Monday, July 13, 2009

Post- War Japanese Poetry



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 -


AMANO Tadashi
AMAZAWA Taijiro
AYUKAWA Nobuo
FUJITOMO Yasuo
HASEGAWA Ryusei
HORIKAWA Masami
IBARAGI Noriko
IIJIMA Koichi
IRISAWA Yasuo
ISHIHARA Yoshiro
ISHII Yutaka
IWATA Hiroshi
KAJINO Hideo
KAMIMURA Hajime
KAMIMURA Hiro
KISARAGI Makoto
KITAMURA Taro
KURODA Kio
KURODA Saburo
MIYOSHI Toyoichiro
NAKA Taro
NAKAGIRI Masao
Niikuni Seiichi
OOKA Makoto
SEKINE Hiroshi
SUZUKI Shiroyasu
TAKAHASHI Mutsuo
TAKANO Kikuo
TAMURA Ryuichi
TANABU Hiroshi
TANIGAWA Gan
TANIKAWA Shuntaro
TOMIOKA Taeko
WATANABE Takenobou
YAMAMOTO Taro
YAMANAKA Ryojiro
YAMAZAKI Eiji
YOSHIMASU Gozo
YOSHINO Hiroshi
YOSHIOKA Minoru
YOSHIZAWA Shoji








10 comments:

eugene short said...

I'm interested in this. I like Japanese poetry, but I don't know that much about it. I like the form and have already started to think in this sense. I feel inspired to write since I have been here.

me. said...

I'm glad to hear that you've felt inspired to write after visiting here.It seems Japanese poetry (aside from Basho,maybe),doesn't recieve as much attention as it deserves.There will be some more posts on Japanese poets/poetry in the future.

parrish lantern said...

Thanks for the post, as I've seen this on Amazon & have thought about getting it.

me. said...

Thanks for commenting,I found this an interesting and informative introduction to modern Japanese poetry,the poems and poets selected offer an insightful range.If you get a copy I hope you enjoy it,I'll look out for your post!,think it's about time I gave this a re-read.

parrish lantern said...

Bought this & another, Modernism in Practice: An Introduction to Postwar Japanese Poetry, which is of interest.

me. said...

Modernism in Practice looks like a very interesting book, there's so many big names from Japanese poetry that I've yet to read; Yosano Akiko and Tekkan, Shiki Masaoka, Junzaburo Nishiwaki to name but a few, I've got a book of Hagiwara Sakutaro lined up to read soon.

Parrish Lantern said...

'The Penguin Book Of Japanese Verse' is also on eBook format, just downloaded a copy to my kindle.

me. said...

I've yet to get an ereader, I think I'll be buying one in the new year, (it's about time I did!), I did borrow a copy of 'The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse' from my local library a while ago, it is an old book, I think Anthony Thwaite revised his introduction for the new edition, it's a great compilation although a little more contextualisation of the poems would have made this an even more impressive anthology, but I guess it would have come in being twice as long as it already is, it is a great introduction though to the works of many great poets. I hope you post on it!.

Parrish Lantern said...

Just a quick glance through it & yes thwaite's has revised it & has a reasonable Further reading section.

me. said...

Think perhaps I'd like to revisit it at some point, I remember it covering a fantastic range of many poets.