Book Reviews

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There are three poets who really break the mold, and set the stage for the modern poetry of the 20th century – these are Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman in America, and Gerard Manley Hopkins in Britain.

Basho is famous as a composer of haiku. Some even suggest he invented the form, though he did not. One of his most famous works is Oku No Hosomichi (trans. as The Narrow Road to the Interior). This work is considered one of the masterpieces of classical Japanese literature. In form, the work is an haibun, a mixture of prose and haiku. It is an impressionistic journal of a journey Basho made, mostly on foot, in the Spring of 1689. Over the course of 156 days, he traversed about 1500 miles. At the conclusion of his journey from Edo (Tokyo) to the north, and back again, he spent five years refining and completing the work for publication. There are people who go to Japan to retrace Basho’s steps. Given the great changes from Japan of 1689 to Japan in the 21st century, this is impossible in any real sense. In any event, we are not Basho and cannot replicate what happened to him over 400 years ago. But we can appreciate his own depiction of that experience. It is unclear whether Basho attained enlightenment, but, in his haiku, and his other verse, he does aim at the annihilation of subject and object that is key to enlightenment. Haiku is all about the distilling of experience to its essence and somehow summoning the moment that led to an “aha!” moment.

The library contains this work, together with some of Basho’s other haibu and selected haiku, in The Essential Basho, trans. By Sam Hamill.

The Romans sometimes get grief for "copying" everything from other cultures. The Romans were masters at taking what worked from different cultures they encountered, adopting it, and adapting it to Roman use.

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Andrea Mays in The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio examines Folger and his mania.

Mark van Doren's Shakespeare is a sensitive, enthusiastic, and insightful collection of short essays on Shakespeare's plays and his poetry first published in 1939.

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