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The Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923 and Poetry

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the reactions of free-verse poets as documented in a number of collections of free-verse poetry published within two months after the earthquake. The free-verse poets examined include the famous Kawaji Ryūko and Satō Sōnōsuke. Free-verse poets were much affected by the tragedy; for example, the distinguished poet Nishiwaki Junzaburō composed a number of poems on the earthquake in his celebrated 1933 poetry collection Ambarvalia. The chapter examines a few haiku that serves to represent a much larger body of verse composed on the earthquake. It briefly scrutinizes one of the many literary debates born out of the earthquake and its impact on literature. The chapter investigates a different genre of verse, the traditional genre of tanka, by translating and analysing poetry composed in reaction to the event by a number of famous tanka poets: Aizu Yaichi, Kubota Utsubo, Yosano Akiko and Wakayama Bokusui.

Keywords: earthquake; genre of verse; haiku; poetry; Tokyo



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