New Criticals

In order to link these moments into a cohesive travel narrative, Bashō turned to a variation on the haiku form, the haibun. Haibun are texts comprised of both prose and haiku, and the integration of the haiku into the prose should be seamless. An example of Bashō’s haibun:

Mount Kurokami was visible through the mist in the distance. It was brilliantly white with snow in spite of its name, which means black hair.

Rid of my hair,
I came to Mount Kurokami,
On the day we put on
Clean summer clothes.[3]

Haibun are extended, sometimes book-length poetic sequences. The prose is used to advance the narrative, whereas the haiku pause to capture a single moment or image the poet encounters on his journey. Haiku and haibun were traditionally written collaboratively by two master, male poets. In the excerpt above, Bashō wrote the prose passage, while his compatriot Sora wrote the haiku. In Bashō’s time, the poetic tradition was dominated by men, and the world of haiku composition, as well as the content of the poems, was entirely homosocial: men writing to, of, for, with, men.