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On haiku
2018
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"Who doesn't love haiku? It is not only America's most popular cultural import from Japan but also our most popular poetic form: instantly recognizable, more mobile than a sonnet, and loved for its simplicity and compression, as well as for its ease of composition. Haiku is an ancient literary form seemingly made for the Twittersphere--Jack Kerouac and Langston Hughes wrote them, Ezra Pound and the Imagists were inspired by them, first-grade students across the country still learn to write them. But whatreally is a haiku? Where does the form come from? Who were the Japanese poets who originated them? And how has their work been translated into English over the years? The haiku form comes down to us today as a clichâe: a three-line poem of 5-7-5 syllables. And yet its story is actually much more colorful and multifaceted. And of course to write a good one can be as difficult as writing a Homeric epic--or it can materialize in an instant of epic inspiration. In On Haiku, Hiroaki Sato explores the many styles and genres of haiku on both sides of the Pacific, from the classical haiku of Basho, Issa, and Zen monks, to modern haiku about swimsuits and atomic bombs, and to the haiku of famous American writers such as J. D. Salinger and Allen Ginsburg. As if conversing over beers in a favorite pub, Sato explains everything you want to know about the haiku in this endearing and pleasurable book, destined to be a classic" -- - (Baker & Taylor)

Who doesn’t love haiku? It is not only America’s most popular cultural import from Japan but also our most popular poetic form: instantly recognizable, more mobile than a sonnet, loved for its simplicity and compression, as well as its ease of composition. Haiku is an ancient literary form seemingly made for the Twittersphere—Jack Kerouac and Langston Hughes wrote them, Ezra Pound and the Imagists were inspired by them, Hallmark’s made millions off them, first-grade students across the country still learn to write them. But what really is a haiku? Where does the form originate? Who were the original Japanese poets who wrote them? And how has their work been translated into English over the years? The haiku form comes down to us today as a cliché: a three-line poem of 5-7-5 syllables. And yet its story is actually much more colorful and multifaceted. And of course to write a good one can be as difficult as writing a Homeric epic—or it can materialize in an instant of epic inspiration.On Haiku - (WW Norton)

Everything you want to know about haiku written by one of the foremost experts in the field and the “finest translator of contemporary Japanese poetry into American English” (Gary Snyder) - (WW Norton)

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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Sato, who studied English at Kyoto University before settling in New York in 1968, is best known as a translator. His extraordinary collection of essays is at once a literary history, a scrupulous examination of the vicissitudes of translation, a discussion of haiku in America, and a series of introductions to lesser-known masters. Sato conveys encyclopedic knowledge in a lively, modest, occasionally self-deprecating tone, busting myths along the way. He discusses everything anyone could ever want to know about haiku, giving plenty of attention to Basho, Buson, and Issa, "the triumvirate during the Edo period in a standard survey of haikai," as well as modern writers who will be new to most readers. After reading the oddly titled "White Quacks and Whale Meat: Basho's Kasen, ‘The Sea Darkens,'" one will be unable to read any Edo period haiku the same way again. By translating and contextualizing so many classic haiku, Sato manages to show how assumptions about genre fail to capture just how many means of generating meaning this apparently humble poetic form contains. An expert illumination of a poetic form, to read and reread. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this collection of essays and talks from the past 25 years, translator and critic Sato (Snow in a Silver Bowl) exhaustively, and sometimes exhaustingly, tells all about haiku. Addressing the historical tradition, poetic form, and craft of haiku, the essays also perform close readings of specific examples, such as the celebrated 17th-century poet Matsuo Basho's frog haiku, of which Sato once collected 140 different English translations. Roving further afield, Sato uses haiku to illuminate some of the difficulties encountered in Japanese-to-English translation (such as the absence of a Japanese equivalent to English's plural s.) At the book's most rewarding, it situates haiku as part of a larger story, explaining how the modern conception of haiku as a tiny, enigmatically philosophical poem represents a strange cropping of the original Japanese form, which served merely as the brief opening to a much longer poem composed as part of elaborate court rituals, and often incorporated humor and in-jokes. But many of the best insights are recycled across the essays, since they weren't originally written to be read in one collection, and the prose is prone to distracting tangents. Individually, the essays are fascinating, reflecting Sato's unimpeachable expertise in his subject. Unfortunately, read as a whole, they verge on the unwieldy and redundant. (Nov.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Table of Contents

Preface vii
Note and Acknowledgments ix
Haiku Talk: From Basho to J. D. Salinger
3(18)
What Is Haiku?: Serious and Playful Aspects
21(20)
Haiku and Zen: Association and Dissociation
41(20)
Hearn, Bickerton, Hubbell: Translation and Definition
61(16)
White Quacks and Whale Meat: Basho's Kasen, "The Sea Darkens"
77(22)
Renga and Assassination: The Cultured Warlord Akechi Mitsuhide
99(12)
Issa and Hokusai
111(12)
From Wooden Clogs to the Swimsuit: Women in Haikai and Haiku
123(26)
The Haiku Reformer Shiki: How Important Is His Haiku?
149(10)
The "Gun-Smoke" Haiku Poet Hasegawa Sosei
159(18)
From the 2.26 Incident to the Atomic Bombs: Haiku During the Asia-Pacific War
177(30)
"Haiku Poet Called a Hooker": Suzuki Shizuko
207(12)
"Gendai Haiku": What Is It?
219(12)
Mitsuhashi Takajo: Some Further Explication
231(8)
Mishima Yukio and Hatano Soha
239(8)
Outre Haiku of Kato Ikuya
247(10)
In the Cancer Ward: Tada Chimako
257(8)
Receiving a Falconer's Haibun
265(8)
Through the Looking Glass
273(8)
Glossary of Terms 281(2)
Glossary of Names 283(11)
About the Author 294

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