A Poet’s Anthology:
The Range of Japanese Poetry

First published in Woodnotes #22, Autumn 1994, page 40.

A Poet’s Anthology: The Range of Japanese Poetry by Makoto Ōoka. Katydid Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1994, 204 pages, paperback, 6 by 9 inches. $19.95 at bookstores or from University of Hawaii Press, 2840 Kolowalu Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822. With a preface by Donald Keene and supplementary material from William J. Higginson, this book has plenty to offer. Most important are the numerous haiku and tanka (over 150), complete with the original Japanese and romaji, selected by the well-known Japanese poet, Makoto Ōoka. He also includes ample commentary on each poem, all translated into English by Janine Beichman (author of a definitive biography of Shiki). As Beichman observes in her translator’s note, Ōoka’s selections show “the great variety of Japanese poetry.” The brief but informative commentaries go far in explicating the minutiae of Japanese culture and literature. As an introduction to the sweeping range of Japanese poetry over the last 1,200 years, this highly selective book is a welcome sight, and recommended reading. A sample poem from Takajo Mitsuhashi (1899–1972):

A hailstone held

in its beak,

the firebird soars