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Matsuo Bashō

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Bashō was a Japanese poet who lived from 1644 to 1694. Bashō, or banana tree, was a pen name. His real name was Matsuo Munefusa.

Basho with two hokku

He is known as the main haiku poet, even though he did not write haiku poems. He wrote verses with groups of other poets. The first section, or stanza, was called the hokku. It was the most important part of the poem and had 17 sound parts or syllables. Later on, poets wrote the hokku by itself. Much later it was called haiku.

He made what had been a social game into an important form of poetry with a Zen feeling.

In 1689 Bashō began a travel journal Oku-no-hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North) about his long trip with a friend. The men went from Edo to near Kyoto. The trip took 9 months. The journal mixes poetry with daily stories of life on the road.