Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Kimberly M. Blaeser
James Kuist, Maurice Kilwein-Guevara, George Clark, Jason Jones
Creative Writing, Edo, Japanese, Poetry, Translation
My dissertation is a creative translation from Japanese into English of the poetry of Yosa Buson, an 18th century (1716 - 1783) poet. Buson is considered to be one of the most important of the Edo Era poets and is still influential in modern Japanese literature. By taking account of Japanese culture, identity and aesthetics the dissertation project bridges the gap between American and Japanese poetics, while at the same time revealing the complexity of thought in Buson's poetry and bringing the target audience closer to the text of a powerful and moving writer.
Currently, the only two books offering translations of Buson's haiku are mainly biography, with few poems offered in translation. The first, Yuki Sawa's and Edith M. Shiffert's book, "Haiku Master Buson," contains 50 pages of biography but only has around 300 haiku. The second book, Makoto Ueda's "The Path of the Flowering Thorn," only contains around 150 haiku. My translation project includes translations of 868 haiku along with a critical introduction. This edition of Buson work is an important addition to Buson studies since over fifty percent of the poems I include have not been translated before nor brought together in one volume.
The critical introduction included in my project supplements and expands the dialogue started in the previous two books on Buson. In the introduction, I also discuss translation theory noting how the translations themselves reflect the theory and represent the continuing debate of such scholars as Eugene Nida, Roman Jakobson, Jacques Derrida, and Paul de Man. Finally, I explain my choice to present the translations in free verse. In my translations, I concentrate on the content, the images, and the individual words since I hold it important that not only are the translations accurate, but that they fulfill esthetic expectations. Furthermore, while it is impossible to separate form and content, my translations privilege content over form since I believe it would be nearly impossible to keep the syllable count of 5/7/5 and not do drastic damage to the meaning. For example, a short one syllable word in Japanese "ka" is a three syllable word in English, "mosquito." Therefore to keep to the syllable count one would have to do drastic editing to the original.
Yet, as a form, haiku is more than just syllable count; a haiku also has to have a seasonal reference and convey a sense of a twist or a surprise within the closing line. Seasonal reference is part of content and is the easiest part of the translation. The twist or
surprise, that moment of enlightenment for both the reader and the poet, is very important for the genre and the translations in my dissertation especially convey that Zen moment haikus reveal along with the Japanese esthetic that is so important within Buson's oeuvre.
Persinger, Allan, "Foxfire: the Selected Poems of Yosa Buson, a Translation" (2013). Theses and Dissertations. 748.