Light Verse from the Floating World: An Anthology of Premodern Japanese Senryu

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Similar in form to the well-known, more serious haiku, the satirical--and often humorous--poems known as senryu have received little scholarly attention because most were written by anonymous amateur poets and were therefore considered popular literature unworthy of serious study. Senryu are interesting, however, precisely because they reflect the thoughts and feelings of ordinary townspeople in a way that other more orthodox types of Japanese literature do not. In his introduction on the nature and historical background of the form, Makoto Ueda explores the elements of humor and satire contained in senryu, highlighting the mores that lie behind the laughter the poems evince.

Collecting 400 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century poems--with the romanized Japanese verse presented at the bottom of each page-- Light Verse from the Floating World is divided into thematic sections, each preceded by a short introduction:

• satirical senryu, aimed at people of the ruling warrior class and civilians of various professions;

• senryu on human relationships--between young lovers, husband and wife, parent and child, or family members of different generations;

• poems on townspeople enjoying themselves in the "amusement" district;

• ridicule of well-known historical figures;

• and poems on the poets' general outlook on life.

Replete with keen observations on the human world rather than the natural one, this first comprehensive anthology in English translation of this major genre of Japanese literature will appeal to scholars and students of Japanese culture, as well as general readers of poetry.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Amy Vladeck Heinrich
A wonderful book, presenting a lesser-known poetic form along with its bases in the social structure of Edo period daily life. . . . Sometimes Ueda hits on such a perfect rendering, in colloquial English, that it is startling.
Choice Magazine
A must for any teacher or student of Japanese poetry.
The editor/translator provides introductory material to support this collection of some 400 humorous and comic poems from premodern Japan, written in a 17-syllable verse form known as . Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231115513
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 9/29/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Makoto Ueda is Professor Emeritus of Japanese at Stanford University. He has written, translated, and edited fourteen books, including Modern Japanese Tanka: An Anthology, which won a Japan-U.S. Friendship Commision Literary Translation Award.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

1. We Are Swordless, but Not Wordless2. The Mad, Mad World of Work3. Love in Chains4. The Battle of the Sexes5. Dimpled Little Lunatics6. The Battle of the Generations7. Playboys of the Floating World8. Let Us Laugh with the Seasons9. Heroes Without Halos10. The Way of the Townsman

Columbia University Press

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