As a younger writer / I read a lot of the work by my peers / as well as that written by the few generations prior to mine – much of my post-college reading was of poetry written since the early part of the 20th century. I now read mostly things that I know will sustain me in some way – I’ve been reading and re-reading Japanese poetry / because I’m writing about tanka and haiku – and a smattering of other writings sent my way by friends and colleagues. Here are the gleanings from last year –

Li Po / The Works of Li Po / Obata tr – Tang dynasty master / together with Wang Wei (!) and To Fu – nature and friendship infuse the poems / the poems infuse nature and friendship

John Godfrey / Singles and Fives – the most New York of poets – tight poems of boundless emotional energy / and experience / and certainty

Misao Kodama & Hikosaku Yanagishima / The Zen Fool Ryokan – one of the world-class poets / and an unusual fellow – tanka and Chinese-style poems – so bright / so full with life – profound quips

Roberto Harrison / Red and Black Cluster of Beings / in ms – complexity of relationships between image / word / sound / and feeling – densely rhythmical – redolent of meaning

Takashi Kojima tr / Written on Water – five hundred poems from the Manyoshu / Japan’s 8th century anthology of tanka and other forms – these poems bend the mind as a branch by the wind

Songs of Kabir / Rabindranath Tagore tr – Indian poet 1440-1518 – the body and “heart” inseparable / both gutsy and ecstatic – information for living

TE Hulme / “Notes on Language and Style” – terse notes about poetry and writing / by Pound contemporary

Frank O’Hara / In Memory of My Feelings – for me / a look back – the man whose theory of personalism should be better known – lyrics of the city and of the heart

Yukio Sawa & Edith M Shiffert / Haiku Master Buson – 17th century poet / admired as one of the three greats / after Basho and before Issa – all poems include natural material / most often a struck balance between two or more

Stephen Addis / Old Taoist – “the life, art, and poetry of Kodojin (1865-1944)” – the last of the Asian literati? / a way of life as well as a way of making

Akiko Yosano / Tangled Hair – 20th century woman / much loved for her overtly candid tanka

Geoffrey Hill / Without Title – rather opaque poetry / seemingly grounded in something (but unsure what) – dense

Michael Gottlieb / Dear All / in ms – spare poems / redolent with humor / sometimes mordant – produced of thought / and productive of thought

Makota Ueda / Basho and His Interpreters – Basho’s haiku / poem by poem / with notes and commentary (often by contemporaries and followers)

Michael Hamilton & Christopher Middleton / Modern German Poetry: 1910-1960 – knowledgeable selection / quality translations – among the well-known some remarkable finds / including Else Lasker-Schuler

Yosano Akiko / River of Stars – see above

Richard Sieburth / Signs In Action: Pount/Michaux – essay exploring the meaning and function of marks and signs in the two authors

[ Some subsequent posts will also report on reading / mostly books by younger poets. ]

Originally Published: April 4th, 2013

Poet and essayist Alan Davies was born in Alberta, Canada, and earned his BA from Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts. In the mid-70s he edited the poetry journal A Hundred Posters. As a Harvard summer school student, he took classes taught by Robert Creeley and Octavio Paz, and he also...