The First Modern Japanese

The Life of Ishikawa Takuboku

Donald Keene

Columbia University Press

The First Modern Japanese

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Pub Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9780231179720

288 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£27.00

Pub Date: September 2016

ISBN: 9780231542234

288 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£27.00

The First Modern Japanese

The Life of Ishikawa Takuboku

Donald Keene

Columbia University Press

Many books in Japanese have been devoted to the poet and critic Ishikawa Takuboku (1886–1912). Although he died at the age of twenty-six and wrote many of his best-known poems in the space of a few years, his name is familiar to every literate Japanese. Takuboku's early death added to the sad romance of the unhappy poet, but there has been no satisfactory biography of his life or career, even in Japanese, and only a small part of his writings have been translated. His mature poetry was based on the work of no predecessor, and he left no disciples. Takuboku stands unique.

Takuboku's most popular poems, especially those with a humorous overlay, are often read and memorized, but his diaries and letters, though less familiar, contain rich and vivid glimpses of the poet's thoughts and experiences. They reflect the outlook of an unconstrained man who at times behaved in a startling or even shocking manner. Despite his misdemeanors, Takuboku is regarded as a national poet, all but a saint to his admirers, especially in the regions of Japan where he lived. His refusal to conform to the Japan of the time drove him in striking directions and ranked him as the first poet of the new Japan.
The First Modern Japanese is a poignant though familiar tale of the genius and premature death of a promising artist. As Donald Keene notes, Ishikawa Takuboku was a pivotal figure and someone to consider when thinking about larger topics such as the meaning of modernity. Keene's insightful and compelling study of Takuboku lets us finally see the dark side of Japan's tearful, beloved poet. Charles Shiro Inouye, professor of Japanese literature and visual culture, Tufts University
The poetry of Ishikawa Takuboku holds a landmark position in Japanese poetic history. With his worldly yet highly introspective, self-reflexive, and frequently melancholy tone, Takuboku developed one of the most distinctive, singular voices in the Japanese poetry of the Meiji era. Donald Keene has done the English-speaking world a major service by presenting this survey of the life of a critically important tanka master. Jeffrey Angles, translator of Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems of Tada Chimako
Recommended for Japanese literature collections and any reader searching for a new poet to discover. Library Journal
Well-researched.... Keene's finely wrought translations of Ishikawa's poems glimmer ever more brightly, sandwiched between the dark episodes of the young poet's short life. Japan Times
Well-researched, well-written, informative and interesting.... A sympathetic portrait of an important figure in Japanese literary history. The Japan Society Review
Highly recommended. Choice
A detailed account of the Meiji-era poet Ishikawa Takuboku’s life. Claire Kohda Hazelton, Times Literary Supplement
A literary biography that places the diary and his poetry into the context of his life. New Books Asia
Based on detailed readings of the diaries of writer Ishikawa Takuboku (1886–1912), Donald Keene’s new book covers the span of Takuboku’s troubled adult life. . . . Through the lens of these diaries and related correspondence, readers gain a strong sense of the personality of this writer and a fascinating glimpse into the literary culture of late Meiji-period Japan. Especially richly depicted is what life may have been like for an individual and his family trying to live off poetry and fiction in the first decade of the twentieth century during the rise of modern publishing. Sarah Frederick, The Journal of Japanese Studies
1. Takuboku, Modern Poet
2. Takuboku in Tokyo
3. Takuboku the Schoolteacher
4. Exile to Hokkaido
5. Hakodate and Sapporo
6. Takuboku in Otaru
7. A Winter in Kushiro
8. Poetry or Prose?
9. Takuboku Joins the Asahi
10. The Romaji Diary
11. The Sorrow of Takuboku and Setsuko
12. Failure and Success
13. Takuboku on Poetry
14. The High Treason Trial
15. The Last Days
16. Takuboku's Life After Death
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Read the first chapter, "Takuboku, Modern Poet":

Winner, 2018 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

About the Author

Donald Keene is Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the author and translator of more than thirty books on Japanese literature and culture. His Columbia University Press books include The Winter Sun Shines In: A Life of Masaoka Shiki (2013), So Lovely a Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers (2010), Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan (2009), Frog in the Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan, 1793–1841 (2006), and Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852–1912 (2002), as well as a definitive multivolume history of Japanese literature.