- Paperback: 344 pages
- Publisher: Heian International Publishing Inc.,U.S. (Sept. 1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 089346158X
- ISBN-13: 978-0893461584
- Package Dimensions: 20.6 x 14 x 2.4 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,502,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Haiku: Eastern Culture v. 1 Paperback – 1 Sep 1985
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Mr. Blyth not only translated the Japanese Haiku for the Western mass market but really has produced a deep and meaningful view of the world from a profound and poetic viewpoint that is supported by his numerous citing of other authors such as Shakespeare, Thoreau, the Bible, Zen, Chinese mystics, Spengler, Nietzsche, Spinoza, Homer as well as excerpts from the prose writings of the Haiku poets themselves and other poets and thinkers. He does this in the book side by side the Haiku as a sort of guide and attempt at explanation through the universal poetic language. Japanese culture primarily became a fascination with artists like Van Gogh and other artists of the time in Paris in the late nineteenth century. Japanese woodblock prints, Ukiyo-e, by Utamaro, Hiroshige, Hokusai and others influenced Van Gogh and his small group of friends and supporters(Gauguin and others) and I would say that Matisse' work seems to be influenced as well.
He attempts to explain the unexplainable in an admirable manner with these volumes and his translations of the Haiku are second to none. Also included is the original Japanese of each poem as well as the original language versions of his cited non-English poetry/prose that is presented alongside selected Haiku for comparison and explanation purposes. Also included is the occasional paintings done by the Haku poets themselves and some in which they wrote their haiku directly on the painting.
Being both a fine artist and a trained engineer I have found this set to be a good fit for my natural admiration for Haiku. Haiku is the most direct way through words to an instant realization of the hidden meaning of our everyday circumstances, you don't need to think that only what happened far away in time or distance is what is "holy" or important. This moment in time we move through is just as magical if you only break out of the delusion that we must live in most of the time either knowingly or otherwise.
On the practical level this is a 4 volume set that follows the pattern of the poets themselves who lived in poverty by choice and were very sensitive to the seasons around them. Most of the poets traveled around Japan endlessly. So therefore the seasons are how this is arranged in volumes for each of the 4 seasons, Spring, Summer, Winter and Autumn and sub-categories like humans, various festivals and holidays in Japan, Fora/Fauna focused poems, Trees and Flowers, Birds and Beasts, Human Affairs, Skies and Elements, Mountains are examples of the sub categories in each season.
The first volume gives a good extended history and background of Eastern Culture as well as each volume having a decent length preface. At the end of the last volume there is a comprehensive English language index to all four volumes as well as a Japanese language appendix. The whole set is 1300 pages, it would be nice to see these all put together in one volume for convenience.
There are many poets presented here with an emphasis on Blyth's favorites, now the classics, Basho, Issa, Buson of the older poets and Shiki of the newer poets. Shiki died around 1900 and that's about when Blyth cuts off the Haiku poets as we know them. My personal favorite is Issa but as I read the volumes continuously on and off I've noticed that Shiki is probably my next favorite.
If you are interested in Japanese art or culture in general this will be an excellent set to get as well if you are into poetry as the works of these poets are just as valuable and important as those of Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil, Dante, Goethe or any other of the major poets in Western or World culture. I would recommend Blyth's Senryu as well, which are more humorous in nature.
Let me say that it's a shame that such a set of work has become so hard to find and expensive but it is perhaps an honor to be rare and not popular and ubiquitous in this American Idol world we live in. It's a nice limiter to those who are the rarest themselves and capable of appreciating creative endeavor properly and not as some frivolous distraction the majority think of it as.
If you would like more of Blyth's translations and commentary, his two-volume A History of Haiku is equally good.