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The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse by…
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The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse (1964)

by Geoffrey Bownas (Translator), Anthony Thwaite (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 3 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
Very much a dual-personality type of book. The lengthy introduction is excellent, just what a newcomer needs. The selection seems judicious and representative, at least if the overview provided by the introduction is accurate. What gives me pause, though, is that much of the time the translations themselves seem unsatisfactory, when considered in light of the principles expressed in the introduction. Fellow LT’er funfunyay has already remarked on the problem with the tankas in her/his/their (?) review at http://www.librarything.com/work/629847/reviews/48710966 . The same is true of the sedoka. More than once I had this feeling: “Is this the way things go? / Must it go on and on? / Yes. We are on earth.” ( )
  jburlinson | Feb 28, 2010 |
This book is a good overview of Japanese literature, although I wouldn't have chosen all the things that they decided to include.
My issue is with the translation. It reads well, and is pretty proficient with imagery and diction. But tankas are mostly translated into four lines. This baffles me. What's the point of translating a tanka if your not even going to try to make it five lines? And this is consistent throughout the book, and makes me wonder if the other poems weren't treated the same.
So Fie on you Thwaite! Fie on you.
1 vote funfunyay | Aug 15, 2009 |
An excellent book for entry into Japanese poetry. ( )
1 vote signature103 | May 14, 2008 |
A wonderful introduction to Japanese poetry. ( )
1 vote Fledgist | Jun 7, 2007 |
A whetting of the pallet, August 27, 2002
Reviewer: S. O SPEARS (Tokyo, Japan) - See all my reviews

There are two types of people who would normally consider buying this book: a person interested in world literature and/or poetry, or someone who enjoys or is studying Japanese literature in particular.
For the former, this book will be more than satisfactory. It contains a broad cross-section of poetry, from ancient times to more recent poets, and includes an easy to understand introduction to the general history of Japanese verse. For those who enjoyed this, the next step would be to move into a larger collection like From the Country of Eight Islands.

For someone more serious about studying or reading Japanese literature, it would be better to go strait for From the Country of Eight Islands or one of the more concentrated collections/translations. This book was apparently only meant to satisfy a nitche in the area of published works, i.e. a small, general collection of Japanese poetry translations, but, as can be assumed from only having a little over 200 pages worth of material, only quick looks at a broad body of poetry are offered. The introduction, as well, does not move beyond the realm of common knowledge on the subject, and will leave people who already have a base of information handy wanting more.

Overall, the translations are not terrible, but they are also not wonderful. The choice always needs to be made between getting across a poetic feel and portraying all of the nuances contained in a poem. Although the translations are easy to read, it would have helped to have footnotes or some other guide to glean further information from.

The bottom line: great for the dabbler, lacking for the student.



3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

by all means place a special order, October 13, 1998
Reviewer: A reader
I stumbled across this book at a garage sale in southside Chicago. Though then 15 years old, it still had its cellophane wrapping intact. I pity the people who had it for so long and never peeked in, because it is a beautiful collection of poetry. It samples a wide range, from around 1000 a.d. to the 20th century (much of it tanka and haiku). At around 200 pages the book is a bit short for the task, but what is here is superbly rendered, and many of these poems can fill an afternoon with reveries. I have taken this book with me everwhere.


  AzureFairy | Sep 23, 2005 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bownas, GeoffreyTranslatorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thwaite, AnthonyTranslatormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Kano SankuruCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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From the 3rd century to the present, this collection offers some of the most beautiful Japanese verse, with folk songs and lullabies alongside traditional tanka and haiku verse, as well as the modern style poems with their sharper satirical flavour.

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