The Art of Haiku


with notes by William J. Higginson

books marked * are additional to those mentioned in The Art of Haiku

Akihito, Emperor, and Empress Michiko, Tomoshibi: Light:
Collected Poetry by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko
edited by Marie PhilomŔne and Masako Saito. Tokyo, Weatherhill, 1991.
Altogether over 300 poems; a rich look at the persistence of the courtly tradition, this collection includes original Japanese texts and romanizations in an appendix; the translations are faithful.
* Brannen, Noah S., and William I. Elliot, editors and translators,
Songs They Sang in Ancient Japan: Isles of the Dragonfly.
Tokyo: Heine, 1995.
One is unlikely to find this outside of Japan, but it is worth a search. Covers much the same territory as Philippi's This Wine of Peace, This Wine of Laughter, with complete Japanese text facing. A somewhat wider range of work is also included, with many of the popular folk song forms that came to be prized by the ancient court in connection with music and dance. Those who know hiragana and some simple Chinese characters will be able to detect which are in tanka form, which the translations do not always reveal.
Brower, Robert H., and Earl Miner,
Japanese Court Poetry.
Stanford University Press, 1961.
The standard academic study on the subject. Good background; the translations are hardly poetry.
*Carter, Steven D., editor and translator,
Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology.
Stanford: Stanford U P, 1991.
This may well be the most thorough and useful anthology of "traditional" Japanese poetry ever produced in English. It contains a wide range of waka, tanka, linked poetry, and haikai (including haiku and senryu). The translations and the annotations and brief introductions are excellent. The format at times almost interferes, but is worth brushing aside for the goodies.
* Carter, Steven D., editor and translator,
Waiting for the Wind: Thirty-six Poets of Japan's Late Medieval Age.
New York: Columbia U P, [1989].
A fascinating study of the major court (i.e., tanka) poets at a time when rival schools fought with one another for Imperial and courtly recognition. Brief biographical notes sort out the players, and hundreds of poems in excellent translations comprise the bulk of the book.
Ch˘bunsai, Eishi, editor and illustrator.
The Thirty-Six Immortal Women Poets
(Nishikizuri onna sanjűrokkasen), introduction, commentaries, and translations by Andrew J. Pekarik. New York, George Braziller, 1991.
Gorgeous ukiyoe prints with a poem or two by each poet, with excellent commentary. Pekarik gets my vote as the best translator of classical waka into 31 syllables in English.
* Cranston, Edwin, editor and translator,
A Waka Anthology, Volume One: The Gem-Glistening Cup.
Stanford: Stanford U P, 1993.
With over 1,000 pages, this tome contains virtually every Japanese waka extant from the Kojiki through the Many˘shű. Many of these, of course, are in tanka form. Despite the considerable academic apparatus, the translations are eminently readable. If Cranston manages to complete his four-volume project, all the poems worthy of note to 1200 C.E. will be accessible in English for the first time. (Note that "waka" means "poems in Japanese language" and even excludes poems that mix Chinese loan-words in with native Japanese. It cannot sensibly be applied to poems written in any other language.)
* Fujiwara no Sadaie, editor,
The Little Treasury of One Hundred People, One Poem Each
translated by Tom Galt. Princeton: Princeton U P, 1982.
Fujiwara no Sadaie, more commonly known as Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241), was acknowledged as the greatest poet and compiler of poetry of his time. This is a translation of the popular collection often called "One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets" (Ogura hyakunin isshu, in Japanese), on which the most popular Japanese card game is based. Galt's 5-7-5-7-7 translations and notes make the poems quite accessible. (Includes romanization.)
* Fujiwara Teika,
Fujiwara Teika's Hundred-Poem Sequence of the Sh˘ji Era, 1200: A Complete Translation
translated by Robert H. Brower. Tokyo: Sophia University, 1978.
The extensive introduction gives readers an excellent view of the ethos that underlay Japanese poetry of the late Heian era and its tanka. This is the largest collection of poems by Teika in English; the translations are extremely wordy and not very poetic, but aided by extensive notes.
* Fujiwara Teika, editor,
Fujiwara Teika's Superior Poems of Our Time: A Thirteenth-Century Poetic Treatise and Sequence
translated by Robert H. Brower and Earl Miner. Stanford: Stanford U P, 1967.
This study focuses on the many simple and subtle methods Teika used to order poems in his anthologies--most of which are completely lost on the uninitiated reader. The poems are eminently worthy, the translations poor as poetry.
Got˘, Miyoko, I Am Alive:
The Tanka Poems of Got˘ Miyoko, 1898-1978
translated by Reiko Tsukimura. Oakland, Katydid Books, 1988.
I find her the most impressive modern tanka poet; she lived a long life and moved through many different phases, exploring each one to its end. The translations are among the best of all modern tanka. Includes original Japanese text.
Hirshfield, Jane, and Mariko Aratani, translators.
The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan.
New York, Vintage Books, 1990.
Excellent translations of these two richly rewarding poets. Japanese texts in romanization, good notes, and a fine introduction placing the poets in their milieux.
Ishikawa, Takuboku,
Romaji Diary and Sad Toys
translated by Sanford Goldstein and Seishi Shinoda. Rutland, Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1985.
The most comprehensive look at the writings of an early, influential modernist tanka poet. Fine translations, with originals and romanized Japanese.
Ishikawa Takuboku,
Takuboku: Poems to Eat
translated by Carl Sesar. Tokyo. Kodansha International, 1966.
Includes tanka not translated elsewhere, with Japanese texts. Still my favorite collection of Takuboku's work in English.
Lowitz, Leza, et al., editors and translators,
A Long Rainy Season: Haiku & Tanka, Vol. I of Contemporary Japanese Women's Poetry.
Berkeley, Stone Bridge Press, 1994.
Includes varying numbers of tanka by eight contemporary Japanese poets, in free-form but relatively dependable five-line translations.
* McCullough, Helen Craig,
Brocade by Night: 'Kokin Wakashű' and the Court Style in Japanese Classical Poetry.
Stanford: Stanford U P, 1985.
This companion volume to McCullough's translation of the Kokin Wakashű (see next item) contains an excellent study of the first Imperial anthology and related works. Those seriously interested in the tanka's history, structure, and style would do well to read it, preferably followed immediately by Ueda's Modern Japanese Tanka anthology.
* McCullough, Helen Craig, translator,
Kokin Wakashű: The First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry, with 'Tosa Nikki' and 'Shinsen Waka'.
Stanford: Stanford U P, 1985.
A complete translation of this major achievement from more than a millennium ago, this book allows one to read straight through the 1100-poem Kokinshű, as it is most often called. All in counted syllables, the translation is an incredible tour de force. The 'Shinsen Waka' gives a selection of the top 360 poems made by Ki no Tsurayuki (one of the Kokinshű compilers).
Masaoka, Shiki,
Songs from a Bamboo Village: Selected Tanka from Take no Sato Uta
translated by Sanford Goldstein and Seishi Shinoda.
Shiki, known in America mainly as the first great modern haiku poet, also revolutionized tanka and short prose essays. This collection gives the first fulsome look at his tanka in English. Introduction, translations, romanized Japanese text, and thorough notes.
* Miner, Earl,
An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry.
Stanford, Stanford U P, 1968.
A much simplified and reduced version of Brower and Miner, with some different poems as examples. Not a bad place to begin to get an idea of the tradition.
ďoka, Makoto,
A Poet's Anthology: The Range of Japanese Poetry
translated by Janine Beichman. Santa Fe, Katydid Books, 1994.
Comprehensive short overview of Japanese poetry, traditional and modern; extensive commentary by Japan's leading modern poet and one of her most popular critics. Excellent translations.
* Philippi, Donald, translator,
This Wine of Peace, This Wine of Laughter: A Complete Anthology of Japan's Earliest Songs.
New York: Grossman, 1968.
One of the most beautifulŚand beautifully producedŚcollections of early Japanese poetry in English. The translations are felicitous. Includes good notes and finding aids for the originals, assuming one has scholarly editions in Japanese. No romanization.
Reichhold, Jane, and Werner Reichhold,
Wind Five Folded: An Anthology of English-Language Tanka.
Gualala, Aha Books, 1994.
A substantial collection that gives an overview of the range of activity in English.
* Saigy˘,
Mirror for the Moon: A Selection of Poems by Saigy˘ (1118-1190)
translated by William R. LaFleur. New York: New Directions, 1978.
For years the best selection of Saigy˘ available in English, and still an excellent companion to Watson's collection, though I prefer the latter's translations.
Songs of a Mountain Home
translated by Burton Watson. New York, Columbia U P, 1990.
Watson has brought more work from classical Japanese and Chinese into English than perhaps anyone and presents fine translations. Saigy˘ (1118-1190) was one of the greatest creators of the late court poetry.
Sait˘, Mokichi,
Red Lights: Selected Tanka Sequences from Shakk˘
translated by Seishi Shinoda and Sanford Goldstein. West Lafayette, Purdue University Press, 1989.
This team's usual fine translations and excellent introduction make this often intensely personal poetry accessible. Includes Japanese text and romanization.
* Sato, Hiroaki, and Burton Watson, editors and translators,
From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry.
Seattle: U of Washington P, 1981.
This, the largest anthology of a full range of Japanese poetry in English, has appeared in many editions. (The first was a paperback by Doubleday.) It contains a broad sampling of earlier poetry and much later and modern work, some traditional poems in Sato's prose-style and others in Watson's versions more traditionally set in verse lines that correspond to the originals' phrases. Of course, it's not just tanka. J. Thomas Rimer's brief introduction is very good.
* Shiffert, Edith, and Yuki Sawa, editors and translators,
Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry.
Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle, 1972.
Usefully divided into sections of free verse, tanka, and haiku, this is a much slighter work than many, but the translations are competent and the design open and easy to read. The 17-page tanka section contains 2-4 poems per page, from nine poets.
* Shikishi, Princess,
String of Beads: Complete Poems of Princess Shikishi
Hiroaki Sato, translator. Honolulu: U Hawaii P, 1993.
For many years Sato has studied the poems of Princess Shikishi (d. 1201), the female poet most admired after Komachi and Izumi in the era of the court poetry. This book yields the fruit of his labors, in his unique prose (he calls them "one-line") translations, with abundant notes to help readers enjoy the poems. In the process, he has included three "one-hundred poem sequences", a type of composition favored during her era and producing virtuoso performances in the hands of so skillful a poet. While I call Sato's translations "prose", I only mean by this that he neither reflects the scansion of the originals nor invents one for English; his versions read very well indeed, and are well worth study.
Unforgotten Dreams: Poems by the Zen Monk Sh˘tetsu
translated by Steven D. Carter. New York, Columbia U P, 1997.
Carter is one of the best academic translators of Japan's traditional poetry, and this book gives a deep view of the work of Sh˘tetsu (1381?-1459?), who lived during the ascendancy of the linked poem and still clung to the way of the uta that we know today as tanka. Includes romanized Japanese texts and introduction.
Tawara, Machi,
Salad Anniversary
Jack Stamm, translator. Tokyo, Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 1988.
A somewhat different selection from the Carpenter volume (see below), in much more faithful translations as to both form and content. Includes the Japanese text.
Tawara, Machi,
Salad Anniversary
Juliet Winters Carpenter, translator. Tokyo, Kodansha International, 1989.
Poorly done translations that often miss the spirit of the originals, as well as the form. (Un)fortunately, the Japanese originals are not included in any form.
Ueda, Makoto,
Modern Japanese Tanka: An Anthology.
New York, Columbia U P, 1996.
The one book of its kind in English; excellent translations of a great range of work by twentieth-century Japanese poets. Not to be missed.
Welch, Michael Dylan, ed.,
Footsteps in the Fog.
Foster City, Press Here, 1994.
A fine, if slender, small press anthology of tanka by American poets writing in English.
Yosano, Akiko,
Tangled Hair: Selected Tanka from Midaregami
Sanford Goldstein and Seishi Shinoda, translators. Lafayette, Purdue University Studies, 1971.
Still my favorite presentation of Akiko in English, this beautifully designed book with fine translations, full Japanese texts and r˘maji, deserves a reprint.
Yosano, Akiko,
River of Stars: Selected Poems
translated by Sam Hamill and Keiko Matsui Gibson. Boston, Shambala, 1997.
A broader range of fewer poems, with a number of her longer poems as well as tanka. Reasonable translations, no Japanese except for the occasional kanji in fine calligraphy by Stephen Addiss.

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