In Praise of Japanese Love Poems
   
 

 

Edited by Regina Sara Ryan
   
A collection of poems inspired by and written in the style of classic Japanese love poetry.
  View Bio Regina Sara Ryan Editor  
   
$14.95
240 pages
ISBN:978-0-934252-44-7
paperback
 
   
   

Review by Daniel Mowinski

In Summary: In Praise of Japanese Love Poems is a slim volume containing some wonderful haiku love poems. The pieces weave together vivid natural landscapes with equally vivid emotional experiences and pull the reader into some magical moments.

In an age so overpowered by brazen man-made artefacts, with a million different voices vying for our attention, it is an absolute pleasure to drink, for however transient a moment, from this cool, crystal-clear stream. I highly recommend it.

Reading the introduction to In Praise of Japanese Love Poems, I was immediately reminded of a quote by the Scottish naturalist John Muir, himself no stranger to the kinds of scenes that give the haiku in this slim volume their poetic fervour:

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life."

The editor, Regina Sara Ryan, makes a similar point. Why bother reading this book? Why, in our lives so dominated by material offers of success and happiness, should we choose to buy a book of haiku love poems by a group of anonymous authors?

To try and answer this, I would like to quote a few of my favourite lines of love poetry. They were written by Yeats, and describe a moment that he is sharing with his lover:

...That only the gods' eyes did not close:
For that pale breast and lingering hand
Come from a more dream-heavy land,
A more dream-heavy hour than this...
  (He Remembers Forgotten Beauty)

What's the difference between now and then? What has changed? And how, most vitally, can we return to these "dream-heavy lands" of a prior lifetime? On this, it seems to me, both John Muir and the poets in the book are clear: it is nature that can imbue us with spiritual vivacity and wonder. The innate connection that exists between us and this primary world has been severed, stampeded through by a wall of man-made substance struggling ever harder to net our attention.

It is this loose tie that is in need of being reconnected. By relating our deepest-felt emotion to events of the natural world, and conjuring them both so effectively, these poems pull us into an experience of that ineffable connection.

Consider how the advertisements and television and computer-screen images of our day-to-day lives stand in comparison to these two simple poems:

The rain sounds
Like footsteps
When will I see you again

You were etched into my mind
With warm sake
And the drizzling Kyoto sky

Hilaire Belloc once commented that the whole point of writing is to get the reader to experience certain emotions and certain images. This sentiment is useful as a crude first principle, a kind of framework for understanding the craft. Sublime scenes of nature have evoked the aforementioned "fountain of life" for these poets. It is through their haiku that they attempt to do the same for us.