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Friday, March 23, 2012

Oriental Poetry

I just received two anthologies of Japanese Poetry that I ordered a week ago.  One is From The Country of Eight Islands.  This one is a large book, published by Doubleday.  A link to the book on Amazon is HERE.  The other is Traditional Japanese Poetry, published by Stanford University.  AND HERE is the link on Amazon.

Japanese poetry can be long or short.  The haiku and Tanka, to me, are quick flashes of words:

Yamato has clusters of mountains
But closest to the city is heavenly Mount Kagu.
I climb, I stand, I survey the land:
Smoke rises in the countryside,
Gulls rise over the lake.
A good land, this island of the dragonfly,
This Yamato.
  (Emperor Jomei 593-641; translated by Hiroaki Sato)

Description of the wind:

Echoing high
   in the tops of the pine trees,
it comes tumbling down
   until in the grass its voice dies--
the wind below the mountain slope.
   (Retired Emperor Fushimi - translated by Steven D. Carter)

There can be epic writings, but my impression of Japanese poetry is that it is quick, vivid, almost a verbal snapsot.  The repartee is very enjoyable, too.

Lady Murasaki, who wrote The Tale of Genji in the eleventh century (Heian period of Japan), told of receiving a poem from the emperor that said, essentially:

Silent and still as a water pipe
I stood outside your window
But you did not open it.

She responded:

So still and silent did you stand outside my window
I thought you were the water pipe.

game and match, I think.

Then there is the haiku:

Torches!  Come and see
The burglar I have captured!
Ah--!  My eldest son?!?

Must go and indulge in the luscious reading.

...or do I wish to open my Chinese anthology and read Tu Fu?  Hm...

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