japan



Peter Boyle Reviews Yasuhiro Yotsumoto and Shuntaro Tanikawa

Family Room by Yasuhiro Yotsumoto Vagabond Press, 2009 Watashi by Shuntaro Tanikawa Vagabond Press, 2010 At the outset I will say that, though my own latest book Apocrypha was published by Vagabond Press, I hold no financial interest in the …

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Notes on Renga

Image by Keiji MinatoRenga is a collaborative form of poetry from Japan. In Japan it is now called “renku,” but the term “renga” has been internationally used for quite a long time, so let's go with “renga” here. Renga was born from the tradition of waka, the traditional/prestigious poetic form with 5-7-5-7-7 morae (sound units), in the 12th century. In the beginning it rigidly followed the high aesthetic of old waka in the Royal Court. However, later it began to incorporate secular elements and gave birth to a genre called haikai-no-renga (roughly meaning “mock-renga”) or haikai. Since the end of the 19th century it has been commonly called “renku.” Well, it has quite a tradition …

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Keiji Minato: Notes on Modern Haiku (4)

Female haiku writers can hardly be categorized either in the language-centered group or in the existential image group, as described in my previous post. Even if they are different from each other and have elements common to male contemporaries, thinking about the genealogy of women haijin seems more informative than mingling them together with male writers.

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Keiji Minato: Notes on Modern Haiku (3)

Image by Keiji MinatoAvant-garde haiku became bankrupt when its momentum was dissipated by the stabilization/conservative shift of the society around 1970, along with other radical movements in the literary and political arenas. Doubts about the form of haiku now came to be regarded as counterproductive. The basis for these doubts had been the desire to open up a common perspective that would embrace new possibilities for Japanese society as a whole, but the whole was now superimposed on individuals as something that had already been achieved, even if in a doubtful way.

Avant-garde haiku was bankrupt when its momentum was dissipated by the stabilization/conservative shift of the society around 1970, along with other radical movements in the literary and political arenas. Doubts on the form of haiku were now counterproductive. The ground for them had been the desire to open up a common perspective that would embrace new possibilities of the society as a whole, but a whole was now superimposed on individuals as something which was already achieved, even if in a doubtful way.

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Keiji Minato: Notes on Modern Haiku (2)

The history of Japanese modern haiku was definitely male-centered until quite recently. There have been many superb female haijin; most of them remained in the “kessha (結社)” system (a “kessha” is a group or sect that is led by a master and usually has a hierarchical structure – followers adhere to basic rules their masters set up). The system and rules served positively for some, whose talents were rather nurtured than hindered by the fixed criteria. Others achieved their own voices outside the system, and their haiku reflect various interests outside or sometimes against male sensibilities.

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Keiji Minato: Notes on Modern Haiku (1)

Haiku is a literary form. It carries ideological elements from its history as other literary forms do. Some of these elements are deeply ingrained in the genre. For example, seasonal themes and objective descriptions are the two main principles many people in Japan and in other countries believe to be imperatives. While they surely have some relevance (as they help beginners find concrete images and avoid various pitfalls), they are not absolutely necessary conditions for haiku.

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Chains (Poems, Nagoya)

When I ate out with someone Japanese, in this case the poet and translator Keiji Minato, I asked them to translate the menu rather than the usual point-at-the-picture option. Rather than have them translate every dish I'd find out what categories there were first. 'fried things' was one.

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Searching for the Young Haiku Rebels

“What is it about haiku that cannot be defeated?” asked Jim Kacian, one of the founders of the World Haiku Association, in a paper delivered at the first conference of the WHA in Croatia, 2000. It's a good question, one …

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