Masaoka Shiki

Masaoka Shiki

About Masaoka Shiki

Masaoka Shiki (October 14, 1867 – September 19, 1902), pen-name of Masaoka Noboru, was a Japanese poet, author, and literary critic in Meiji period Japan. He was born in Matsuyama City in Iyo province (present day Ehime prefecture) to a samurai class family of modest means. Shiki is regarded as a major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry. He also wrote on reform of tanka poetry. Some consider Shiki to be one of the four great haiku masters, the others being Matsuo Bash?, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa.
While Shiki is best known as a haiku poet, he also wrote other genres of poetry, prose criticism of poetry, autobiographical prose, and short prose essays. His earliest surviving work is a school essay, Y?ken Setsu (On Western Dogs), where he praises the varied utility of western dogs as opposed to Japanese ones, which only help in hunting and scare away burglars.
Contemporary to Shiki was the idea that traditional Japanese poetic short forms, such as the haiku and tanka, were waning due to their incongruity in the modern Meiji Period. Shiki himself, at times, expressed similar sentiments. There were no great living practitioners although these forms of poetry retained some popularity.
Despite an atmosphere of decline, only a year or so after his 1883 arrival in Tokyo, Shiki began writing haiku. In 1892, the same year he dropped out of university, Shiki published a serialized work advocating haiku reform, Dassai Shooku Haiwa or Talks on Haiku from the Otter's Den. A month after completion of this work, in November 1892, he was offered a position as haiku editor in the paper that had published it, Nippon, and maintained a close relationship with this journal throughout his life. In 1895 another serial was published in the same paper, A Text on Haikai for Beginners, Haikai Taiy?. These were followed by other serials: Meiji Nij?kunen no Haikukai or The Haiku World of 1896 where he praised works by disciples Takahama Kyoshi and Kawahigashi Hekigot?, Haijin Buson or The Haiku Poet Buson (1896-1897) expressing Shiki's idea of this 18th-century poet whom he identifies with his school of haiku, and Utayomi ni Atauru Sho or Letters to a Tanka Poet (1898) where he urged reform of the tanka poetry form.

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