Ice Melts in the Wind: The Seasonal Poems of the Kokinshu, translated by Larry Hammer

Review copy provided by the author, who has been a friend on this here internet for many years.

This is the longest of the three volumes of translation I’ve read from Larry lately, but it follows roughly the same format: each poem has its translation and its original provided, with notes on context and any translation difficulties below. I find this format extremely congenial–and I had to laugh at one poem, where I was thinking, hmm, kinda clunky, and then Larry’s note was about the awkwardness of the original. The joys of translation!

This is, again, the kind of book of poetry that both uses and is the source of heavily used tropes and even cliches in its genre. Cherry blossoms abound, but also particular birds, wisteria, chrysanthemums, falling leaves. The signifiers of the seasons are clearly determined–the question is what each individual poet does with them, and I really enjoyed having the examples that failed to distinguish themselves as well as the ones that succeeded, just on the grounds of context.

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