Westlake was born on Maui and raised on the island of O ahu, where he attended Punahou School, and later the University of Oregon. He earned his B.A. in Chinese studies at the University of Hawai i. At the time of his tragic death in 1984, Westlake was at the height of his poetic career. Unfortunately, the only collection of his poems available at the time was a 32-page, limited edition chapbook independently published by a small press. The present volume, long overdue, includes nearly two hundred of Westlake s poems most unavailable to the public or never before published."
The 131 poems collected in this first-of-its-kind anthology are so glaringly awful that they embody a kind of genius. From Fred Emerson Brooks' "The Stuttering Lover" to Matthew Green's "The Spleen" to Georgia Bailey Parrington's misguided "An Elegy to a Dissected Puppy", they mangle meter, run rampant over rhyme, and bludgeon us into insensibility with their grandiosity, anticlimax, and malapropism.
Guaranteed to move even the most stoic reader to tears (of laughter), Very Bad Poetry is sure to become a favorite of the poetically inclined (and disinclined).
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Shimao's fiction covers a wide range of topics: the war and its aftermath, the unconscious, the nuclear family, madness, the position of women, the culture of Japan's southern islands. Shimao's experiences as a survivor of a kamikaze unit underscore much of his literature and resulted in a series of compelling short stories unique in modern fiction. Many of these early, critically acclaimed works, including the classic Everyday Life in a Dream, are based on the narrative logic of the unconscious. Mad Wives and Island Dreams contextualizes these dream stories as a literary expression of wartime trauma and argues that Shimao's powerful narration of guilt and victimization challenges standard readings of Japanese war literature.
Shimao's most popular works are the byosaimono (literally stories of a sick wife), which chronicle the real-life crisis of his wife's madness in the mid-1950s. Among these is the writer's best-known work, the 1977 novel Shi no toge (The sting of death), widely recognized as one of the masterpieces of Japanese literature. The novel further explores Shimao's literature of the victimizer and wartime experience while revealing a feminist perspective that explores links between the suppressed aspirations of women and madness. Perhaps, most importantly, just as the novel examines the relationship between the wife, Miho, and her southern island roots, Shi no toge parallels Shimao's growing concern over the culture of marginalized regions and notions of cultural diversity-a concern that would eventually result in the Yaponesia essays.
In Mad Wives and Island Dreams, Gabriel succeeds in linking all of the seemingly disparate strands within Shimao's oeuvre--the war stories, the byosaimono, the dream stories, the Yaponesia writings-categories all too often discussed in isolation. He shows convincingly that together they represent a consistent and concerted attempt to depict the existence of the Other, the significant periphery of a less than homogenous whole. This volume will prove fascinating and important reading for those interested in questions of cultural identity and marginalization as well as Japanese literature and culture.