Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sōseki, Shiki, and Someone

Sitting down tonight with a bottle of Sōseki, Shiki, and Someone Sake; a bag of Nuty Poems (sic) and a biography of Shiki.

The sake, or Nihonshu, in the cardboard box behind the book, was passably good, even if it's probably most often bought as a souvenir. On the box are Masaoka Shiki to the right, Natsume Sōseki center, and I'm not sure whom to the left.

Both Shiki and Sōseki (as well as the unidentified person, I'm sure) were from Matsuyama City, a little over an hour's train ride away. Shiki is considered to be the father of modern haiku in that he popularized breaking off hokku (the 5 - 7 - 5 syllable line) from renga (linked verse) and calling the resulting stand-alone poem haiku. Given that he was working in the Meiji period (European governing and schooling were being introduced) and that for most of his working career he was an invalid (tuberculosis), the creation of the haiku form seems to have been a natural outlet for his talents.

Sōseki, whom Shiki knew well and considered to be a mentor, is often considered to be the father of the I-novel in Japan. His best known works are Botchan, Kokoro, and I Am a Cat. Haruki Murakami, perhaps the foremost contemporary writer of novels in Japanese, considers Soseki to be a profound influence.

Ehime Prefecture, our Prefecture, the cradle of contemporary Japanese verse. How lucky we are to be here.

The Nuty Poems were delicious I might add. The bag's carcass is lying open and empty at my side. Now it's time to find out who the mystery man is on the sake box. Maybe tomorrow I'll share a few of Shiki's drawings from the book.

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