Monday, December 15, 2008

Notes on Earl Miner's On Japanese Linked Poetry

“Linked Poetry in Japanese Literature”

Haikai is an abbreviation for haikai no renga, which is now called renku. It was Masaoka Shiki who transformed haikai into haiku. “The name haiku," Miner writes," came to be widely used in the last decade or so of the nineteenth century as a result of the movement to reform haiku led by Masaoka Shiki.”

In haikai, each stanza relates only to the preceding and following stanza. There is no continuous "plot," and appropriate responsiveness is more important than dramatic consistency. The episodic structure of Genji monogatari exemplifies this, and in the "Picture Contest" chapter we see that the scroll painted by Genji has a similar sequential structure. “We may be sure that Genji's pictures made up no plot," Miner writes. "But they made a sequence.”

Miner also points out that while Western poetics are derived from ancient Greek drama, Japanese and Chinese poetics have their roots in lyric poetry, which emphasizes, above all, the response elicited in the reader. (Miner calls this "affectivism" or "expressivism.") However, aside from citing the brief preface to the Kokinshū, Miner provides little evidence to support his theory of "affectivism/expressionism.” Are we to make assumptions about the entire canon of pre-modern literature based on this preface?

Renga has its roots in poetic dialogue, which was a feature of such early works as the Kojiki, the Nihonshoki, and the Manyōshū. But the first real examples of renga are found in the fifth of the twenty-one imperial anthologies, Kin'yōshū (ca. 1125), which included some short renga. It was around this time that renga was developed by poets Minamoto no Shunrai (ca. 1057-1129) and Fujiwara Kiyosuke (1104-1177). By the Kamakura (1185-1382) and Muromachi (ca. 1392-1568) periods, “serious renga achieved true greatness.”

Miner points out that renga was the art of exile. “Among those leaving [the capital] were the priests and nobles who favored renga.” “Many masters," he continues, "were priests . . or, like Bashō later, they might have the habits of life by which priests were known.” Other examples include Nōin (998-1050), Saigyō (1118-1190), Sōgi, Sōchō, and, much later, Kaga no Chiyo (1703-1775).

Miner also discusses in some detail the organization of the Kokinshū (905), which is arranged according to subjects, natural progression of nature, or the progression of love affairs (from man’s yearnings to woman’s last miseries). After the Kokinshū, this arrangement became the norm. With later anthologies, the section (miscellaneous poems) was often expanded, and "sometimes mirrored the collection at large."

As renga developed, its rules and categories grew more complex. Shinku (close) and soku (distant) relations were introduced, in addition to the new "ushin" and "mushin" styles.

Miner concludes that the history of pre-modern Japanese poetry can be divided into three major stages, according to the dominant poetic forms. First, there was waka, which, already possessing a tendency toward multiple narratives, grew into renga, which then found its final form in haikai (no renga).
“Some Canons of Haikai”

In the kasen style of haikai, there are 36 stanzas, two of which are "flower stanzas" (lines 17 and 35), and three of which are "moon stanzas" (lines 5, 14, and 29). In renga, there are typically 100 stanzas, and the rules are numerous. Yet these rules were abandoned in later renga, and elements previously regarded as vulgar became acceptable. Common artifacts from daily life found there way into poems, and aesthetic distance and fiction are introduced. “Such developments appear to signify a growing tendency to fictionalize,” Miner explains. He goes on:

Such developments are often thought to signify artifice, especially by the Japanese, and especially by Japanese today influenced by the kind of thinking encouraged by Masaoka Shiki. In truth, Japanese literature is often less fictional―or at least more autobiographical―than Western. But the deities in the ancient records were given for their speeches verse composed earlier, and in the Man'yōshū poems by sophisticated poets mask as compositions by the humble or even by animals. . . It is a mater of fine balance. The sabi style of Bashō’s great period is itself a specially fine balance―as it were―between the fictionalizing aestheticism of Buson and the more autobiographical character of Bashō’s own late and “light” style.

[Miner, Earl. Japanese Linked Poetry : An Account with Translations of Renga and Haikai Sequences. Princeton University Press. 1979.]


Anonymous said...

You mention the Kokinshu here. For a great translation of the collection, I recommend -- Kokinshu : a collection of poems ancient and modern / translated and annotated by Laurel Rasplica Rodd with Mary Catherine Henkenius, and which includes "a study of Chinese influences on the Kokinshu prefaces by John Timothy Wixted and an annotated translation of the Chinese preface by Leonard Grzanka."

Here are my notes from that work. Hope they makes sense.


Arrangement of the Anthology

1-2 Spring

3 Summer

4-5 Autumn

6 Winter

7 Felicitations

8 Parting

9 Travel

10 Wordplays

11-15 Love

16 Grief

17-18 Miscellaneous

19 Miscellaneous Forms

20 Court Poems

The Aesthetic of Reading the Kokinshū

Analysis of poems 1-16; 469-82.

Collection, meant to be read as a whole: “a collection of poems that work together to create something larger” (24).

“The context may dictate the interpretation: it may expand or limit the meaning of a poem or focus attention on a theme or image less striking when the poem is read alone or in other contexts” (24).

Sequence: passage of time

Progression in love poems: pre-love-the act- uncertainty, distance- parting - restless wandering-

Collective Nuisance-- KANAJO: THE JAPANESE PREFACE, by Ki no Tsurayuki

Yamato uta: its seeds “lie in the human heart and grow into leaves of ten thousand words.”

Six poetic principles: Suasive (soeuta; hidden meaning poems); description (kazoeuta); comparison (nazuraeuta); evocative imagery (tatoeuta); elegantia (tadagotouta); eulogy (iwaiuta)

Primacy of experience: “sometimes the poet wandered through untraveled places to use the image of the blossoms; sometimes he went to dark unknown wilderness lands to write of the moon.”

Distinction between form (expression) and content: “Fun’ya no Yashuhide used words skillfully but the expression does not suit the contents. His poetry is like a tradesman attired in elegant robes.”

Burt H said...

Thanks Jill!