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Masaoka Shiki: Selected Poems

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  47 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Here are graceful and timeless poems by one of Japan's greatest modern writers, rendered by a master translator. Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) is credited with modernizing Japan's two traditional verse forms, haiku and tanka. Born at a time of social and cultural change in Japan, Shiki welcomed the new influences from the West and responded to them by reinvigorating the native ...more
Paperback, 136 pages
Published April 7th 1998 by Columbia University Press
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Jim Coughenour
Feb 18, 2014 rated it liked it
I bought this book out of curiosity, while reading Donald Keene's biography of Masaoka Shiki. I've long admired Watson's translations of Chinese poetry, and this short selection did not disappoint. Many of Shiki's poems are vivid snapshots of a moment. A tanka from 1898:
Village sunk in sleep,
lights all gone out,
the Milky Way
over groves of bamboo
Lovely, even if it's close to what you'd expect. Shiki's originality appears when he drops "unpoetic" subjects into a haiku or tanka.
Beyond the
Jun 12, 2015 added it
Shelves: japanese, poetry

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902)

Rustling softly
over the bamboo -
snow in the night (*)

The quintessentially Japanese poetic form haiku, consisting of a mere three lines of five, seven and five syllables, is a strange and wondrous beast. Originally called hokku because it was the initial verse in a long renga, or linked verse poem, the form could emancipate itself from its original context, I believe, due to the Japanese taste for the evanescent and slight. The primary impetus for this emancipation
May 12, 2010 rated it liked it
I did enjoy this book, although I believe Shiki's short life and immobility curbed his full potential. I have read several collections of Basho and been amazed at his variety throughout. After a while Shiki's work seemed repetitive--how much of this is due to the particular selection of works I can't honestly say having little knowledge of the author or editor. Still if you enjoy Haiku this is still worth the read. One of my favorites:

Winter winds-
the creaky noise the kettle makes
hanging from
Matt Ely
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, poetry
This is a great distillation of Shiki's unique brand of haiku. I think it's best read slowly, a couple pages at a time. It really serves as an education on what haiku can be and how he changed the genre, especially if you're only familiar with Basho (like I was). The introduction is not overbearing; Watson gives just enough context but does not try to do the interpretive work for you. There's obviously more of Shiki's work out there, but as a slim introduction, this is all I could have hoped ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Masterly translations of haiku, waka, and kanshi of Masaoka Shiki by the hand of the great Burton Watson (1925-2017) who died this spring. Most of the poems in the collection are haiku, narrowing in perspective but not power as Shiki's world becomes limited to what he can see and hear from his sickbed. My only complaint is not to have more of the kanshi, the poems written in Chinese. I will now return to Donald Keene's biography of Shiki.
This book had an excellent introduction explaining the origin and structure of authentic haiku.

Read my short review with one excerpt:
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, poetry
Shiki, as always, reminds me of my own need to practice and what one could achieve if one learned from him. In true haiku form he lacks the prejudice against summer and winter poems, in which I think he supercedes Bashō's relentlessly classics-oriented verse. I don't mean supercedes in an absolute sense, but supercedes in the sense that Shiki knows he can apply the haiku form to more situations than Bashō, who was much more concerned with communal linked verse and expanding the kinds of ...more
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I read this today on my 55th birthday. It just seems fitting to me to read haiku because I love it. Shiki is a great haiku poet and deserves to be among the four masters of the genre. This book starts with a good introduction to both haiku and the poet. Shiki wrote over 25,000 haiku, so the trouble is selecting them for publication. He includes the seasonal work and many have the turns we expect in this genre.
Jun 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry-stuff
A selected collection of Shiki haiku, tanka, and longer poems. I found a few gems among the haiku but fewer than I expected from my past experience of his work. At some point would be great to read a complete haiku works.
Feb 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'll be revisiting these poems from the bed side table for a long time.

Shiki's work is in turn playful, wry, and deeply contemplative. (I think I prefer Shiki over Basho. Shhh!)
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Masaoka Shiki (正岡 子規), pen-name of Masaoka Noboru (正岡 升), was a poet, author, and literary critic in Meiji period Japan. Shiki is regarded as a major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry, leading the Hototogisu school. He also wrote on reform of tanka poetry.