Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Seasons & Calendars’ Category

Full title:

Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era—Poetry, Drama, Criticism. (Note that there is another volume with the same title, only differing at the end, where “Fiction” replaces “Poetry, Drama, Criticism”; that other volume is over 1300 pages long, and is not for sale here.)

New York: Henry Holt, 1984. Paperback, 6×9.25″ (15.5×23.5 mm), 685+xiv pp.

Original price: $19.95; this copy: $10 + shipping. Click for ordering info.

Condition: Solid binding, cover good, faint (pale green) remainder mark on top edge near spine, a few pages dog-eared, a few marginal notes in ink. A good “reader’s copy”. (Note that the notes are mine, mainly in the section “Poetry in Traditional Forms”, and are not terribly intrusive.)

Here one can get a good overview of “haiku”—the word Shiki coined to separate the independent hokku from the linked poetry it originally belonged to. (The separation actually goes back to old renga masters such as Sôgi and Sôchô, and was reinforced by Bashô and many poets of his day in haikai.) Keene’s grasp of the overall situation of Japanese literature and his special affection for the haiku in all its guises inform his writing. He also translates many haiku and tanka by many poets, some well known in the West, others less so.

Keene includes comments on and translations of tanka by poets from Shigene Suzuki (1814–1898 ) to Takashi Okai (b. 1928), touching on many others including such figures as Akiko Yosano (1876–1942), Hakushû Kitahara (1885–1942), Takuboku Ishikawa (1886–1912), Shiki Masaoka (1867–1902), and Mokichi Saitô (1882–1953). He also sets out the major groups of tanka poets and their differing philosophies of tanka composition, including a number whose approach to tanka form was quite radical. (Note that I list the names here in Western order, which accords with the style sheet I’m following here on the Pub generally, but that Keene gives Japanese names in Japanese order, as do most scholars of Japanese literature writing in English.)

Keene then takes up haiku; poets from Eiki Hozumi (1823–1904) to Kin’ichi Sawaki and Tohta Kaneko (both born 1919) are covered, including those well known to us such as Shiki, Santôka Taneda (1882–1940), Hôsai Ozaki (1885–1926), Shûôshi Mizuhara (1892–1981), and Seishi Yamaguchi (b. 1901). Among these poets, he also writes of many others, less well known to the West, such as Raboku Ohashi (1890–1933), citing one of his oft-quoted minimalist haiku, hi e yamu (“I am sick with the sun.”—Keene’s tr., in which “I am” expresses ideas included in the original, but not its words), the essentially deaf poet Kijô Murakami (1865–1938), Sekitei Hara (1886–1951), and Hisajo Sugita (1890–1946), who led many women and men away from Shiki’s dominant and arch-conservative disciple Kyoshi Takahama (1874–1959), and the “Humanist” haiku poets Kusatao Nakamura (1901–1983) and Shûson Katô (b. 1905). The whole passage on haiku is a fine expansion and continuation of the similar treatment given of fewer of these poets in R. H. Blyth’s History of Haiku, volume 2 (1964) and Makoto Ueda’s Modern Japanese Haiku (1976).

As the title of the book suggests, there are also substantial sections given over to poetry in new forms (i.e., “modern poetry”), modern drama, and modern criticism—all reflecting the opening of Japan to Western influence in the late 19th century through well past the middle of the 20th.

To Order: If you are interested in purchasing this copy of Dawn to the West, e-mail me with name, postal address, and phone number.

Read Full Post »

Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Thanks to Michael Dylan Welch for recommending this book.

The title represents the first of the 72 classical 5-day “seasons” of the solar side of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. This lunisolar calendar became the basis of the seasonal understanding of the Japanese early on, and is embedded deep in haikai culture. Liza Dalby, a marvelous writer and a leading sociologist of things Japanese (you may know her best-selling book Geisha or her more recent novel The Tale of Murasaki, among other works), has unpacked this old East Asian calendrical thinking to yield a book that describes the system with a delightful lightness of touch that includes anecdotes both ancient and personal. She also indicates, in an appendix, how the Japanese adapted this Chinese system to their own climate, and then how she further adapted it for her home in northern California. Running through all this are 72 personal essays that, though brief, rival Montaigne for clarity, humanity, and humor. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the seasons, in cross-cultural dialogue, and in just plain fine writing.

East Wind Melts the Ice is available from booksellers, including Amazon.com.

Read Full Post »