to the small poem and the quiet voice within

norbert blei | beckett meets basho


Samuel Beckett, lean, hawk-like, dressed in black, sits beneath a lone tree, waiting for nothing to happen, staring into the ground, running one frail hand through his white hair, his face a visage of Edvard Munch’s, “Skirk” (Scream)…silent…a loss of words.

Matsuo Kinsaku, across the road from him, sits beside his beloved banana plant (Basho)… something like a smile in his presence.

frog plops

…………………crow settles

leaves scatter

–norbert blei

To drill one hole after another
into it until that which lurks behind,
be it something or nothing,
starts seeping through—I cannot
imagine a higher goal for today’s writer.


Over and over there is a soft place
in my heart for all that is over, no,
for being over, I love the word,
words have been my only loves, not many.


I would like my love to die
And the rain to be falling on the graveyard
And on me walking the streets
Mourning her who thought she loved me.


I use the words you taught me. If they don’t mean
anything anymore, teach me others.
Or let me be silent.

[from ENDGAME]

Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a
chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back.
Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.

[from KRAPP’S Last tape]

Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one – when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there. How¬ever well phrased your poetry may be, if your feeling is not natural – if the object and yourself are separate – then your poetry is not true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit. –Basho


  1. Gar

    Study good poetry if you need to write your own. Basho’s words go to the core of the pine and bamboo–and to any good poem. I also have much to learn from Beckett. Thanks for this wonderful post.

  2. Jackie

    subjective counterfeit––such a tolling of the bell.

  3. Alice D'Alessio

    I use the words you taught me.
    If they don’t mean anything anymore, teach me others.
    Or let me be silent.


  4. Barbara Vroman

    “I would like my love to die…” so Beckett could mourn her.
    What it seems he really loved was pain, moroseness and sadness, which in a contrary way gave him a kind of pleasure that most of us would find hard to understand. Perhaps everything should be celebrated…the darkness and the light,
    the joy and the despair. The darkness is for most of us is a
    challenge to be lifted into light. Your old wisdom that in the
    mouth of every dragon there is a gift, pry open the mouth and find it.

  5. Don

    “Beckett the Teen: a Graphic Novel”, black & white charcoal drawings, a third of the way through one single green leaf … the rest we know.

    Norb, great comparison/contrast of two of our finest artists …



  6. Robert M. Zoschke

    “Water under the bridge.
    Long time ago.
    You’ve been around the world a bit since.
    You did all right.
    You filled your dance card, you saw the show.
    Interesting times.

    Last look through more than one door.
    This is a hard story to tell.”

    –Joan Didion, exact sentence-structure excerpt from the first chapter of her novel Democracy (Simon & Schuster 1984)

  7. Norbert Blei

    I don’t know…I was thinking of Beckett the other night…I was reading in and about his letters, vol. II…I was remembering that lone tree on the stage in “Waiting for Godot” …the same lone tree many of us wait beneath at one time or another in our daily lives—there’s something coming that’s going to change things–there’s nothing coming that will change anything–just ‘wait’ and ‘see’?…suddenly Basho entered the mind-scape with a frog splash…Basho sitting quietly beside his banana plant/tree, waiting for nothing, at peace, serene…I wondered how/if/why/ these two guys ever met…what words would be said…or not said…were they both beyond words?…different ‘ways’ was that “the way”?…yet the words came to me, wanting to be said…I couldn’t ‘not’ say them…

    thanks, everyone…all the perceptive commentaries…all the thought-provoking e-mails…

  8. Phil Hansotia

    In the end it is Basho, the muse who pronounces on poetry–“when you have plunged deep enough into ……” and says all that metters. That understood there is nothing more to say. Phil Hansotia.

  9. Barbara Larsen

    A thought provoking comparison. It is so good to have the mind tickled.

  10. Steve Fortney


    too short for beckett?

  11. gewamser

    God I love it. Barbara V’s comments are right on. As for myself the backwoods Buddhist, I love what Basho has to say. At the same time I remember Philip K. Dick, who said that “We cherry-pick our realities, and create personal myths from them.” You must have the imagination and creativity to reach for the unity with the pine, the bird, the fellow poet, all on your own, in a deep, very personal way.

  12. Barbara Vroman

    Dear Norb,

    As always you elicited so much response from your words.
    You set our think-tongs vibrating. And from the many responses come many vistas. More ideas to gather like a
    bouquet into our own.

  13. Kala Ramesh

    Thanks Gabriel for sending this to me.
    Deeply moved.
    I loved the comments too.

    lotus viewing . . .
    the flowering

    raga kalyaan
    a pumpkin gourd
    yields the autumn lyric

    Kala Ramesh

  14. Joey Connolly

    a Beckett teardrop
    the frog looks up
    calm pond

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