YEI & BASHO
In Rob Schultheis The Hidden West, he tells of the 1868 treaty allowing the Navajo to return home, how they see their country through the eyes of lovers, how their songs refract and celebrate the beauty of their land.
Those furrowed, dull hills, like knees and laps draped with rose-colored silk in the light of dusk; that distant mountain, jade in a flint shroud of unfallen rain; green corn against roan cliff: all these are beautiful; beautiful and therefore holy, an equation Anglos have missed. The Navaho word for god is Yei, or beautiful one.
another time, another place, half-a-world away, the poetic theory of Basho in
the 17th century was not so different. His name taken from a wide-leafed banana tree
Basho sought to celebrate: whether his eyes turned to mountain or gorge, whether his ears heard thunder or bird-song, whether his foot brushed flower or mud, he was intensely alive to the preciousness of all that shared the world with him.
He described himself as a cloud in the wind, wanting only to capture the beauty of flowers and birds. He believed two elements must come together to form karumi: a good poem is one in which the form of the verse, and the joining of its two parts, seems light as a shallow river flowing over its sandy bed. Such poetic structure consists one element (the condition or situation) divided by a break (kireji, or cutting word ), after which comes the sudden perception. As here:
In my new robe
The idea was not to look at an object, but be the object, and capture an emotion or perception like a door opening to a deeper place of spirit you always had but didn t know you had. As Basho said: Learn about a pine tree from a pine tree, and about a bamboo stalk from a bamboo stalk. Or as his disciple Doho explained: the poet should enter into the object, sharing its delicate life and its feelings.
While this poetic theory applied to haiku, it finds a good fit with most short, imagistic poems, and there is something in the spare words, the precision of imagery, the revealed emotion or epiphany, that opens the door into the home of our basic laconic American nature something in the humble nature of such art that reminds us who we are, the plain beginnings of our ancestors. Where it differs is where the concept of Yei differs we don t often see the beauty around us or within us. What a different world if we did, and so, too, our poetry and songs.