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One Hundred People, One Poem Each, edited by Fujiwara no Teika, translated by Larry Hammer

Review copy provided by the translator, who is a friend on this here internet for many years.

This is a famous and formative collection of Japanese poetry, first compiled in the 13th century and referenced often in the centuries since. There are names in this volume that have remained famous in the time since–there’s a Sei Shonagon poem in here, and one by Murasaki Shikibu, and several emperors–but also there are names that are less famous even to someone who’s studied Japanese literature. Looking at how that kind of compilation can end up assorted is fascinating.

The themes here are the expected ones because this volume did a great deal to set those expectations–so when there are lots of lovers crying into their sleeves, seasonal references, meeting in dreams, it’s interesting to watch them develop. The layout is similar to the previous translation volume I read from Larry, where the original and the translation are both given, and also contextual translation notes that point out where something is wordplay in the original, what significance a location had, the sort of thing that’s sometimes crucial and always set apart so it doesn’t nag at the poem itself. The poems are all five line formal ones, all very brief, so this is not a long read but a very rewarding one all the same.

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