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Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology

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This anthology brings togethere in convenient form a rich selection of Japanese poetry in traditional genres dating back from the earliest times to the twentieth century. With more than 1,100 poems, it is the most varied and comprehensive selection of traditional Japanese poetry now available in English. Ezra Pound called poetry "the most concentrated form of verbal express This anthology brings togethere in convenient form a rich selection of Japanese poetry in traditional genres dating back from the earliest times to the twentieth century. With more than 1,100 poems, it is the most varied and comprehensive selection of traditional Japanese poetry now available in English. Ezra Pound called poetry "the most concentrated form of verbal expression," and the great poets of Japan wrote poems as charged and compressed as poems can be. The Japanese language, with its few consonates and even fewer vowels, did not lend itself to expansive forms, making small seem better and perhaps more powerful. There is also the historical context in which Japanese poetry developed—the highly refined society of the early courts of Nara and Kyoto. In this setting, poetry came to be used as much for communication between lovers and friends as for artistic expression, and a tradition of cryptic statement evolved, with notes passed from sleeve to sleeve or conundrums exchanged furtively in the night. Add to this the high sense of decorum that dominated court society for centuries, and you have the conditions that led to the development of the classical uta (also referred to as tanka or waka), the thrity-one-syllable form that acts as the foundation for virtually all poetry written in Japanese between 850 and 1900. In choosing poems, the compiler has given priority to authors and works gnerally acknowledged as of great artistic and/or historical importance by Japanese scholars. For this reason, major poets such as Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, Izumi Shikibu, Saigyo, and Matsuo Basho are particualarly important collections such as Man'yoshu, Kokinshu, and Shin kokinshu. In addtion, the volume also contains samplings from genres such as the poetic diary, linked verse, Chinese forms, and comic verse.


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This anthology brings togethere in convenient form a rich selection of Japanese poetry in traditional genres dating back from the earliest times to the twentieth century. With more than 1,100 poems, it is the most varied and comprehensive selection of traditional Japanese poetry now available in English. Ezra Pound called poetry "the most concentrated form of verbal express This anthology brings togethere in convenient form a rich selection of Japanese poetry in traditional genres dating back from the earliest times to the twentieth century. With more than 1,100 poems, it is the most varied and comprehensive selection of traditional Japanese poetry now available in English. Ezra Pound called poetry "the most concentrated form of verbal expression," and the great poets of Japan wrote poems as charged and compressed as poems can be. The Japanese language, with its few consonates and even fewer vowels, did not lend itself to expansive forms, making small seem better and perhaps more powerful. There is also the historical context in which Japanese poetry developed—the highly refined society of the early courts of Nara and Kyoto. In this setting, poetry came to be used as much for communication between lovers and friends as for artistic expression, and a tradition of cryptic statement evolved, with notes passed from sleeve to sleeve or conundrums exchanged furtively in the night. Add to this the high sense of decorum that dominated court society for centuries, and you have the conditions that led to the development of the classical uta (also referred to as tanka or waka), the thrity-one-syllable form that acts as the foundation for virtually all poetry written in Japanese between 850 and 1900. In choosing poems, the compiler has given priority to authors and works gnerally acknowledged as of great artistic and/or historical importance by Japanese scholars. For this reason, major poets such as Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, Izumi Shikibu, Saigyo, and Matsuo Basho are particualarly important collections such as Man'yoshu, Kokinshu, and Shin kokinshu. In addtion, the volume also contains samplings from genres such as the poetic diary, linked verse, Chinese forms, and comic verse.

30 review for Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    I found this anthology to be fascinating. When he published the book in 1991, Steven Carter was Professor of Japanese at the University of California, Irvine. He is the translator of the poems (more than 1100) in this volume and has written a very helpful introduction, summaries of various historical periods, and annotations of individual poems. The sections and individual poems are arranged chronologically, and usually a particular poet’s works are grouped together. The organization of the boo I found this anthology to be fascinating. When he published the book in 1991, Steven Carter was Professor of Japanese at the University of California, Irvine. He is the translator of the poems (more than 1100) in this volume and has written a very helpful introduction, summaries of various historical periods, and annotations of individual poems. The sections and individual poems are arranged chronologically, and usually a particular poet’s works are grouped together. The organization of the book allows the reader to appreciate the historical development of poetic forms and the influence of older poets on more recent ones. Japanese poetry has been unquestionably influenced by Chinese poetry but it developed in ways that were uniquely its own. I shall try here to describe briefly some general characteristics. Much of Japanese poetry throughout its history has been based on five and seven metered lines (in writing poems in English using Japanese forms, this has most traditionally been interpreted as meaning lines of five and seven syllables, but later I shall comment on this further). The earliest common form, first collected in the 8th century CE, was the choka, a form of varying length often using parallelism and 7-5-7-5-7-5….. meter, finishing with an “envoy” of 5-7-5-7-7. Later the envoy began to stand on its own, now being called an uta or, in more recent centuries, a tanka. The tanka has in recent decades made somewhat of a renaissance. Here is an example: that little lame deer trying hard to feed herself limping through the snow for how long can she survive under such great handicaps As in a sonnet in the West, there is often a “turn” or shift, emotionally or descriptively, between the first tercet and the final couplet. Later the renga developed, a communal form in which one poet would provide a tercet, a second a couplet related to the tercet but moving slightly in a new direction, then another poet providing another tercet similarly related but slightly diverging, and on and on. Ultimately, in the 19th century, the tercet began to stand on its own as a haikai, the predecessor to our modern haiku. Many rules developed about this form, including the necessity of having a word referring to a season of the year (whole books were written about what words were allowed to refer to what season, eg “cherry blossoms” to spring). The poem needed to be in the present tense, have no personal pronouns, a limited number of adjectives, and a “turn” between either line 1 and 2 or between line 2 and 3. It could not simply be a sentence lined up to fit the form. It had to essentially be a verbal snapshot that elicited a single feeling on the part of the reader, and it had to be succinct and suggestive rather than denotative. Any poem including personal references to the poet, or humor, became a form of its own, a senryu, even if it otherwise fit the haiku form. In recent decades these requirements have been greatly relaxed and the form made far more flexible. Which brings us back to syllabification in English. The 5-7-5 concept in Japanese really referred to symbolic units in Japanese called onji, shorter than syllables in English (one might think of phonemes in English as an analogy, although onji and phonemes are not really the same). Thus, a Japanese haiku, 5-7-5, is about 40% shorter than a traditional English haiku. For this reason, in recent decades more and more haiku writers have taken to relying on stresses rather than syllables, using a 2-3-2 form that more closely replicates the feel and length of the Japanese. Here are two haiku, one with 5-7-5 syllables, the second with 2-3-2 stresses: snow is melting preparing a big surprise sub-zero tonight bitter wind setting my teeth on edge strong coffee Actually, that second one might more properly be called a senryu in stress form rather than in syllabic form, but today the term senryu is waning, and as the haiku is becoming more expansive and flexible, all are being called haiku. In recent months I have taken to writing lots of haiku and tanka, most of them dreadful, but it is great fun. All this is no doubt more than you want to know, but if it fascinates you as much as it does me, you might greatly enjoy this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diana Wilder

    A Classic Compilation and Translation of Japanese Poetry This is a compilation of Japanese poetry from earliest times to the present. The poems are grouped by writer, with information given on the writer (when possible) and the circumstances giving rise to the poem (or shedding light on the poem). I This was published by the Stanford University Press. The poems are presented in their entirety, and any notes or information are beside them, saving the reader from the annoyance of having to look to t A Classic Compilation and Translation of Japanese Poetry This is a compilation of Japanese poetry from earliest times to the present. The poems are grouped by writer, with information given on the writer (when possible) and the circumstances giving rise to the poem (or shedding light on the poem). I This was published by the Stanford University Press. The poems are presented in their entirety, and any notes or information are beside them, saving the reader from the annoyance of having to look to the bottom of the page or flip to the back. Beautifully done, well worth owning.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kitty

    Overview of Japanese poetry with the original and notes on translation. I have a better understanding of Haiku and the traditions surrounding it. I enjoyed very much the black and white drawings sprinkled throughout which capture a mood or time period. This is a book to be enjoyed multiple and endless several sittings.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Farah SA

    A must-read for students of Japanese and anyone who is interested in Japanese, especially the poetry. This book tells us about (brief) history of Japanese poetry, not only haiku but also other form of Japanese poetry.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    By far the best single English-language collection of Japanese poetry in existence (I've read them all). Definitely the place to start if you're even vaguely interested in this genre.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael O.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ankhespaten

  8. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cone

  11. 4 out of 5

    Madison

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lothar Spillemaeckers

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nika

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul Kerschen

    Meticulously done. Reading in concert with a literary history like Keene's is a good way to avoid the false sense of sameness that comes with the heft.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dan Yingst

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian Kantor

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ladislav

  19. 4 out of 5

    Adriana

  20. 5 out of 5

    Haven

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eva Smrekar

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brad

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  24. 4 out of 5

    kit

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sheikh Tajamul

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kay White

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chen

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alexgarens

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vi

  30. 4 out of 5

    Јована Станковска

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