Shakespeare First

I have always loved Will’s work from the moment I was introduced to his plays at school, and I remember falling in love with the sonnets as if it was only yesterday. The first poems I wrote as a teenager were sonnets and I still fall into the form when I least expect it. The rhythm and phrasing of iambic pentameter, the couplets and the number of lines (fourteen is a perfect number for me) are magical.

Basho came much later, when I discovered the joys of writing haiku, those little gems of expression that capture a moment. I have to say, I’m not enamoured of all of his work (which probably has a lot to do with the translations), and find Issa more to my taste, but Basho is the master I turn to for lessons in writing haiku.

as days grow shorter
our written words live longer
shadows of our lives

Kim M. Russell, 27th April 2020

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Haibun Monday: A Portrait of Two Masters

Frank T. welcomes us to another Haibun Monday, where are blending prose and haiku with two master poets: Basho and Shakespeare. He has given us some background information for each of them and pointed out that although they are continents and generations apart, they do have some things in common: they transformed the fashionable poetic form of their time;  significantly influenced the literary culture of their respective societies; and achieved international renown, with an impact felt to this day.

Frank would like us to write a haibun that alludes to either (or both!) of these poetic masters, commenting on their lives or accomplishments, writing a mock-memoir from their point of view, exploring some aspect of their art, reflecting on their impact—whatever we like! I thought I’d try writing a haiku based on Sonnet 18, one of my favourites.

36 thoughts on “Shakespeare First

  1. Oh definitely Shakespeare came much earlier for me as well, but it took me a lot longer daring to write anything inspired by him… I find it so interesting how many ways you can translate Basho, and probably you still fail at getting to the meaning of the poem.

    I really like the haiku in the end here… the last line really sums it up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Björn. Not having Japanese, I can’t translate Basho’s haiku myself, but I have seen different versions of some of his better-known ones and it’s hard to say whether they reflect his intended meaning or not. I suppose the translations are interpretations, and say as much about the translators as they do Basho. Saying that, we interpret Shakespeare, and there is no right or wrong way. We’d need Dr Who’s TARDIS to go back and ask the man himself what he intended in his sonnets and plays.


  2. My earliest poems used alternating rhymes in four stanzas of four-lines each. I even attempted variations on iambic pentameter, so I owe a debt to the Bard for his modeling and inspiration. I can’t remember how I first encountered Basho, but when I worked at refining both my haiku and haibun, his work taught me so much.

    I felt the same tribute to them emanating from you haibun, Kim. Lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The two images of statues are killer. You relationship to both masters is fun and inspiring. Your haiku is golden. I need it stitched into a sampler and hang it in my writer’s den.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shakespeare is such a huge figure in English literature. I sometimes wonder who has that role in other languages. I like this haibun, Kim – it gives me an insight into you as a writer. Your haiku is perfect, relevant to both masters, and to all of us scribblers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sarah. In Germany it has to be Goethe or Schiller, in France perhaps Moliere, and Italy Petrarch. I would have loved to have explored literature from other languages, if only in translation, at school. Sadly only German and French at higher level. It gives you an insight into other cultures and ways of thinking.


  5. I love both too, and could echo much of what you say. I like your haiku and think it captures the main thesis of Sonnet 18 (my absolute favourite). I applaud the brave ambition of such an undertaking! I do miss the love which is also at the heart of 18, offering the lady immortality as a gift – but it would have been an impossible challenge to get all of that into a haiku, and you’ve done an incredible thing as it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. kaykuala

    and find Issa more to my taste,
    but Basho is the master I turn to
    for lessons in writing haiku.

    You are quite right on both counts, Kim. Perhaps Issa is seen as being from a more modern era yet Basho just cannot be ignored


    Liked by 1 person

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