Some aspects of the author's life and text seem curiously modern. She married late and identified more as a writer than as a wife and mother. Enthralled by romantic fiction, she wrote extensively about the disillusioning blows that reality can deal to fantasy. The Sarashina Diary is a portrait of the writer as reader and a tribute to the power of reading to shape one's expectations and aspirations. As a person and an author, this writer presages the medieval era in Japan with her deep concern for Buddhist belief and practice. Her narrative's main thread follows a trajectory from youthful infatuation with romantic fantasy to the disillusionment of age and concern for the afterlife; yet, at the same time, many passages erase the dichotomy between literary illusion and spiritual truth.
This translation and its introduction draw attention to the poetry in the Sarashina Diary and the juxtaposition of poetic passages and narrative prose, which brings meta-meanings into play. The translators commentary offers insight into the author's family and world, as well as the fascinating textual legacy of her work.
David Landis Barnhill's brilliant book strives for literal translations of Basho's work, arranged chronologically in order to show Basho's development as a writer. Avoiding wordy and explanatory translations, Barnhill captures the brevity and vitality of the original Japanese, letting the images suggest the depth of meaning involved. Barnhill also presents an overview of haiku poetry and analyzes the significance of nature in this literary form, while suggesting the importance of Basho to contemporary American literature and environmental thought.
Akiko's later poetry has now begun to win long-overdue recognition, but in terms of literary history the impact of Midaregami (Tangled Hair, 1901), her first book, still overshadows everything else she wrote, for it brought individualism to traditional tanka poetry with a tempestuous force and passion found in no other work of the period. Embracing the Firebird traces Akiko's emotional and artistic development up to the publication of this seminal work, which became a classic of modern Japanese poetry and marked the starting point of Akiko's forty-year-long career as a writer. It then examines Tangled Hair itself, the characteristics that make it a unified work of art, and its originality.
The study throughout includes Janine Beichman's elegant translations of poems by Yosano Akiko (both those included in Tangled Hair and those not), as well as poems by contemporaries such as Yosano Tekkan, Yamakawa Tomiko, and others.
A significant dimension of this volume is the detailed and extensive treatment afforded two important areas of postwar Japanese verse: the poetry of women and of Okinawa. Modernism in Practice is noteworthy not only as an introduction to postwar Japanese poets and their times, but also for the numerous poems that appear in translation throughout the volume many for the first time in book form."