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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

A JAPANESE MAKER Paula Doe, A Warbler's Song in the Dusk: The Life and Work of Otomo Yakamochi (718-785) (University of California Press) £21.50

Yakamochi was not only a major poet but also probably the principal creator of the Japanese poetic tradition, being both the compiler of the first of the great anthologies, the Man 'yoshu, and indicating by his own example the way the tradition was to develop. About one tenth of the Man 'yoshu is taken up with his own poems and the extraordinary scope of that anthology (when compared with later Japanese anthologies) can probably be put down to his own serious concern with the various aspects of poetic craft. Here is a genuinely seminal figure and it comes as no surprise that he should be chosen for a full length study of this kind. Inevitably the book originated as a Ph.D. thesis and that, plus the unfortunate title (which I hope can be blamed on the publisher) and the remarkable price will probably be sufficient to keep the general reader away, which would be a pity since it is certainly well worth reading by anyone with an interest in oriental poetry or, indeed, with an interest in poetry, assuming it extends beyond works written in his own language. The very prejudice against the doctorate is a form of parochialism based upon an awareness of the disasters which have occurred in an overworked field such as English literature; in the study of oriental literatures the research student is not obliged to pick on a subject of minimal interest, and the enthusiasm, energy and time which are required to work on ...


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