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Naturalizing the Alien

Naturalizing the Alien

Yosano Akiko’s Revolution in Verse

(p.43) Chapter 2 Naturalizing the Alien
The Alien Within
Leith Morton
University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter analyzes the poetic revolution accomplished mainly by Yosano Akiko: the modernization of traditional Japanese verse through the rewriting in language and content of waka, the mainstream form of Japanese poetry for millennia or more. The poet Yosano Akiko (1878–1942), together with her husband, Hiroshi, and other poets including Hiroshi's teacher Ochiai Naobumi (1861–1903), made the first historic attempt at reforming waka. In Akiko's case, she achieved this by adapting elements of versification that originated in translations and imitations of Western-style free verse. Thus, in her poetry, Akiko “naturalized” the alien by incorporating foreign verse structures—poetic figures as well as themes and narrative modes—into the most traditional of Japanese genres of poetry.

Keywords:   Yosano Akiko, waka, traditional Japanese verse, modernization, Western style, free verse, Japanese poetry, Ochiai Naobumi

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