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Koizumi Yakumo’s Life and Literature. This is a further selection from his University of Tokyo lectures (1896-1902).
This books synthesis is that it is taken from the student notes of Hearn’s lectures at the University of Tokyo, 1896-1902. They are published in this regrouping in response to a demand for a further selection of the lectures, in a less expensive volume and with emphasis upon those papers which illustrate Hearn’s extraordinary ability to interpret the exotic in life and in books.
It should be remembered that these lectures were delivered to Japanese students, and that Hearn’s purpose was not only to impart the information about Western literature usually to be found in our histories and text-books, but much more to explain to the Oriental mind those peculiarities of our civilization which might be hard to understand on the further side of the Pacific Ocean. The lectures are therefore unique, in that they are the first large attempt by a Western critic to interpret us to the East. That we shall be deeply concerned in the near future to continue this interpretation on an even larger scale, no one of us doubts. We wish we might hope for another genius like Hearn to carry on the work.
Poetry (a term derived from the Greek word poiesis, “making”), also called verse,is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language − such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre − to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, a prosaic ostensible meaning. A poem is a literary composition, written by a poet, using this principle.
Poetry has a long and varied history, evolving differentially across the globe. It dates back at least to prehistoric times with hunting poetry in Africa and to panegyric and elegiac court poetry of the empires of the Nile, Niger, and Volta River valleys. Some of the earliest written poetry in Africa occurs among the Pyramid Texts written during the 25th century BCE. The earliest surviving Western Asian epic poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh, was written in the Sumerian language.
Early poems in the Eurasian continent evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese Shijing as well as from religious hymns (the Sanskrit Rigveda, the Zoroastrian Gathas, the Hurrian songs, and the Hebrew Psalms); or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe, Indian epic poetry, and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Ancient Greek attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle’s Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song, and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form, and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from more objectively-informative prosaic writing.
Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretations of words, or to evoke emotional responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and rhythm may convey musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony, and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly, figures of speech such as metaphor, simile, and metonymy establish a resonance between otherwise disparate images—a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.
Some poetry types are unique to particular cultures and genres and respond to characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. Readers accustomed to identifying poetry with Dante, Goethe, Mickiewicz, or Rumi may think of it as written in lines based on rhyme and regular meter. There are, however, traditions, such as Biblical poetry, that use other means to create rhythm and euphony. Much modern poetry reflects a critique of poetic tradition, testing the principle of euphony itself or altogether forgoing rhyme or set rhythm.
In an increasingly globalized world, poets often adapt forms, styles, and techniques from diverse cultures and languages. Poets – as, from the Greek, “makers” of language – have contributed to the evolution of the linguistic, expressive, and utilitarian qualities of their languages.
A Western cultural tradition (extending at least from Homer to Rilke) associates the production of poetry with inspiration – often by a Muse (either classical or contemporary), or through other (often canonised) poets’ work which sets some kind of example or challenge.
In first-person poems, the lyrics are spoken by an “I”, a character who may be termed the speaker, distinct from the poet (the author). Thus if, for example, a poem asserts, “I killed my enemy in Reno”, it is the speaker, not the poet, who is the killer (unless this “confession” is a form of metaphor which needs to be considered in closer context – via close reading).
Koizumi Yakumo (27 June 1850 – 26 September 1904), born Patrick Lafcadio Hearn was an Irish-Greek-Japanese writer, translator, and teacher who introduced the culture and literature of Japan to the West. His writings offered unprecedented insight into Japanese culture, especially his collections of legends and ghost stories, such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. Before moving to Japan and becoming a Japanese citizen, he worked as a journalist in the United States, primarily in Cincinnati and New Orleans. His writings about New Orleans, based on his decade-long stay there, are also well-known.
Hearn was born on the Greek island of Lefkada, after which a complex series of conflicts and events led to his being moved to Dublin, where he was abandoned first by his mother, then his father, and finally by his father’s aunt (who had been appointed his official guardian). At the age of 19, he emigrated to the United States, where he found work as a newspaper reporter, first in Cincinnati and later in New Orleans. From there, he was sent as a correspondent to the French West Indies, where he stayed for two years, and then to Japan, where he would remain for the rest of his life.
In Japan, Hearn married Setsuko Koizumi with whom he had four children. His writings about Japan offered the Western world greater insight into a culture that was still unfamiliar to it at the time.
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