For All My Walking: Free-Verse Haiku of Taneda Santōka with Excerpts from His Diaries

For All My Walking: Free-Verse Haiku of Taneda Santōka with Excerpts from His Diaries

For All My Walking: Free-Verse Haiku of Taneda Santōka with Excerpts from His Diaries

For All My Walking: Free-Verse Haiku of Taneda Santōka with Excerpts from His Diaries

Synopsis

In April 1926, the Japanese poet Taneda Santoka (1882--1940) set off on the first of many walking trips, journeys in which he tramped thousands of miles through the Japanese countryside. These journeys were part of his religious training as a Buddhist monk as well as literary inspiration for his memorable and often painfully moving poems. The works he wrote during this time comprise a record of his quest for spiritual enlightenment.

Although Santoka was master of conventional-style haiku, which he wrote in his youth, the vast majority of his works, and those for which he is most admired, are in free-verse form. He also left a number of diaries in which he frequently recorded the circumstances that had led to the composition of a particular poem or group of poems. In For All My Walking, master translator Burton Watson makes Santoka's life story and literary journeys available to English-speaking readers and students of haiku and Zen Buddhism. He allows us to meet Santoka directly, not by withholding his own opinions but by leaving room for us to form our own. Watson's translations bring across not only the poetry but also the emotional force at the core of the poems.

This volume includes 245 of Santoka's poems and of excerpts from his prose diary, along with a chronology of his life and a compelling introduction that provides historical and biographical context to Taneda Santoka's work.

Excerpt

The brief poetic form known today as haiku enjoyed immense popularity in Japan during the Edo period (1600-1867), when poets such as Bashō and Buson produced superlative works in the genre and a craze for haiku writing spread through many sectors of the population. But by the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the beginning of Japan’s modern era, the form had sunk to a very low level of literary worth, being marked mainly by stale imitations of the past or facile wordplay or satire, often of a vulgar nature.

In the early years of the Meiji period, the poet and critic Masaoka Shiki (1867—1902) succeeded in injecting new life into the form and restoring it as a vehicle for serious artistic expression. Since his time, the writing of haiku has constituted an integral part of the Japanese literary scene, and in recent years the form has been taken up by poets in many other countries and languages as well.

Although Shiki greatly broadened the subject matter of the haiku and employed a more colloquial diction, he continued to write in the traditional form, which uses seventeen syllables or sound symbols arranged in a 5-7—5 pattern and invariably includes a kigo (season word) that indicates the particular season in which the poem is set.

Shiki had two outstanding disciples in the art of haiku composition: Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959) and Kawahigashi Hekigotō (1873-1937). Kyoshi, writing in the traditional haiku form as Shiki had, produced during his long life a large body of works that has been highly esteemed by Japanese critics. Hekigotō, on the contrary, in time grew dissatisfied with the formal requirements of the traditional haiku and began experimenting with the writing of what are now . . .

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