Magazine June 14, 2021, Issue

The Life and Haiku of Santoka Taneda

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The Life and Zen Haiku Poetry of Santoka Taneda, Japan’s Most Beloved Modern Haiku Poet, by Sumita Oyama, translated by William Scott Wilson (Tuttle, 352 pp., $19.99)

As Japan opened to the rest of the world in the Meiji period (1868–1912), Western art and literature flooded into Japan, and Japanese art and literature inundated the West. Eastern and Western novelists and poets experimented with new ideas and new forms. Even the Japanese haiku poem, which had its glory days in the 17th century, was affected.

Santoka Taneda, the subject of this biography, was a poet and a Buddhist priest. He was one of the first Japanese poets to experiment with new literary forms and break away from the traditional pattern of haiku, with its three lines, 17 syllables,

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This article appears as “The Wandering Poet” in the June 14, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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Diane Scharper is the author of Reading Lips and Other Ways to Overcome a Disability, among other books. She teaches memoir and poetry for the Johns Hopkins University Osher Program.

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