

   kutsu oto samuki saimon no soto

   The sound of footsteps
   cold outside the gate

   [Proposed as Verse 2 of Sequence 2; not included]

   kono ku Ro To ga samuki harawata

   This verse Du Fu might have written
   chilled to the guts

   [Proposed as Verse 2 of Sequence 2; included]

   Toshi o utaeba samuki shita

   Reciting Du Fu's poems
   makes one's lips grow cold

   [Proposed as Verse 2 of Sequence 2; not included]

Please choose the best from among these, and, when you've settled on it, go ahead and compose Verse 3.

The next letter, written two days later, continues to discuss the opening verses. Buson writes:

   What about the Verse 2 for the ryogin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN
   ASCII] [two-person sequence] of the other day? It's still not

   botan chirite uchikasanarinu ni san pen

   Peony petals scatter
   and pile up
   two, maybe three


   [Verse 1 of Sequence 1; included]

   uzuki hatsuka no ariake no kage

   On the twentieth of the fourth month
   in the pale light of dawn


   [Verse 2 of Sequence 1; included]

Your Verse 2 is extremely splendid; go ahead and start working on Verse 3. I think I'm going to forget about the "Brambles in bloom" sequence because the "Peony" one is better.
   fuyu kodachi tsuki kotsuzui ni iru yo kana

   Winter trees--
   a night when the moon
   sinks into the bone


   [Verse 1 of Sequence 2; included]

   kono ku Ro To ga samuki harawata

   This verse Du Fu might have written
   chilled to the guts


   [Verse 2 of Sequence 2; included]

   gori ni issha kashikoki shisha o negiraite

   Every five miles
   inns lavishly welcome
   the grand emissary


   [Verse 3 of Sequence 2; included]

   That takes care of the second and third verses. Quickly think of
   something for four and five. Because readers will lose interest in
   the sequence if the first six verses are too heavy, a fluid verse
   here is good; your "winter trees" verse has a melancholy feel to
   it, really, the beauty of a poem by Du Fu. That's why I added Verse
   2 as I did. For the third one I imagined an imperial Chinese
   emissary being sent to a neighboring country and thought of a scene
   where he stops over at teahouses every five miles. My methods in
   these two verses are unusual, and I can't fully discuss them with
   you in writing, so we'll talk more when we meet.

The third letter we will look at is dated about two months later. It is the only example where Buson's comments actually compelled Kito to change something:

   About the ryogin [i.e., the "Momosumomo" sequences]: I'll have
   Hyakuchi deliver this tomorrow. Revise those four or five verses
   exactly as you think.

   itoshi to kawarite uta o yomi neran

   "How pitable!"
   perhaps I'll offer
   to write the verse instead


   [Verse 13 of Sequence 2; included]

   kunichi wa kiku no sakari nari keri

   On the ninth day
   the chrysanthemums were at their fullest

   Kito [Proposed as Verse 14 of Sequence 2; not included]

Wouldn't you rather change this verse? It's just my opinion, but the chrysanthemum verse I think maybe doesn't have much of a connection with the one that precedes it. A yariku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [easy verse] should have an especially strong connection to the verse that it follows. However, it's not a bad verse, so do what you think is best.
   As for the "fortune teller" verse you've put after "the sound of
   Noritsune's bow string," (4) it's not a link that has a strong
   grasp of the previous verse, but it does somehow have the feeling
   of a connection, so let's think of what should follow it. In any
   case tomorrow we can talk about this at the Bashd Hermitage.

A major virtue of the "Momosumomo" sequences is not that they show great differences with linked verse composed in a single session but, rather, that the letters Buson and Kito exchanged provide such unusual insights into their strategies as poets. As these examples show, elusiveness was at the center of linked verse, and how to manage it was the linked-verse poet's greatest challenge.

In other words, it was precisely the ambiguity of the maeku, the previous verse, that made linking possible: poets had to get the balance right between providing enough information to make the situation described sufficiently vivid and not providing enough information, thus shutting off the possibility of the poet writing the tsukeku, the following verse, making an interesting connection. The "Momosumomo" letters show this search for balance: the only instance Kito actually alters a verse is where Buson points out that it is too vague. It is not clear whether Kito's reluctance otherwise to edit his verse is because of his great skill or simply because of his confidence in his own ability. In any case, Buson also seems to have shared this confidence in Kito's ability.

"Momosumomo" & Aspirations for Artistic Perfection

Two-person sequences like those in the "Momosumomo" collection were not generally common in linked-verse composition, because it is harder to ensure variation with only two voices. In this sense, the unusual circumstances of the sequences' composition were a help rather than an obstacle. Writing over the course of months enabled greater time for reflection and allowed the poets a better chance at overcoming the challenges of a two-person sequence, but doing so also enabled them to balance delicately their strengths and weaknesses as poets, as well as the continual shift between impressiveness and restraint that kept the sequences interesting.

Evident in almost everything Buson's Yahantei Studio produced is a distinct perfectionism: this fastidiousness is true of his paintings as well as in the haikai collections he edited or published. It appears that a collaborative, spontaneous form like linked verse was not Buson's favorite medium of expression; indeed, relatively few sequences were published in which he contributed more than a few verses. Perhaps it is for this reason that the "Momosumomo" sequences, his most accomplished, employed an unconventional method that maximized the opportunity for editing and revision.

Given his perfectionism, then, why did Buson feel compelled to compose linked verse? I would argue that the reason is because of the strong identification of the form with his predecessor Basho-that is to say, with a kind of haikai that transcended what he viewed as the vulgarity of the haikai of many of his contemporaries. The Yahantei poets and their allies were very conscious of being heirs to Basho's great legacy. Buson in particular was eager to be known as someone who espoused the virtues Basho extolled; but, for his entire life, he seems to have remained uncertain that he was quite up to the task of achieving Basho's level of apparently effortless excellence. It seems that writing linked-verse sequences by letter enabled Buson to take part in Basho's great tradition yet still allowed him the opportunity to closely control the work that he produced. As a result of this slow and painstaking method, he and Kito were able to manage this elusive verse form with a level of skill otherwise unmatched in the haikai of the late eighteenth century.

Appendix: The Two Sequences of "Momosumomo"

This appendix includes the two sequences of Buson and Kito's "Momosumomo" in their entirety, with my own English translation. For an annotated translation of the first sequence, see Crowley (2007, 152-64). Japanese texts below are essentially identical to those in Yamamoto (1971).
Sequence 1: "Peony petals scatter"

 1. Buson                      Peony petals scatter
    [Text not reproducible     and pile up
    in ASCII]                  two, maybe three

 2. Kito                       On the twentieth of the fourth month
    [Text not reproducible     in the pale light of dawn
    in ASCII]

 3. Kito                       Coughing,
    [Text not reproducible     an old man
    in ASCII]                  seems to be opening the gate ...

 4. Buson                      A ghost has come
    [Text not reproducible     to choose an adoptive son-in-law
    in ASCII]

 5. Buson                      At the crossroads
    [Text not reproducible     an old nettle tree
    in ASCII]                  is hacked at with an ax

 6. Kito                       A hundred-ri highway
    [Text not reproducible     without a fixed abode
    in ASCII]

 7. Kito                       Visiting places famous in poetry
    [Text not reproducible     he took ill, and has fallen under a
    in ASCII]                  fever yesterday and today

 8. Buson                      In the mountain farms' small fields
    [Text not reproducible     it's time to harvest the early rice
    in ASCII]

 9. Kito                       Later
    [Text not reproducible     than the twilight moon
    in ASCII]                  homing sparrows fly

10. Buson                      Filled with autumn's melancholy
    [Text not reproducible     approaching the gate alone
    in ASCII]

11. Kito                       With eyes shut tight
    [Text not reproducible     he swallows down
    in ASCII]                  the bitter medicine

12. Buson                      He sends back to Taima
    [Text not reproducible     a letter in a furoshiki (5)
    in ASCII]

13. Kito                       Next door
    [Text not reproducible     we can still hear the voice
    in ASCII]                  of the oil peddler

14. Buson                      Three feet of snow
    [Text not reproducible     piled up in the twilight
    in ASCII]

15. Kito                       A starving wolf
    [Text not reproducible     may be hiding
    in ASCII]                  inside

16. Buson                      The housewife with the harelip
    [Text not reproducible     cries and cries
    in ASCII]

17. Kito                       At a flower-filled temple
    [Text not reproducible     where there was a bell-casting
    in ASCII]                  she takes the tonsure

18. Buson                      Spring departs
    [Text not reproducible     sinking in the west
    in ASCII]

19. Buson                      The sound of Noritsune's bowstring (6)
    [Text not reproducible     grows fainter
    in ASCII]                  in the distance

20. Kito                       The fortune teller secretly
    [Text not reproducible     takes a reading of the hour
    in ASCII]

21. Buson                      A bundle of millet
    [Text not reproducible     the horse stumbled, and just then
    in ASCII]                  a bird called out

22. Kito                       Sandalwood trees bloom and fade, along
    [Text not reproducible     the long pathway between the paddies
    in ASCII]

23. Buson                      A faintly visible
    [Text not reproducible     rainbow over Asama's
    in ASCII]                  smoke

24. Kito                       The joy of receiving so grand a guest
    [Text not reproducible     as an imperial messenger
    in ASCII]

25. Buson                      Taken from the river
    [Text not reproducible     the fish in the basket
    in ASCII]                  are red-bellied

26. Kito                       Though the sun is shining
    [Text not reproducible     hail falls again
    in ASCII]

27. Buson                      "Come out,
    [Text not reproducible     beloved acolyte!"
    in ASCII]                  the temple festival

28. Kito                       Loathsome are people
    [Text not reproducible     who muss one's hair-style
    in ASCII]

29. Buson                      Even during the time between
    [Text not reproducible     sunset and moonrise on the sixteenth day
    in ASCII]                  everyone is busy

30. Kito                       The sound the mallet makes
    [Text not reproducible     from Banba to Matsumoto
    in ASCII]

31. Kito                       There are not enough people
    [Text not reproducible     to carry a palanquin
    in ASCII]                  in the autumn rain

32. Buson                      Kites and crows
    [Text not reproducible     staring into space
    in ASCII]

33. Kito                       Under a curse,
    [Text not reproducible     the small shrine in the fields
    in ASCII]                  is forbidding

34. Buson                      It already looks like
    [Text not reproducible     Genba has lost the lawsuit
    in ASCII]

35. Buson                      A long way away from cherry blossoms
    [Text not reproducible     in the lodging house
    in ASCII]                  there is rice and soup

36. Kito                       It is not completely dark yet--
    [Text not reproducible     lanterns of spring
    in ASCII]

Sequence 2: "Winter trees"

1.  Kito                       Winter trees--
    [Text not reproducible     a night when the moon
    in ASCII]                  sinks into the bone

 2. Buson                      This verse Du Fu might have written
    [Text not reproducible     chilled to the guts
    in ASCII]

 3. Buson                      Every five miles
    [Text not reproducible     inns lavishly welcome
    in ASCII]                  the grand emissary

 4. Kito                       He neglects nothing in preparing tea
    [Text not reproducible     brewing it with clear, pure well-water
    in ASCII]

 5. Kito                       Violets,
    [Text not reproducible     a mother sparrow
    in ASCII]                  tries to hide her chicks

 6. Buson                      Wistfully thinking of springtimes long ago
    [Text not reproducible     I take out a folded notepaper to write
    in ASCII]

 7. Buson                      Two nuns,
    [Text not reproducible     who live not far away
    in ASCII]                  hidden in the mists

 8. Kito                       At four o-clock in the afternoon
    [Text not reproducible     there is the sound of knocking at the
    in ASCII]                  gate

 9. Buson                      During a break in the rain
    [Text not reproducible     the emergency provisions
    in ASCII]                  have at last gotten through

10. Kito                       They shoot from their bows
    [Text not reproducible     the men of Noto no ura
    in ASCII]

11. Buson                      The vixen
    [Text not reproducible     looks over her shoulder
    in ASCII]                  with deep rancor

12. Kito                       Around a sleepy face,
    [Text not reproducible     hair in disarray
    in ASCII]

13. Buson                      "How pitiable!"
    [Text not reproducible     Perhaps I'll offer
    in ASCII]                  to write the poem instead

14. Kito                       Heartless are the autumn winds
    [Text not reproducible     that chase the ship setting sail for
    in ASCII]                  exile

15. Buson                      The moon sets
    [Text not reproducible     on the mountainside of Kehi,
    in ASCII]                  the dew is dark

16. Kito                       Deer come and lie down to rest
    [Text not reproducible
    in ASCII]                  by the grass hut

17. Buson                      I brush fallen flowers from my desk
    [Text not reproducible     and take out the Vimalakirti Sutra (7)
    in ASCII]

18. Kito                       Trying to ignore a headache
    [Text not reproducible     in the long, late twilight
    in ASCII]

19. Kito                       She leaves on a spring journey
    [Text not reproducible     to become the bride
    in ASCII]                  of a country client

20. Buson                      After the flood
    [Text not reproducible     only the brewery was left standing
    in ASCII]

21. Kito                       From the shelf
    [Text not reproducible     that holds the Kitchen God's shrine
    in ASCII]                  a rooster is crowing

22. Buson                      In the year-end bustle
    [Text not reproducible     the courier comes for a pick-up
    in ASCII]

23. Kito                       Yasumasa's term
    [Text not reproducible     must be
    in ASCII]                  half over already

24. Buson                      Bramble roses are white
    [Text not reproducible     against faded yellow yamabuki (8)
    in ASCII]

25. Kito                       Sudden storm
    [Text not reproducible     a tree-frog
    in ASCII]                  leaps over the brushwood fence

26. Buson                      We hurriedly fold up
    [Text not reproducible     the mats we'd been airing
    in ASCII]

27. Kito                       A remittance arrives
    [Text not reproducible     from Kyushu
    in ASCII]                  in the late afternoon

28. Buson                      He rushed off
    [Text not reproducible     to the poorly attended funeral
    in ASCII]

29. Kito                       On the side of the river
    [Text not reproducible     the bank was ravaged
    in ASCII]                  by the autumn wind

30. Buson                      The night, faint with moonlight
    [Text not reproducible     and distant lightning
    in ASCII]

31. Buson                      Looking out,
    [Text not reproducible     there was a carriage
    in ASCII]                  that appeared empty and cold

32. Kito                       The pebble he threw just now
    [Text not reproducible     must have been a signal
    in ASCII]

33. Buson                      She checks to see
    [Text not reproducible     if the fellow lying next to her
    in ASCII]                  is really sleeping

34. Kito                       Petals fall, fluttering
    [Text not reproducible     from the flowers in the vase
    in ASCII]                  As they repair the pillars

35. Kito                       in the shadow of a wall
    [Text not reproducible     some small shoots sprout
    in ASCII]

36. Buson                      Building a hive, the bees
    [Text not reproducible     say a prayer for their offspring
    in ASCII]


Crowley, Cheryl A. 2007. Haikai poet Yosa Buson and the Bashb Revival. Leiden: Brill.

Nijo Yoshimoto [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 1961. Tsukuba mondo [Tsukuba dialogues]. In Renga ronshu, haironshu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Renga treatise collection, haikai treatise collection], ed. Kido Saizo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Imoto Noichi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Vol. 66 of Nihon koten bungaku taikei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Compendium of Japanese classical literature], 69-106. Tokyo: Iwanami.

Ogata Tsutomu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Yamashita Kazumi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], eds. 1994. Haishi haibun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Haikai free verse and haikai prose]. Vol. 4 of Buson zenshf [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Collected works of Buson]. Tokyo: Kodansha.


Otani Tokuzo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Fujita Shinichi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], eds. 1992. Buson shokanshf [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Collected letters of Buson]. Tokyo: Iwanami.

Yamamoto Yuiitsu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ed. 1971. Buson, Kito: Momosumomo, tsukeai tebiki zuru [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Buson and Kitd: "Momosumomo" and linking handbook]. Kyoto: Bun'eidd.


Emory University


(1) Because of this association, renga was sometimes called "the way of Tsukuba" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(2) In an undated letter, probably written in the early 1770s, Buson consoles Kito for what appears to have been hostility from other members of the group (Otani and Fujita 1992,57-59).

(3) The timeline for Buson's letters is as follows:
Month   Day       Topic
3       12        First reference to "Momosumomo"
7       23,25     23: Verses 1 & 2 of Sequence 2
                  25: Verses 1 & 2 of Sequence 1; Verses 1, 2 & 3
                    of Sequence 2
8       3,5       3 & 5: Verses 8 & 9 of Sequence 2
9       24        Verse 13 of Sequence 2; Verses 19 & 20 of
                    Sequence 1
11      1, 4, 5   1: Verses 27 & 28 of Sequence 2; Verses 30 & 31
                    of Sequence 1
                  4: Verses 27 & 28 of Sequence 2
                  5: Verses 27, 28 & 29 of Sequence 2
12      22        Buson writes to Hyakuchi about publishing details

(4) See appendix, sequence 1, vv. 19-20.

(5) A furoshiki n $ is a square of cloth used to wrap parcels.

(6) Taira Noritsune [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1160-85) died by drowning in the Western Sea in the famous Genpei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] War (1180-85) battle of Dan-no-ura (off the Shimonoseki Straight). Buson cleverly reinterprets the "sinking in the west" (nishi ni katabuku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in the maeku of the previous verse to refer to Noritsune's death.

(7) The Vimalakini Sutra (in Japanese, the Yuimagyo W1) is considered to be one of the most profound of the Indian Mahayana Buddhist sutras.

(8) Ayamabuki [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is a Japanese globeflower (Trollius japonicus) in the buttercup family.
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Title Annotation:Yosa Buson, Takai Kito
Author:Crowley, Cheryl A.
Publication:Southeast Review of Asian Studies
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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