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This article is taken from PN Review 43, Volume 11 Number 5, May - June 1985.

Japanese Poetry Again Michael Edwards

'The court poet Draden Jon, who was Chief Official of the Poetry Office towards the end of the Stiu At Dynasty (1603-1714), organized a Commercial Anthology of Translations from the archaic poet Naso, completed by Minor Lord Gāth in 1717 . . . In the foreign Jiō-Jan Dynasty that followed, the greatest disciple of Draden, the rural poet Po'p, known as Tuiknam no Wosp, or the Stinging Insect of Tuiknam, compiled elegant imitations of the writings of the master Ho Ris . . . The most admired work of Po'p, composed in about the ninth lunar month of the year 1711 during the reign of the Princess Ana of the Three Kingdoms, was a mock-courtly poem called "Song of the Thieving of the Lady Fe Mo's Ringlet" . . . Diction acceptable for poetry was severely restricted in the Restored Kingdom, and far more so in the Old Kingdom of the Mainland. Rasīn Djan, Historian of Lūi, "the Sun King", attracted censure for having introduced into one of his court entertainments the daily word "dogs" . . . '

Extracts, of course, from a hypothetical Japanese history of Augustan poetry, designed to suggest that, as a foreign gaze can translate the familiar into something strange, much of what looks alien in Japanese poetry may be owing to the terms in which it is presented. One of the many pleasures of Hiroaki Sato's One Hundred Frogs: From Renga to Haiku to English (Weatherhill, New York and Tokio, £9.95) ...


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