Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Poetry and Poetics of Nishiwaki Junzaburo

The Poetry and Poetics of Nishiwaki Junzaburo: Modernism in Translation

Hosea Hirata
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Poetry and Poetics of Nishiwaki Junzaburo
    Book Description:

    This book offers an in-depth investigation into the writings of one of modern Japan's most gifted poet-scholars, Nishiwaki Junzaburo (1894-1982), who has been compared to T. S. Eliot, R. M. Rilke, and Paul Valéry. Exploring both his poetry and theoretical writings, Hosea Hirata describes how Nishiwaki, who wrote his first poems in English and French, shaped a highly influential poetic modernism in Japan while elevating the artistic status of translation. This volume includes Nishiwaki's highly original essays on the nature of poetry, his first two collections of Japanese poems, and a poem meditating on the annihilation of symbolism.

    The author maintains that in Japan the language of modernism was that of translation. When Nishiwaki finally began to write poems in Japanese, a new poetic language was born in his country: a translatory language. Hirata elaborates this birth of new poetry via translation by referring to the theories of translation and ofdifférancearticulated by Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida. The author reconsiders the view that translated texts are secondary to the originals, where the truth supposedly resides; instead he presents translation as an essential textual movement,écriture, toward the paradise of pure language and Poetry.

    Originally published in 1993.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6348-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxvi)

    At Christmastime in 1956, in St. Elizabeths Hospital, Ezra Pound received a package containing a newly published volume of his poems in Japanese translation. Arriving in the same package was a long poem entitled “January in Kyoto.” His Japanese translator informed Pound that a Japanese colleague at his university had written itin English:

    Janus, old man,

    Your name is damp and grey and too prolonged

    A ring to rattle in my verse;

    You double-faced, diluted churl of churls,

    You corn-dull, poppy-wilted, beaver-brown,

    You snow-eater, a parasite on roots and berries,

    Iconoclast of gins and perries,

    You’re really one of...

  5. Part One: Translations

    • Surrealist Poetics (Chōgenjitsushugi shiron, 1929)
      (pp. 3-44)

      To discourse upon poetry is as dangerous as to discourse upon God. All poetic theory is dogma. Even that famous lecture Mallarmé delivered to some English students has become another trifling dogma now.¹

      The reality of human existence itself is banal. To sense this fundamental yet supreme banality constitutes the motivation for poetry. Poetry is a method of calling one’s attention to this banal reality by means of a certain unique interest (a mysterious sense of exaltation). An everyday name for this is art.

      Custom dulls the awareness of reality. Conventions let this awareness slip into hibernation. Thus our reality...

    • Ambarvalia (1933)
      (pp. 45-68)
    • No Traveller Returns (Tabibito kaerazu, 1947)
      (pp. 69-116)

      When I analyze myself, I find four worlds within: the worlds of intellect, of emotion, of senses, and of flesh. These may be approximately divided into two worlds: that of intellect and that of nature.

      Next, I find various kinds of people lurking within myself. First, there are the modern man and the primitive man. The former is expressed through modern sciences, philosophy, religion, and letters. The latter is expressed through the studies of primitive cultures, primitive psychology, anthropology, and so on.

      However, there is still another one lurking in me. He probably belongs to the mysteries of life, to...

    • Eterunitasu (1962)
      (pp. 117-128)
  6. Part Two: Modernism in Translation

    • CHAPTER ONE Modernist Poetry in Japan
      (pp. 131-148)

      The birth of modernist poetry in Japan is usually traced back to “Japanese Futurist Manifesto” (1921) by Hirato Renkichi (1893–1922),Dadaisto Shinkichi no shi(1923; Poems of dadaist Shinkichi) by Takahashi Shinkichi (b. 1901), or the publication of the journalAka to kuro(1923; Red and black). The dates of the above publications suggest the fortuitous but subtle connections between the rise of modernism in Japan and the impact of the great Kanto earthquake and fire that occurred on September 1, 1923.¹ The earthquake destroyed half of Tokyo and most of Yokohama and took approximately one hundred thirty thousand...

    • CHAPTER TWO Pure Poetry and Reality
      (pp. 149-166)

      When poetic language, in a drive toward its own purity, loses external meaning, that is, the mediating function of language, silence falls. But then how can writing begin from the encased purity of silence, from the central, most immediate poetry, to which, paradoxically, Wallace Stevens’s words yearn to return? Writing must come into being as a certain failure of this essential silence. And yet poetry itself seems to dwell within the originary silence. What follows is an attempt to trace this primordial struggle between silence and communicative writing—writing as a means to transport “reality” or “poetry.”

      In order to...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Detour of Translation
      (pp. 167-182)

      A poem is placed at the gate of this chapter. To be more precise, a copy of the original, handwritten text with Nishiwaki’s signature is juxtaposed with its translation. This is the poem that opensAmbarvalia, which in turn opened a new era of modernist poetry in Japan. This chapter presents an alternative textual practice to what we usually call “reading a poem.” My reading here does not overtly take the mode of commentary or of interpretation, nor does it aim at what we usually call “understanding a poem.” My reading is rather presented as a detour, a meandering journey...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Ambarvalia to Eternity
      (pp. 183-212)

      Baudelaire evokes our nostalgia for a poetic (and thus necessarily an Oriental?) paradise where only the sweetest language of all, our “mother tongue,” is spoken. We could well assume that Nishiwaki, who was considered one of the best readers of Baudelaire in Japan,¹ was well aware of the homesickness for a purer, more authentic language that would afflict any poet. Yet Nishiwaki’s effort at creating his own poetic voice took a direction totally opposite from the search for a more authentic, “Oriental” mother tongue. Indeed, his first book of poetry written in Japanese,Ambarvalia, presents itself as a surrendering of...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 213-244)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-252)
  9. Index
    (pp. 253-260)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-261)