This is one of the first books I bought about Japan, I bought it in a charity shop, pretty sure it's out of print now. A collection of Post-War Japanese Poetry, edited by Harry and Lynn Guest and Kajima Shozo, first printed by Penguin Books in 1972. It includes some recognisible names and some not so well known names, and I think thats one of the reasons I like it so much, some poems seem not to be written in any grand scale but they perfectly convey what the author is trying to put across. Some are cryptic and some are more straight to the point. One of the bigger names in this collection is that of Niikuni Seiichi, who has six pieces in this book, he was a leading figure in Japan's Concrete poetry movement, his poems are made up of patterns and blocks of repeated Kanji characters, I was lucky enough to catch an exhibition of his poems in Osaka at nmao recently. Another notable name is Ayukawa Nobuo, who in 1947 helped found the magazine Arechi, (The Wasteland). Yamanaka Ryojiro , Yoshizawa Shoji and Ishii Yutaka also used repeated Kanji characters in their work, here's examples of Ishii's work.
Another well known poet included is Shuntaro Tanikawa, who has four pieces, one short poem and also three short pieces of prose, one being 'The Poem Man I Didn't Know', a cryptic piece featuring a poet with walnuts for eyes , with words on his back, which bleed a little. Tanikawa has collaborated in the past with film director Kon Ichikawa on a number of projects, and has been sometimes tipped for the Nobel Prize.
The subjects covered in this collection are multifarious, everything from love, family, drowning, memory, poets & poetry, holidays,hope, despair, some poems are about the poets concerns about the direction Japan was heading at the time, so some have a historic intrest, and as Harry Guest points out in his preface alot of the poems deal with what it means to exist in modern society, and how the influence of modern poetry from abroad was begining to affect Japanese poets, especially poets who were begining to make the break from the more traditional forms of poetry, although that was a process started in the pre-war period with poets like Sakutaro Hagiwara and Akiko Yosano. Some of my favorite poems in this collection are Yamazaki Eiji's 'The Sods!',where a man instead of being rescued is photographed whilst drowning, think this is a poem about the Japanese obsession of photographing everything, the man's drowning is seconded to getting a good picture. Another favourite is Kuroda Saburo's 'The Stake' aka 'The Bet',which uses the scenario of a man contemplating a marriage based only on the size of the dowry but devoid of love, which Harry Guest in his preface, mentions is a meditation on Japan's economic expansion. Another poem that grabbed my attention is Nakagiri Masao's 'This Bloody-Awful Country', a poem about isolation and not joining or fitting in. But all these poems have a uniqeness about them.
Penguin are about to reprint 'The Penguin Book Of Japanese Verse' edited by Geoffrey Bownas & Anthony Thwaite, a book I keep meaning to buy. My copy of 'Post War Japanese Poetry' has some pages getting loose, I might have to get another copy, it's going for silly money on abe books at the moment, I mean single figures, not triple figures!.
Edit: Looking back over this first post, I have come to notice that maybe Niikuni Seiichi might not be as well known as some of the other poets featured in this collection, I guess after seeing an exhibition on him, I came to this rushed conclusion, some of the poets names you can see are on the cover, but I thought I'd list all the poets included in this book here -