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Japanese Death Poems

Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death
Paperback Book
Publisher: 
Tuttle
 | 
April, 2018
ISBN:
9784805314432
In stock now: 
2
$19.95 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

“A wonderful introduction the Japanese tradition of jisei, this volume is crammed with exquisite, spontaneous verse and pity, often hilarious, descriptions of the eccentric and committed monastics who wrote the poems.” —Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

Although the consciousness of death is, in most cultures, very much a part of life, this is perhaps nowhere more true than in Japan, where the approach of death has given rise to a centuries-old tradition of writing jisei, or the “death poem.” Such a poem is often written in the very last moments of the poet’s life.

And if this were your last afternoon, what would you write... what would you give?

Hundreds of Japanese death poems, many with a commentary describing the circumstances of the poet's death, have been translated into English here, the vast majority of them for the first time. Yoel Hoffmann explores the attitudes and customs surrounding death in historical and present-day Japan and gives examples of how these have been reflected in the nation’s literature in general. The development of writing jisei is then examined, from the longing poems of the early nobility and the more “masculine” verses of the samurai to the satirical death poems of later centuries.

A last fart:

are these the leaves

of my dream, vainly falling?   Kyo’on

 

A journey of no return:

the wanderer’s sack is

bottomless.      Kyoshu

 

Today, then, is the day

the melting snowman

is a real man.      Fusen

 

Spitting blood

clears up reality

and dream alike.     Sunao

 

When it comes—just so!

When it goes—just so!

Both coming and going occur each day.

The words I am speaking now—just so!

                              Musho Josho

Zen Buddhist ideas about death are also described as a preface to the collection of Chinese death poems by Zen monks that are also included. Finally, the last section contains three hundred twenty haiku, some of which have never been assembled before, in English translation and romanized in Japanese.

Publisher’s Description: 
"A wonderful introduction the Japanese tradition ofjisei, this volume is crammed with exquisite, spontaneous verse and pity, often hilarious, descriptions of the eccentric and committed monastics who wrote the poems." Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

Although the consciousness of death is, in most cultures, very much a part of life, this is perhaps nowhere more true than in Japan, where the approach of death has given rise to a centuries-old tradition of writingjisei, or the "death poem." Such a poem is often written in the very last moments of the poet's life.

Hundreds of Japanese death poems, many with a commentary describing the circumstances of the poet's death, have been translated into English here, the vast majority of them for the first time. Yoel Hoffmann explores the attitudes and customs surrounding death in historical and present-day Japan and gives examples of how these have been reflected in the nation's literature in general. The development of writingjisei is then examinedfrom the longing poems of the early nobility and the more "masculine" verses of the samurai to the satirical death poems of later centuries.

Zen Buddhist ideas about death are also described as a preface to the collection of Chinese death poems by Zen monks that are also included. Finally, the last section contains three hundred twenty haiku, some of which have never been assembled before, in English translation and romanized in Japanese.

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