An International Look at National Poetry Month

One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each; edited by Peter McMillanWe’ve decided to give national poetry month a more international feel by highlighting poetry from around the world.

One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each is a translation of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, an anthology compiled in the thirteenth century. Like The Tale of the Genji, this anthology was crucial to the development of Japanese literature and features poems from the seventh to thirteenth centuries by high-ranking court officials and members of the imperial family. Each poem is in the waka form, a precursor to the haiku, and in the words of Donald Keene, the poems in the collection “possess great beauty.” Here is a ninth-century poem written by the Emperor Koko:

For you,
I went out to the fields
to the first Spring greens—all the while on my sleeves
a light snow falling

For those interested in learning more about Chinese poetry, How to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided Anthology leads readers through the major genres and eras of Chinese poetry from antiquity to the present. The poems are presented in both the English and the Chinese and are accompanied by commentaries by leading scholars of Chinese poetry. In addition, you can also listen to the poems in Chinese, including the poems One Lone Duck and Spring Lament.

Turning to Korean poetry, Azaleas: A Book of Poems is the first English translation of Kim Sowol’s classic collection. One of Korea’s best-known and most beloved poets, Kim Sowol (1902-1934) pioneered a modernist style in Korean poetry that combines the influences of both French symbolist poetry and traditional Korean folks songs. Here is the poem “Fisherman”:

How pleasant, to live knowing nothing of how it all falls apart.
Today from the fishing village the other side,
one fishing boat set out again, it is said,
no matter how terrifying the waves last year too.

Other collections focused on poetry from around the world include, The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry, The Edinburgh Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry, Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women, Frontier Taiwan: An Anthology of Modern Chinese Poetry, and for a full listing of poetry titles.

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