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100 Poems from the Japanese Paperback – June 17, 1955

4.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

It is remarkable that any Westerner--even so fine a poet as Kenneth Rexroth--could have captures in translation so much of the subtle essence of classic Japanese poetry: the depth of controlled passion, the austere elegance of style, the compressed richness of imagery.

About the Author

Poet-essayist Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) was a high-school dropout, disillusioned ex-Communist, pacifist, anarchist, rock-climber, critic and translator, mentor, Catholic-Buddhist spiritualist and a prominent figure of San Francisco's Beat scene. He is regarded as a central figure of the San Francisco Renaissance and is among the first American poets to explore traditional Japanese forms such as the haiku.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 140 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; First Edition edition (June 17, 1955)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811201813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811201810
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luciano Lupini on June 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is one of the greatest "small" books I have ever read. Rexroth conveys a good bird's eye view of classical japanese poetry, with poems selected and translated by him, mostly from the Manyoshu (A.D. 759) and Kokinshu (A.D. 905)compilations.
You will be surprised by the intensity and sensibility that these short poems reflect. Also you will be delighted to read the different depictions of states of mind and heart in this poetry which will eerely convey the atemporal dimension of sorrow, pain, joy and appeasement to the contemporary human being.
An example of what to expect:
The flowers whirl away
In the wind like snow.
The thing that falls away
Is myself.....(Prime Minister Kintsune)
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Format: Paperback
Many decades ago as I was standing in a seemingly endless line at the college bookstore waiting to pay for my texts, I happened to pick up a copy of Kenneth Rexroth's 100 POEMS FROM THE JAPANESE and started thumbing through it in order to kill some time while I waited...and waited...and waited for my turn at the register. By the time I finally made it up there I couldn't have cared less, I was totally engrossed in the small volume that had been meant merely to keep me from thoughts of violence as I continued to wait...and wait...and wait. I knew that I had to have this book, I had fallen in love with Japanese poetry. Since that day I've had 3 copies of the book in all. The first was stolen by a "friend", the second died from over-work, and the third is sitting in front of me as I try to cobble together this review.

I had long hated poetry since its writers tended to exhume every archaic word they knew and went on for as long as they possibly could until they had finally beaten what ever sentiment, or thought they had tried to express into into a gelatinous pulp and left it and the reader whimpering on the floor in helpless submision. Writers of Western and European poetry that is. For when I openned Rexroth's book I learned there was an alternative to the pompous florid verbosity of Western poets and it could be found in the powerful, exquisitely crafted yet extremely economical poetry of Japan.

There are several different poetic forms and a great many shadings and other things to be concerned with, as in the works of all poets, and Rexroth deals with these things both in his introduction as well as in individual notes in the back of the book. He explains everything you need to know in order to understand these poems if you're interested in going beneath their surface beauty.
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Format: Paperback
He has gathered a wonderful collection of quiet often powerful poems. I used to always keep a copy at my desk at work when I needed a break from programming. I think everyone who loves poetry should have a copy.
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Format: Paperback
I won't even begin to pretend that I can critique a book that is so beautiful in the art of Japanese poetry....but I will say that the spare, disciplined beauty of the the poems evoke such emotion from me.

When I was falling in love, my love was in the UK...I sent him this book because I loved it so much and wanted to share it. We tried (clumsily) to text each other in the Haiku style when we thought of something...a sweet memory!

Anyway this book is a must have. Also, there is a great preface by the man who collected the poems and it's very educational.
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Format: Paperback
I'm an ardent sinophile and so absolutely devoured Rexroth's translations from the Chinese. Once I was at the old Yale Co-op Bookstore and saw this volume on the shelf. After intense internal debate I finally bought it and now it's one of my absolute favorites. There are any number of the poems that I know absolutely by heart. The poem "Although I try to hide it" that another reviewer has mentioned is a case in point. When I was in a therapy group in Boston one of the women was having problems with her beau (whom she later married) I spontaneously remembered this poem and recited it to her. Another that I remembered goes:
Will he always love me? I cannot read his heart. In the morning my thoughts are as disordered as my hair.
I've read other translations of Japanese poetry and Rexroth absolutely blows them out of the water. His introduction is an excellent essay in its own right.
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Format: Paperback
In freshman year of high school, I went through an "Asian" phase, I guess, and this was one of the books I bought. The poetry carried me to a world (or rather, Japan) of times past. It's amazing how such short pieces could impact so much. I especially liked that Rexroth included the Japanese words with the poems (even though I know about 20 words of Japanese). However, then (and now), many of the references to various objects and places in the poems went over my head since I have little background in Japanese history or literature (everything I know about Japan, I learned from anime and the three week unit on Asia in World History class). For instance, I never heard of the River Izumi and plains of Mika nor did I know the importance of the Isle of Awaji (let alone where it was). So some of the poems, though they sounded beautiful, were little more than entertaining to me. I lost the significance and meaning. Fortuneately, Rexroth provides a guide in the back to the poets and some of the works in this collection.

If you've never read Japanese poetry before (or read very little), this book is a good introduction. However, having familiarity with Japanese places, literature and symbols helps, since you won't have to flip to the back every other poem.
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