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The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse (Penguin Classics)


The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse (Penguin Classics)

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    Available in PDF Format | The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse (Penguin Classics).pdf | English
    Anthony Thwaite(Author Editor) Geoffrey Bownas(Editor)
Poetry remains a living part of the culture of Japan today. The clichés of everyday speech are often to be traced to famous ancient poems, and the traditional forms of poetry are widely known and loved. The congenial attitude comes from a poetical history of about a millennium and a half. This classic collection of verse therefore contains poetry from the earliest, primitive period, through the Nara, Heian, Kamakura, Muromachi and Edo periods, ending with modern poetry from 1868 onwards, including the rising poets Tamura Ryuichi and Tanikawa Shuntaro.

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Review Text

  • By Samuel J. Parkinson on 18 February 2017

    This isn't a bad anthology, but it's a poor 'Penguin book of .... verse'. It's well translated, with sparse but nonetheless useful notes, and really helpful introductory material. There is a huge spread of poets, and great variety of material.Nonetheless, it has two big flaws.Firstly, much of it just feels wooden, rather dull. I suspect no translator could produce good English poetry from this range of Japanese poets, but I missed some of the beauty (and helpful notes) of more recent translators like Royall Tyler.Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, the anthology is heavily weighted to 'unusual' poets you won't find elsewhere. That seems odd, since in reality even the 'usual' Japanese poets are hard to find in English. You expect the core of Japanese poetry from the Penguin book of Japanese verse!That means that the great tanka poets of the Heian, let alone the masters of the Haiku, like Basho and Issa, get a poem or two each. For Basho, that is excusable - you can buy multiple books of his verse, including in Penguin classics. But it isn't really true of the others. The result is like a book of English poetry that gave no more than ten lines each of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Tennyson and so on.It also means that the biggest section by far is the Shintaishi (new style poetry) chapter. If you like that, that's ok. Personally I think it's depressingly like modern poetry from anywhere else, and, in translation, simply dull and unpoetic. There are a hundred pages of modern poetry, since 1868 - against 150 covering the rest of Japanese history. The Heian gets only 24, despite the great poets of the period. The Kamakura and Muromachi together , from 1185-1603, get 9 in total, though the Edo period does recieve more than forty.The penguin classics 'Hundred Poems' coming out later this year will address some of that balance, but this does feel like a very skewed anthology.So, in short: if you want to broaden your knowledge of Japanese poetry, or if you are particularly interested in modern poetry up until the 1960's (when it was published), then this is perfect. For a general introduction to the classics of Japanese poetry, which is what you expect from a 'Penguin book of...' it is sorely lacking.

  • By B.Graham on 21 April 2011

    Compehensive anthology throughout history by Bownas and Thwaite and you cant get more sympathetic teatment or translation ability than that.Thoroghly recommended.

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