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Miyazawa Kenji

Miyazawa Kenji: Selections

EDITED AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY HIROAKI SATO
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 270
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppjm0
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  • Book Info
    Miyazawa Kenji
    Book Description:

    The poet Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933) was an early twentieth-century Japanese modernist who today is known worldwide for his poetry and stories as well as his devotion to Buddhism.Miyazawa Kenji: Selectionscollects a wide range of his poetry and provides an excellent introduction to his life and work. Miyazawa was a teacher of agriculture by profession and largely unknown as a poet until after his death. Since then his work has increasingly attracted a devoted following, especially among ecologists, Buddhists, and the literary avant-garde. This volume includes poems translated by Gary Snyder, who was the first to translate a substantial body of Miyazawa's work into English. Hiroaki Sato's own superb translations, many never before published, demonstrate his deep familiarity with Miyazawa's poetry. His remarkable introduction considers the poet's significance and suggests ways for contemporary readers to approach his work. It further places developments in Japanese poetry into a global context during the first decades of the twentieth century. In addition the book features a Foreword by the poet Geoffrey O'Brien and essays by Tanikawa Shuntaro, Yoshimasu Gozo, and Michael O'Brien.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93958-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. FOREWORD: A Modernist in the Mountains
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
    GEOFFREY O’BRIEN

    The Japanese poet Miyazawa Kenji, who died in 1933 at the age of thirty-seven, became a culture hero on the strength of a single brief poem written toward the end of his obscure and voluntarily impoverished life. “November 3rd”—an unpublished notebook entry probably intended more as a prayer than a poem—sketches a portrait of an idealized ascetic:

    neither yielding to rain

    nor yielding to wind

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    without greed

    never getting angry

    always smiling quietly

    eating one and a half pints of brown...

  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-58)

    Gary Snyder was the first to translate a body of Miyazawa Kenji’s poems into English. In the 1960s, Snyder, then living in Kyoto and pursuing Buddhism, was offered a grant to translate Japanese literature. He sought Burton Watson’s opinion, and Watson, a scholar of Chinese classics trained at the University of Kyoto, recommended Kenji.¹ Snyder had first heard about Kenji a decade earlier, while he was attending the Buddhist Study Center in Berkeley, when Jane Imamura, the wife of the center’s founder, Kanmo, showed him a translation of a poem. This poem, which I here call “November 3rd,” impressed him,...

  6. A NOTE ON THE TRANSLATIONS
    (pp. 59-60)
  7. POEMS

    • from SPRING & ASURA (FIRST COLLECTION)
      (pp. 63-104)

      The phenomenon called “I”

      is a blue illumination

      of the hypothesized, organic alternating current lamp

      (a compound of all transparent ghosts)

      a blue illumination

      of the karmic alternating current lamp

      which flickers busily, busily

      with landscapes, with everyone

      yet remains lit with such assuredness

      (the light persists, the lamp lost)

      In the twenty-two months, which I perceive

      lie in the direction of the past

      I have linked these pieces on paper with mineral ink

      (they flicker with me,

      everyone feels them simultaneously)

      each a chain of shadow and light,

      mental sketches as they are,

      which have been kept until now....

    • from SPRING & ASURA (SECOND COLLECTION)
      (pp. 105-150)

      To stand under the blue gleaming sea of wide air

      and burn in so obviously pious a manner

      a fragment of whitecigarette

      is to contribute to the negative of the moon’s light and glitter,

      to the cold moon on the water

      . . . but the wound on my right palm

      surrounded by the steel-blue isotherm

      throbs, throbs excitedly . . .

      Hence, you should forgo the project of hunting for a piano

      and play that medium-sized viola.

      The pious, upright manner in which you stand

      bathed in the ice crystals being woven in such light

      is not appropriate...

    • from SPRING & ASURA (THIRD COLLECTION)
      (pp. 151-202)

      When the sun shines, birds sing,

      the oak woods here and there

      grow hazy,

      I’ll have dirty palms

      that make a gritty noise.

      Somehow I walk up

      to roadside cut branches and touch them,

      and turn at a whitish wind:

      in many spots dark groves for windbreaks

      and rice stalks flowering and fallen all over the place

      glowing in the rain under black clouds.

      Over there are dozens of gloomy hamlets

      where a while back I avoided sharp sidelong glances

      or jeering words; well then

      what is it that makes my heart

      pound in such a foolish way?

      The trail...

    • from DURING ILLNESS & OTHER POEMS
      (pp. 203-222)

      For ten days after I came down with pneumonia

      during daytime too I was asleep almost in bliss

      waking I couldn’t even breathe

      couldn’t even move my body a little

      but in exhausted sleep

      I was moving freely

      over a large mountain covered white with snow

      along its rocky path

      carrying yellow triangular banners

      and spears adorned with bird feathers

      in single file an army comes

      This blue-dark enormous room—

      how could this be my lungs?

      in it sulking elementary schoolteachers

      carrying on a grudgy conference for four hours already

      pump the pump on its part makes rackety noise

      arms...

  8. ON MIYAZAWA KENJI

    • FOUR IMAGES
      (pp. 225-228)
      TANIKAWA SHUNTARŌ

      Printed on the flyleaf, in soft reddish-yellow like that of whetting powder, is the picture. In azashiki¹ of an old house in the countryside are small children dressed in kimonos too short for them, dancing hand in hand. Written horizontally on the picture mold near the ceiling² is “Round the Highways”—is that the name of the dance? In one corner, separate from the ring of dancers, is a single child; he seems to have something in his hand, but I can’t tell what it is. An elementary school boy myself, I know the child is azashiki bokko.³...

    • WE ARE ALL EXCELLENT MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
      (pp. 229-234)
      YOSHIMASU GŌZŌ

      I am entering it from a slight, door. From a slightly open door, . . . It, there, may be where the core of the fragrance of the flower has gone. (No interlinear annotations please, . . . Use ordinary writing, would you, . . . So I was told, I know, but, well, no matter how I try, my heart ends up sliding toward the delicate branches and leaves—but they are my important pleasure, the branchleaves, . . . I’ll try to make it as small in volume as I can, Ōhara-san (Mr. Ōhara Tetsuo—the person in...

    • MIYAZAWA KENJI
      (pp. 235-236)
      MICHAEL O’BRIEN

      No lack of reasons to like and admire his poems. The wildly diVerent vocabularies that live side by side in them—religious, technical, scientific, official—keep you on your toes, dispel habit and routine. Every page makes it clear that in them there’s no such thing as the poetic, for then there would have to be the unpoetic, which would have to be avoided, and these poems exclude and avoid nothing. The opposite of hothouse work, they dwell among others, like those of William Carlos Williams, another busy man who wrote on the run. They’re as devout as the poems...

  9. GLOSSARY OF JAPANESE NAMES AND TERMS
    (pp. 237-242)
  10. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 243-246)
  11. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 247-248)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-249)