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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Your Grandad Thought..., 3 April 2014
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This review is from: The Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History and Possibilities in English, with Selected Examples (Paperback)
Yasuda’s aged but intelligent introduction was first published in 1957. Back then (dinosaur time) no-one but a few Beats were writing haiku in English, making Yasuda, together with H. G. Henderson and R. H. Blyth, a real pioneer of what has since become known as English Language Haiku (ELH).

In The Japanese Haiku, Yasuda describes the huge aesthetic potential locked up in this very short form of poetry. He justifies its brevity as being the time required for the writer/reader to elucidate, with one breath, a “haiku moment”. Haiku moments are supposedly brief observations of beauty, or experienced aesthetic wholeness, made accessible via the haiku writer’s use of simple, objective language and concrete imagery.

Yasuda provides in-depth analyses of several classic haiku, demonstrating how their seasonal references provide grounding whilst internal patterns of rhyme, stress, alliteration, and assonance are used to ramp up internal coherence and attachment to the subject. The best haiku, he contends, are every bit as complex as longer poetic forms.

So far so good. But, if you are haiku newby I wouldn’t make this the first book you buy. Firstly, Yasuda’s writing lacks pace. He has a tiring habit of quoting obscure 20th century lit critics at every point, breaking up the flow of his thoughts. Secondly, the haiku translations he provides are of his time. His use of the 5-7-5 syllabic form is more ponderous than poetic, his reliance on 1st/3rd-line rhyme sounds childish to today’s ear. English Language Haiku has evolved since the 1950’s; you only need to read Cor van den Heuval’s Haiku Anthology, or Kacian et al’s Haiku in English to see how dated Yasuda’s own attempts at ELH have become.

As I said, Yasuda was a pioneer, and people will want to read The Japanese Haiku because it forms part of the canon of ELH literature. It does contain lots of still valid points on traditional form, and his account of the development of haiku and the importance of seasonal reference remains interesting in itself. Definitely a classic to add to your collection.
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