How important is a poet’s personal appeal? This question arises with each of these new volumes of translation, all of them bilingual. The three poets, otherwise quite different and unconnected, are only brought together fortuitously in this review.

Ryokan (1758-1831), monk, and poet, has already been introduced to Western readers, usually in the context of Zen Buddhism. Born in Izumozaki on the coast of Niigata Prefecture, he first followed his father in taking up the duties of a public functionary. But this work did not agree with him, and he soon gave it up to enter a religious order.

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