Matsuo Basho
Jane Reichhold Translator
Kodansha, Tokyo, 2008, English
ISBN: 9784770030634

From the Publisher. Matsuo Basho stands today as Japan's most renowned writer, and one of the most revered.Yet despite his stature, Basho's complete haiku have never been collected under one cover. Until now.

To render the writer's full body of work in English, Jane Reichhold, an American haiku poet and translator, dedicated over ten years to the present compilation. In Basho: The Complete Haiku she accomplishes the feat with distinction. Dividing the poet's creative output into seven periods of development, Reichhold frames each period with a decisive biographical sketch of the poet's travels, creative influences, and personal triumphs and defeats.

Supplementary material includes two hundred pages of scrupulously researched notes, which also contain a literal translation of the poem, the original Japanese, and a Romanized reading. A glossary, chronology, index of first lines, and explanation of Basho's haiku techniques provide additional background information. Finally, in the spirit of Basho, elegant sumi-e ink drawings by well-known Japanese artist Shiro Tsujimura front each chapter.

Reichhold notes that "Basho was a genius with words." The poet obsessively sought the perfect word for each phrase or coupling, always stretching for the very essence of experience and expression. With equal dedication, Reichhold has sought the ideal translations.

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Peter Mendelsund

Lesson(s) learned: Less is more; the world in a grain of sand; etc., etc.

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