under the tree
soup, fish salad, and all --
On April 10, 1690, Basho wrote the hokku above to start a 36-verse kasen at a blossom-viewing party in Ueno. When he wrote it, Basho said, "Having learned something about writing a verse on blosssom viewing, I gave a tone of Karumi ("lightness") 1 to this hokku (Ueda, p.286)
The middle phrase -- "soup" and "fish salad" -- of this hokku suggests "a realm of haikai that is alien to waka." (ibid.) Basho uses mundane words to suggest, not the gazing at cherry blossoms constantly found in classical poetry, but the festivity of eating and drinking, and his hokku reveals "[his tendency to seek poetry in things familiar" (ibid.)
In the last years of his life, Basho experimented with the karumi style that “emphasized simplicity and ordinary language and situations,” (Shirane, p. 23) and the verse anthology, Charcoal Sack, was considered by some of his followers, called Rural Shomon poets, as the “epitome of good haikai.” (ibid., p. 28)
Note: Like so many of Basho's critical terms, karumi defies easy definition. In its most general form, as a salient characteristic of Japanese art from cooking to painting, "lightness" is a minimalist aesthetic, stressing simplicity and leanness. For Basho, it meant a return to everyday subject matter and diction, a deliberate avoidance of abstraction and poetic posturing, and relaxed, rhythmical, seemingly artless expression (Shirane, p. 26)
Makoto Ueda, Bashō and his interpreters: selected hokku with commentary, Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1991,
Haruo Shirane, Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Basho, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998.