Media Roundup and Book Excerpt of Idly Scribbling Rhymers: Poetry, Print, and Community in Nineteenth-Century Japan


Idly Scribbling Rhymers is the first work in English, and one of very few works in Japanese, to attempt to capture the rich social and historical context of poetic composition in the Meiji period. Tuck manages to wrestle an enormous amount of information into a coherent and useful narrative. This book will remain a standard reference work for years to come.

~ J. Keith Vincent, Boston University

Wrapping up our 2019 National Poetry Month celebration is Robert Tuck’s Idly Scribbling Rhymers: Poetry, Print, and Community in Nineteenth-Century JapanIn this work, Tuck  offers a groundbreaking study of the connections among traditional poetic genres, print media, and visions of national community in late nineteenth-century Japan. Structured around the work of Masaoka Shiki, Idly Scribbling Rhymers reveals poetry’s surprising yet fundamental role in emerging forms of media and national consciousness.

Enter our drawing for your chance to win a copy of Idly Scribbling Rhymers or any poetry book featured this month!

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Book Review

Idly Scribbling Rhymers: Poetry, Print and Community in Nineteenth-Century Japan

Taylor&Francis Online: April 2019

How and why did poetry become a rhetorical tool for national mobilization and social debates during the rapid sociocultural transformation of the Meiji period (1868–1912)? Robert Tuck’s Idly Scribbling Rhymers: Poetry, Print and Community in Nineteenth-Century Japan (2018) offers a fresh view of the national poetic community that emerged from the intersection of poetic expression, print media, and the nation’s social imaginary. His work also describes the momentary ruptures of the predictable linearity of Japan’s modernization discourses. By examining a wide range of newspapers and literary periodicals, Tuck highlights how the print media in late nineteenth-century Japan influenced the traditional poetry genres of kanshi, haiku, and waka, changing the manner in which they were discussed, interpreted, negotiated, and composed in a creative and fluid meaning-making process.

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From the CUP Archive

Masaoka Shiki & Haiku’s Political Turn in 19th Century Japan

Columbia University Press Bog: April 2018

Masaoka Shiki was unquestionably the single most important haiku poet of Japan’s modern period. Born Masaoka Tsunenori in 1867 in the town of Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku, Shiki’s life was short – he died in September 1902 of complications related to long-term tuberculosis – but his writings and poems did much to shape haiku as it is practiced to the present day. Key among his ideas was the notion of shasei, or “sketch from life,” a way of composing haiku that stressed simple, direct, and objective description, primarily of the natural world and the four seasons. Among his most famous and widely debated verses is one from 1900, composed on viewing the small garden in his house in Tokyo. At this point in Shiki’s life, he was largely bedridden on account of his infirmity and so would probably have been looking at his garden while reclining:

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