10 haikuists and their works

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Chapitre 11
Koi Nagata
(1900 ~ 1997)

Even after the criticism of Shiki Masaoka against Basho Matsuo, the respect for the latter did not weaken. On the contrary, his reputation increased, not only in the haiku world, but also in all Japanese society; he even became a Japanese the most loved in the world.

However, we can doubt that the comprehension of his works is equivalent to his popularity. Its sure sign is that such humorous and dramatic haikus as those of Basho were not à la mode in the Taisho (1912 ~ 1926) and the Showa (1926 ~ 1989) era; haikus of observation attaching greater importance to visual descriptions of things, like those of the Hototogisu school, were more estimated.

It seems that the popularity of Basho comes not from the interest in his method, but from the ethical sympathy. To avoid saving up money and to live in honest poverty, not to stick to the permanent residence and to regard the life as a succession of voyages, to have a profound knowledge of the classical literature and to respect the predecessors: people sympathize with his these attitudes.

Koi Nagata took again Basho's method and he questioned the haiku view of the Hototogisu school. He criticized its economy of words which gave importance to simplicity and trusted imagination of readers. He thought that this economy was a too decadent attitude.

For Kyoshi Takahama, "following the destiny" was the principle of life. He thought that the mission of a haikuist was to continue observing his destiny calmly. Koi also respected the grandeur of the destiny and did not like the attitude to fight against it like that of Shinko Haiku. However he said that we would not know the true nature of the destiny if we did not resist it at least once.

Basho played varied comedies making himself a clown. He underlined nonsense of the human activity and tried to show men's weakness and the grandeur of the Destiny. Koi also insisted on comic aspects of things in order to meditate on the essence of the world.

The Hototogisu school, directed by Kyoshi, obtained excellent results, but its too refined method could not be any more a vase containing the human heart, confused and alive in the contemporary society changing violently. Koi Nagata used extraordinary, humorous, and astonishing expressions and shook the human spirit. The readers of his haikus must, not only observe the life, but think about it with him.

The philosophy and the method of Koi gained enthusiastic support of young ambitious haikuists, poets of free verse, and dancers of Buto.

Cherry blossoms.
Working in the paddy
We see all their stamens.

Snails copulate.
One's flesh eats into the other's.

Fences stand
In the field, habitat of snakes.
She sews clothes.

A catfish laughs.
It thinks of other catfishes
In other ponds.

Hairs fall
Also to my back.
Oh, mountains and rivers !

A firefly
Lights up
Another firefly dead.

Red plum blossoms.
A ball of air
Leaves a box.

Fire burns grasses
And comes to lick us.
A child lick it back.

To a pink
The time of the tiger
Comes flying.

Falling cicada.
Somebody has already fallen in advance.

Written by
Ryu Yotsuya

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