Miyazawa Kenji (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
Miyazawa Kenji: Selections offers new translations by Hiroaki Sato of the poems of one of Japan’s most celebrated early twentieth century poets. Even though Kenji Miyazawa published just one anthology of his poetry during his lifetime, Haru to shura (1924; spring and asura), the efforts of his friends to publish his works after his death assured him a place in the canon of contemporary Japanese poetry.
The English-speaking reader who encounters the poetry of Kenji Miyazawa for the first time in this anthology is struck quickly by Miyazawa’s modernism. Miyazawa deftly combines classical Japanese themes and Buddhist beliefs with images and words taken from the industrial age that entered Japan in force by the later years of the Meiji era (1868-1912) when Miyazawa was a boy. Thus “Proem” opens with a modern view of the fragility of the self: “The phenomenon called ‘I’/ is a blue illumination/ of the hypothesized, organic alternating current lamp” that also casts flickering landscapes and creates a whole universe that may be nothing but an illusion of the mind. The modern image of an electric lamp is complemented further by the persona’s use of scientific geological and meteorological terms such as “the glittering frozen nitrogen/ at the top stratum of the atmosphere” that contributes to his observed reality.
“Spring and Asura,” the popular title poem of Miyazawa’s sole lifetime anthology, presents the...
(The entire section is 1960 words.)
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