One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse, edited by Peter Macmillan

100 poets

So as some of you will have guessed from previous reviews, I’m a poet, and I’ve been on a haiku (and related) kick recently, so I picked this up. This anthology, also know as the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu is taught to every Japanese schoolchild and is thoroughly embedded in culture over there. A collection of 100 poems by 100 poets, these are not haiku (3 lines, 5-7-5) but tanka (5 lines, 5-7-5-7-7), as haiku was a relatively modern invention (done from taking the opening verse from a series of linked verses, which was the form then).

Anyway, this book is very interesting. A little staid (I say that now because the book I am currently reading on haiku is the complete other end and largely pure filth, which was… unexpected, and very Japanese, in a way, half contemplating on cherry blossoms, half sex poetry) I found this book to be very interesting mostly in regards to the translation (his second, the 2018 one). Each poem has a note about it at the back, and I found, to Macmillan’s detriment, that when he showed alternate or more traditional translations he could have done, that they were often better than the ones he chose, which put a bit of a dampener on things.

An interesting book, with some excellent poems, but not the absolute standout of a book I thought it would be (I might seek out another translation…)


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

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