Biography of Masaoka Shiki excels in the expanded details

/ Sep 28, 2013

Biography of Masaoka Shiki excels in the expanded details

Haiku, the short Japanese poem now proliferating overseas, scarcely needs an introduction anymore. Its three great pillars, widely read even in translation, are the poets Matsuo Basho (1641-1694), its first creator, then Yosa Buson (1716-1784) and Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), who renewed it. THE WINTER SUN ...

Searching to define difficult, elusive concept

/ Sep 7, 2013

Searching to define difficult, elusive concept

The title of this book is exquisite, while the cover illustration is of something else, different yet just as exquisite. This is appropriate because the aesthetic concept that the book considers is not just beautiful, but elusive and difficult to define. SNOW IN A SILVER ...

A portrait of the poet as a child

/ Apr 7, 2013

A portrait of the poet as a child

This remarkable book is an autobiography of childhood, written by the poet Mutsuo Takahashi (born 1937) when he was 32, and issued in 1970, although its separate chapters had appeared as a series of essays in a magazine the year before.

Sensual poetry on love, marriage

/ Mar 3, 2013

Sensual poetry on love, marriage

ONNA NI, by Shuntaro Tanikawa, with etchings by Yoko Sano, translated by William I. Elliott and Kazuo Kawamura. Shueisha, 2012, 80 pp., ¥1,470 (paperback) Shuntaro Tanikawa, born in 1931, is one of the most acclaimed poets in Japan — well known not only from the ...

/ Jan 13, 2013

Exploring the past to makes sense of Meiji modernity

PILGRIMAGES TO THE ANCIENT TEMPLES IN NARA, by Tetsuro Watsuji, translated by Hiroshi Nara. Merwin Asia, 2012, 252 pp., $35.00 (paperback) In the Japanese original, "Koji Junrei" (1919), this book is a classic, much imitated and still quite widely read, although it has also been ...

Seasonality, internal awareness

/ | Dec 23, 2012

Seasonality, internal awareness

"Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature and the Arts" (Columbia University Press) by Haruo Shirane. The whole seasonal consciousness of Japan, so meticulously considered and observed, is an intangible cultural tradition, though it has a certain physical embodiment in saijiki, ...

Is poetry lost or found in translation?

/ Oct 28, 2012

Is poetry lost or found in translation?

BRIGHT MOON, WHITE CLOUDS: Selected Poems of Li Po, edited and translated by J.P. Seaton. Shambhala, 2012, 224 pp., $14.95 (paperback) KANEKO TOHTA: Selected Haiku 1937-1960, translated by The Kon Nichi Translation Group. Red Moon Press, 2012, 256 pp., $12.00 (paperback) Two books of poetry, both ...

/ Oct 14, 2012

Developing a natural aesthetic

JAPAN AND THE CULTURE OF THE FOUR SEASONS: Nature, Literature and the Arts, by Haruo Shirane. Columbia University Press, 2012. 311 pp., $29.50 (hardcover) The starting point for this illuminating study lay in the author's curiosity about the formation of the saijiki, or seasonal almanacs, ...