Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Unsung Masters Series: Tamura Ryuichi

A book I've been eager to read is Tamura Ryuichi: On the Life and Work of a 20th Century Master, recently published by Pleiades Press the volume collects together previous translations of Tamura's poems by Christopher Drake, which originally appeared in Dead Languages, alongside translations of those by co-editor Takako Lento and also by  Marianne Tarcov. Wayne Miller is the series editor of Pleiades Press's Unsung Masters Series, who also gives an introduction in which he describes his first readings of Tamura's poetry, (an event that lingers in the mind of any reader's first encounter with his poetry), and also gives an account of how the book came into being, noting com-parisons between Tamura's poetry with that of Tadeusz Rosewicz and Paul Celan. The selected poems here are on the whole ones that have been well anthologised,  although to have them collected and available in this book which serves as both  a hugely informative introduction as well as of a more detailed examination is definitely a welcome event.

The poems are also accompanied with a  selection of enlightening  essays both critical and reflective by contemporary poets of Tamura's and also by his translators - Ooka Makoto, Ayukawa Nobuo, Yoshimasu Gozo, Christopher Drake, (whose introduction to Dead Languages is reproduced here), Miho Nonaka, Mariane Tarcov, Laurence Lieberman and Tanikawa Shuntaro, who's essay interestingly  takes the form of Tanikawa interviewing  himself in a Q and A style session about his thoughts on Tamura. The book also contains a selection of photographs of Tamura, the cover photo portrait is included here in full with Tamura at the launch of Four Thousand Days and Nights, seated next to fellow Arechi poets Ayukawa Nobuo and Yoshimoto Takaaki. Ayukawa Nobuo's essay, A Journey to Fear, is from the time of the publication of Four Thousand Days and Nights, I get the impression it could of come from a preface to the collection or perhaps from a review. In it Ayukawa charts Tamura's life as a poet, his mapless journey, (the name of a piece from Tamura), and examines Tamura's poetry, especially looking in detail at the two poems Four Thousand Days and Nights and Standing Coffin.

In his introduction Wayne Miller points out that the Four Thousand Days and Nights was very nearly the exact period between the surrendering of Japan to that of the poem's completion. Ayukawa Nobuo's essay goes on to explore the notions of being labelled a post-war poet, and compares the differences between the poetry of some of the pre-war poets to that of the post-war era. Laurence Lieberman's piece reflects back on meeting Tamura and on the time when Lieberman first lived in Japan. Gozo Yoshimasu's piece here is entitled Exceptional Poet: Tamura Ryuichi, the main portion of his piece Yoshimasu explains is taken from his introduction to the Japanese edition of Tamura Ryuichi's Complete Works, which has recently been published in Japan. One of the many referential points in Yoshimasu's essay is from the closing lines of a poem by Hu Shi called Dream and Poetry, Gozo Yoshimasu goes on to weave connections between the poem, Tamura, and also that of a haiku of Basho, Exceptional Poet comes to us as a finely flowing and cohesive mixture of part reflection and of projected observations with added parentheses,  retracing and drawing on memories and recollections of Tamura in Iowa. Taking in along it's way the essay looks at Tamura's poem On My Way Home, (included here), a poem originally from the collection World Without Worlds. Takako Lento's piece, Poet As Metaphor again recalls memories of Tamura and also discusses translating Tamura, all of the essays here offer acute insights into a unique master of words .   

Tamura Ryuichi: On the Life of a 20th Century Master at Pleiades Press

My post on Dead Languages

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