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Haiku: Eastern Culture based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
These 4 volumes of Haiku from Blyth are probably the most unusual of all haiku books. Blyth attempts a tour-de-force of every topic related to haiku. Volume 1, "Eastern Culture" covers Japanese art and religion, haiku technique, haiku philosophy, haiku poets, and various "states of mind" such as selflessness and simplicity. Each topic is reviewed in a reflective essay that is not so much an introduction to the topic as it is a forum for Blyth to grapple with the issue and attempt to persuade the reader of some point of view or another. Volumes 2-4 are seasonally-organized collections of haiku with extensive commentary for each haiku.It's not completely clear who Blyth intended these books for. First published in 1949, a slightly outdated world-view peeps through now and then. As a whole, the books are not really a terribly good introduction to haiku, since he seems to presume some vague knowledge of terms and topics before beginning each one. At the same time, the level is simple enough to be a good second book to read after learning some of the basic terminology, and the coverage of all things "haiku" is comprehensive. If anything, the books seem to be aimed at some European-educated literati -- it's as if he's trying to convince some group of the legitimacy of haiku by connecting it to traditional poetic and Christian ideals. Furthermore, while Japanese and Chinese are well-translated, he throws in untranslated German and Italian without a second thought, as if any reader could be assumed to know them (don't worry, the book is still quite readable without knowledge of German or Italian). Blyth demonstrates himself throughout to be quite well-read, but the one thing that especially bugs me is that his constant attempts to relate haiku to European literature seem forced, unconvincing, and entirely unnecessary.Even with the odd tone, the books make a very good learning experience. The analysis of haiku is well-informed, thoughtful, and generally right on the mark. Blyth is also an excellent translator from my point of view: he makes a straightforward literal translation, but he is quite sensitive to the difficult task of preserving the subtleties and intent of the original Japanese, as well as nicely capturing some of the ambiguities, which are very hard to capture in translation.