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Saigyo (1118–1190)

Author of Poems of a Mountain Home

9+ Works 249 Members 3 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

Includes the names: 西行, Saigyō,

Also includes: S (1)

Disambiguation Notice:

aka Sato Norikiyo

Image credit: Everything Is Illuminated

Works by Saigyo

Associated Works

Zen Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets) (1999) — Contributor — 172 copies

Tagged

Common Knowledge

Birthdate
1118
Date of death
1190-3-23
Gender
male
Nationality
Japan
Places of residence
Osaka, Japan (death)
Occupations
priest
poet
Disambiguation notice
aka Sato Norikiyo

Members

Reviews

There were a handful I liked, the rest were just OK.
 
Flagged
unclebob53703 | 1 other review | Dec 11, 2017 |
I bought this because Saigyo is traditionally considered the principal model for Basho. But sadly, the book has crippling flaws. There is a long biographical introduction, which does not solve problems of interpretation. For example there is this lovely poem:

My body will somewhere fall
by the wayside into a state of
sleep and more sleep --
like the dew that each night appears,
then falls from roadside grasses.

This stands out among dozens of others because of the specificity of its simile. But that specificity may be an illusion, brought to the poem by my Western reading habits: I see it as more particular than tropes in other poems, because I picture the leaves of grass bending slightly, and the drops drooping, and I think of those as figures for exhaustion, made poignant by the lightness of drops of water. But perhaps I'm only supposed to be thinking of the raindrops' ephemerality and anonymity.

Another example, said to be Saigyo's most famous poem:

I thought I was free
of passions, so this melancholy
comes as a surprise:
a woodcock shoots up from marsh
where autumn's twilight falls.

The translation permits two readings: in one, the melancholy is what's figured by the image of the woodcock and the marsh, and together they comprise the writer's mood; in the other, surprise is what is figured, and melancholy is previous and unexplained. The gloss doesn't discuss this, and introduces a completely different idea:

"What happens in the scene of the darkening marsh is is reflected in the person of the poet, someone in whom, fortunately, long and arduous practice had not taken away the capacity to respond emotionally to a sudden manifestation of beauty." (p. 68)

I can't understand this, or how the author, William LaFleur, could think it is an adequate interpretation. If it is right, then the woodcock in the autumn marsh means only beauty, and neither surprise nor melancholy play any determinate part.

Perhaps I'm thinking too much like William Empson, but unless I can understand the basic ground rules of interpretation, it doesn't help to be told Saiygo sounds "medieval" in comparison to Basho, and it certainly doesn't help to be given a long biography of the poet. For all I know, I'm reading into translations that themselves read into, or even past, the poet.

And "Awesome Nightfall," as a title, does not do anything for my confidence in these translations. It's such a stupid title that my wife made fun of me every time she saw the cover. It sounds like a teenager's reaction to a sunset.
… (more)
½
 
Flagged
JimElkins | Jan 11, 2011 |
Saigyo was a 12th-century Buddhist monk who left court life to pursue priesthood and poetry. He writes waka in a form which seems to be innovative for its time by focusing more closely on nature themes and imagery and less on social and emotional situations. Saigyo was a strong influence on later poets such as Basho.

This book is a selection of Saigyo's poems organized according to seasonal topics (plus "love" and "miscellaneous"). I enjoyed the poems, though none in particular stand out as exceptional. The introduction and footnotes are helpful and explain Saigyo's life in a sketchy fashion, though apparently very little is actually known about him.… (more)
1 vote
Flagged
tombrinck | 1 other review | May 13, 2006 |

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Statistics

Works
9
Also by
1
Members
249
Popularity
#91,698
Rating
4.1
Reviews
3
ISBNs
21
Languages
6
Favorited
2

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