Category: personal stuff

Making One Hundred Friends, or: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Poets

Two years ago, I wrote about an excellent little book called the Hyakunin Isshu, a Medieval Japanese poetry anthology of one hundred poems, specifically five-line tanka, each by a different poet. At the time, I started wondering if, perhaps, I could memorise that many poems. If that sounds overly ambitious, keep in mind that this is something people actually do for a game called “karuta,” which is a card-matching game based around the poems. So, it’s certainly feasible, but I’m unsure about memorising the Hyakunin Isshu specifically. As much as I love the book, I do like some poems more than others, and besides, I’d like to write about the experience as I go. Each of the hundred poems, though, has already been covered, and covered very well, at this excellent blog.

Besides, as much as I admire Japan, I’m also a good patriot and so do ultimately prefer the literature of my own people. Could I make an English Hyakunin Isshu? The idea has stuck with me this long, and after memorising a couple of poems recently I remembered how much I enjoy doing this. So, after floating the idea on Twitter, I’ve decided to go ahead with this project.

Now, the closest equivalent to tanka we have would be the sonnet, but I soon decided to branch out a bit. I’m going to be spending a lot of time with these poems, and putting together a hundred of these was already a challenge, so though the sonnet would ultimately be well represented, I’m not restricting the list to them.

Regarding language and the poets’ countries of origin, I consider this an English project, though I also included a few Frenchmen since, contrary to what geographers may tell you, Britain is not an island, as well as one Japanese as a nod to the project’s origin. Furthermore, since this is supposed to be a set of standards, I was generally conservative in my selections; some of these are very well-known, almost cliché. That’s fine, because they deserve their reputation, and one benefit from this project will be a greater familiarity with the most notable poems in the language. Several of these are the types that make one think, “Oh, so that’s where that saying comes from!”

I prioritised poets from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, though the ultimate range is quite broad and other eras are well represented. Of course, some worthy poets are left out simply because I didn’t have room, or they didn’t have any suitable poems. A few of these are already quite a bit longer than is probably wise.

Me being me, I also favoured Cavaliers over Puritans, and Southerners over Yankees.

I should mention that I did get quite a bit of help in selecting these poets, as one can see from this thread where I announced the project. Joshua Jennings, always trustworthy in literary matters, contributed the most, but I also received suggestions from Arthur Ownby, Testis Gratus, Amy Mellein, Egon Maistre, and Fredrik Andréasson. Ezra Pound’s book ABC of Reading provided several of these, as well.

I am including some poems I’ve already memorised, so I do have a head start. Still, I’m unsure how long this will take. My goal will be one or two poems per week, but they vary so wildly in length that it’s hard to predict how this will go. Nonetheless, when it comes to reciting poetry, my ability is second only to Humpty Dumpty.

One final note, for those wondering about the “hundred friends” title. It comes from a comic called Chihayafuru, which is based on the karuta card game mentioned above and is how I first learned of both the game and the poems. I wrote about it a few years ago. In any case, when the protagonist first begins with the game and has to memorise all of the poems, her coach tells her to think of it as making a hundred new friends. The metaphor between a poem or poet and a friend is one that has stuck with me. As one can imagine, there’s no better way to really learn and understand a poem than to commit it to memory. Beyond that, though, there’s a deeper connection that’s difficult to describe, but it’s just what Confucius was getting at when he encouraged his students to study the Book of Odes, because the poems “will stimulate your emotions, broaden your observation, enlarge your fellowship, and express your grievances.” Some of my posts on these poems will be longer than others; some may offer a bit of analysis, others will basically just be “here’s a poem I think is worthwhile,” but I hope to be able to explain this better as we go on.

I also hope to encourage you to make some new friends of your own.…

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I’ll Hang Around as Long as You Will Let Me

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by- wait, that’s a different story. Mine’s a little less exciting than that, I’m afraid.

It’s still exciting to me, though, because as of today, Everything is Oll Korrect! is ten years old. There are a few ways I considered marking the occasion, and I was originally concerned, as I usually am, not to be overly self-indulgent. However, for a once in a decade event, I’m going to set that aside, mostly, and do something that’s become rare on this web log and talk about myself. Now, much of Everything‘s history is in the year-end reviews in the last section of the index page, which cover 2011 on. Before that, the whole blog was something of a mess, but I suppose we can take a moment to run through it quickly.

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An Ascent with Xenophon

I first heard of Xenophon and Anabasis while at college, in Bl. John Henry Newman’s great book The Idea of a University. In this particular essay, Newman gives an illustration of a poor applicant for university studies by giving a dialogue between a student and a tutor. This student does indeed stumble through the interview, able to give a basic summary of events in Anabasis but unable to answer questions about the etymology of the title and its significance, basic Greek grammar, and other such things. What struck me, though, was that Newman assumed that even a poor student will have read Anabasis, among other works from the Classical world, and have some basic knowledge of Greek and Latin. Indeed, in the printed essay, Newman does not even transliterate Greek words; he merely assumes that anyone reading would know the Greek alphabet.

Yet, here I was, a year or two into university studies, and I was clearly far less competent than even this student Newman describes as “below par.” I knew no Greek at all, and the name of “Xenophon” was merely a foreign sound to me, though I was at least aware of the other authors Newman mentions in the passage.

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Mischief Making in Two Wonderful Dimensions

MMboxSo, this past week I got a request to review a video game. It’s a bit outside the “bibliophile’s journal” theme I’ve been doing, but since I have posted about a few games before I thought it would be a nice change of pace. Also, this guy suggested that I’d look like some kind of nerd if I only write about books all the time, and I certainly wouldn’t want that. Anyone interested solely in Serious Business can come back next week, when I’ll have a post on Klemens von Metternich, followed by more from William Shakespeare.

Before we get to the main subject, though, let’s go back to the mid-90’s. The PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were the coolest things around, because now, for the first time on home consoles, games were in three dee! The days of side-scrolling in a mere two dimensions were gone, and now we could walk around awkwardly in three dimensions. Let me say, I was in elementary school at the time and was the first kid in my class to get an N64, and my social standing among my peers has never been higher, before or since.

Looking back, those early 3D games have, for the most part, aged pretty badly. Even in cases where the designers got the controls right, which certainly could not be taken for granted, the graphics were hideous. Very blocky with few textures was the house style for those early N64 games. Frankly, Super NES games were far more aesthetically appealing.…

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2014: It All Comes Tumbling Down, Tumbling Down, Tumbling Do~wn

So, if 2013 was the Agincourt of weblogging, 2014 was The Battle of Little Bighorn.

Not that I feel too sorry for myself – I had thought early in the year that I’d rather spend time on other things than web logging, though I did expect to get up more than ten posts. At least most of them turned out fairly well, including a couple retrospectives, one on serial experiments lain and another on Neon Genesis Evangelion. Speaking of Evangelion, I also wrote about the January theatrical release of Evangelion 3.0, which still hasn’t come out on glorious blu-rei. I also shared my thoughts on the other big anime theatrical release this year, The Wind Rises, which has come out on home video; based on my re-watch of the film on blu-ray, I think these early impressions still stand.

Among the normal review posts, I actually wrote about a few live-action films, which is unusual. The best of these was probably The Chekist; I also came up with a sequel of sorts to the Uncle Walt-a-thon with The Jungle Book, and wrote about the strangest book I read this year, Uzumaki.…

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2013: The Agincourt of Weblogging

That’s Agincourt from the French perspective, as last year’s success turned out to be shorter-lived than I expected.

Well, maybe “Agincourt” is an exaggeration, but it’s been a lousy year for me on all fronts. Leaving aside personal stuff, post quality was less even than I’d like, and update consistency fell apart in the second half of the year. I do seem to have gotten back on track now, though, and there were some good points throughout the year, so here’s the highlight reel for Everything Is Oll Korrect! in 2013.…

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The Anti-Waterworks – My (Not So) Emotional Reactions to Fiction

Last week, Charles over at Beneath the Tangles asked “What scenes from an anime or which series have evoked a powerful (and perhaps unexpected) response within you? Why?” It’s an interesting question, but I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head. So I thought about it some more later in the day, and found that even if I broaden the question’s scope from anime to media in general I still couldn’t come up with much.

I can’t think of any fictional work that’s moved me in the sense of changing the way I think or behave, at least not in any way discernible to me. As for a simply emotional response, I’ve never been an emotional person; I’ve never cried over a novel or film, and never really get worked up over real-life events, either. During an election, for instance, my father commented that he wished he had my stoicism. Even if we broaden the question further still to non-fiction, the only such work to effect an almost-immediately discernible change in me is Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.

After some reflection, though, I can name a small handful of works that, even if they didn’t move me to tears, did provoke a fairly strong emotion, whether that be sadness, fear, or just a great sense of satisfaction.…

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A Birthday Reflection on Ezra Pound

As you may have guessed from the length of my last post, I admire Ezra Pound.

I’ve found, though, that I’m one of a relative few. His poetry seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it affair, and I can certainly understand those who don’t care for him. Much of his poetry is difficult, his references obscure, and his politics generally right-wing but eclectic enough mostly to just throw people off, except that he vocally supported Benito Mussolini, and even those critics who appreciate, say, T.S. Eliot’s conservatism will draw a line at that.

Yet, with the sole exception of Eliot, Pound is the best poet I know of the past 400 years or so since Shakespeare. He’s also the most important, because even if one prefers some other writer of his generation, Pound very likely knew and influenced him to at least some degree. For example, a professor of mine once commented that Pound’s hand in editing Eliot’s The Waste Land is so great that one could almost call it the first Canto.…

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