Masaoka Shiki: Selected Poems

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Overview

Here are graceful and timeless poems by one of Japan's greatest modern writers, rendered by a master translator. Masaoka Shiki (1867—1902) is credited with modernizing Japan's two traditional verse forms, haiku and tanka. Born at a time of social and cultural change in Japan, Shiki welcomed the new influences from the West and responded to them by reinvigorating the native haiku and tanka forms. He freed them from outdated conventions, made them viable for artistic expression in modern Japan, and paved the way for the haiku to become one of his nation's most influential cultural exports.

Burton Watson's excellent introduction explores the course of Shiki's life: his poverty-stricken childhood, his early love for literature, his education, and his work as a haiku editor for the newspaper Nippon, and as a correspondent during the Sino-Japanese war. Watson details Shiki's long struggle with tuberculosis and its poignant expression in his poetry. Confined to bed for months before his death, Shiki continued to devote his energies to literary pursuits: writing poems and critical essays, and joining with friends and followers who gathered in his sickroom to discuss literature. He died a few weeks before his thirty-fifth birthday. These poems — more than a hundred haiku, several tanka, and three kanshi — are arranged chronologically within each genre, revealing the development of Shiki's art and the seamless way in which he wove his life and illness into his poetry.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Japan Times
This new selection of [Shiki's] poems, from the hand of a distinguished scholar and translator, is particularly welcome.... It was Shiki, the short-lived critic, essayist and poet, who launched a major reform of haiku in the Meiji Era and revitalized the miniature poem for the century ahead. In place of the word-games and imitation to which haiku practice had by then descended, Shiki suggested the 'shasei' or 'sketch from life.'
Japan Times
This new selection of [Shiki's] poems, from the hand of a distinguished scholar and translator, is particularly welcome. . . . It was Shiki, the short-lived critic, essayist and poet, who launched a major reform of haiku in the Meiji Era and revitalized the miniature poem for the century ahead. In place of the word-games and imitation to which haiku practice had by then descended, Shiki suggested the 'shasei' or 'sketch from life.
Booknews
A collection of poems from the prolific Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). There are 144 haiku, 34 tanka, and 4 (a classical Chinese poem form). Known for being influenced by the West before such influence was popular, Shiki wrote over 2,000 poems in tanka form and 25,000 haiku. Those selected here are a mix of famous works and those that the translator found appealing. No index. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231110914
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/1998
  • Series: Modern Asian Literature Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 136
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Burton Watson is one of the world's best-known translators from the Chinese and Japanese. His translations include The Lotus Sutra, The Vimalakirti Sutra, Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan, Saigyo: Poems of a Mountain Home, and The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century, all published by Columbia.

Columbia University Press

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