Review: The Winter Sun Shines In: A Life of Masaoka Shiki, by Donald Keene

wintersunHaiku, the short Japanese poem now proliferating overseas, scarcely needs an introduction anymore. Its three great pillars, widely read even in translation, are the poets Matsuo Basho (1641-1694), its first creator, then Yosa Buson (1716-1784) and Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), who renewed it.

By the mid-19th century, it was a dying form, and it might have vanished if not for the efforts of one man, Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), the subject of this new biography by Donald Keene.

Born in the provincial capital of Matsuyama, on the cusp of the new Meiji Era, Shiki died a full decade before its close, yet his work exerted great influence throughout the century that followed.

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