Modernist Gendaishi Poetry on the Postwar Crossroad.
This paper presents the continuation of a fundamental research by the author in the field of new Japanese poetry since the Meiji era. The long term research, accompanied by the publication of several anthologies of Japanese verse in translation, found its final implementation in the History of New Japanese Poetry issued by AIU University Press (v.1 The Silver Age of Japanese Poetry, v.2 The Bronze Age of Japanese Poetry, v.3 The Fading Golden Age of Japanese Poetry). The paper contains a thorough analysis of gendaishi (modern verse in non-traditional forms) in the first postwar decade that became the starting point for various poetic groups of the late XX c. Japanese literature of the so called first postwar wave (dai ichi sengoha) was marked by a growing controversy between the modernist escapist groupings alienated from the social problems of the time and the faction of politically engaged writers who wanted to contribute with their works to the revival of the nation and restoration of cultural values after the humiliating defeat. In the domain of poetry the most talented young literati who had survived through the hard years of war launched a powerful movement aimed at the radical renovation of gendaishi verse in the age of troubles. Many suffered a serious psychological trauma and were deeply disillusioned in the ideals of their youth. In the poems by the authors of the major groups formed around the leading poetic groupings like “Arechi” (“The Waste Land”) and “Retto” (‘Archipelago”) they summarized the tragic experience of the wartime and tried to discover some light in the end of the tunnel. Their works reflected the painful process of transformation that the whole country had to face in the transitional period, waking up from the nightmare of military propaganda and paving the way for the new democratic society. Their lyricism brought “the sweet sad sound of humanity” in the world of grief and frustration. Serious research in the postwar gendaishi is crucial for the proper understanding of the great legacy of the late Showa period when modern poetry for a short while became the main consolidating force and the spiritual stem of the nation.