Looking back at that original idea might just be instructive for the future of publishing, particularly poetry publishing.
All of this is by way of an intro to a new translation of the Japanese classic waka anthology, Hyakunin Isshu: 100 Poems by 100 Poets, by Dennis Maloney and Hide Oshiro, published by Unicorn Press. In the introduction, Dennis mentions that through the years there have been a dozen or so English translations, most of them being woefully out of date. He also notes that, along with this new translation, there are also two others of recent vintage to compare and enjoy.
The story of this truly classic anthology is well-known. It was compiled by Fujiwara no Teika and consists of one hundred waka by one hundred different poets. The poems are in a rough chronological order, from the 8th to the 12th century, and as such represent something of a snapshot of Japanese court poetry. It is one of the most famous anthologies of poetry of all time and Maloney and Hideo Oshiro have brought their considerable skills to task in this slim volume.
As you may see from the illustrations above and below, each copy of this title is handmade, handmade as in the original print on demand handmade, and Dennis Maloney tells me that they are produced a few at a time and no two are exactly the same. If you look closely at the back cover, you'll see the backing used in the "production" of this copy is the cover of an Amy's vegetarian meal.
Unicorn Press recycles.
In fact, Unicorn Press is famous in American small press history. Longhouse has a catalogue of many of their famed items for sale, some of them now quite pricey. This is a catalogue of Unicorn titles through the years via a ISBN finder website. The following is a brief interview with Alan Brilliant of Unicorn Press:
For a wonderful, in-depth interview with Brilliant, which will fill in some of the history of the small press in America, check out Farrago's Wainscot.
I have a serious bias when it comes to this book and I'll state it plainly: two of the volumes in the Modest Proposal Chapbook series are thematic selections that Dennis made from the manuscript before publishing the collection in its entirety with Unicorn: Unending Night: Japanese Love Poems & The Turning Year: Japanese Nature Poems.
That being said, it was real pleasure to receive this wonderful little item in the mail and to sit down with all 100 poems in a new translation for the first time. Here is a small selection of a few of my favorites .
The mountain pheasant's tail
trails long behind
- longer still
in the endless night.
Kakinomoto no Hitomaro
Like the wild swirling patternsdyed into cloth from the north,my love thoughtsare becoming tangledbecause of you.Kawara no Sadaijin
My heart is tornsince I've not seen you.Like the tidemark in Osaka BayI measure my lifewaiting to meet you again.Prince Motoyoshi
The people of my native village
have changed after many years,
but at the gate
of plum blossoms remains.
Ki no Tsurayuki
My sleeves never dry,like the rocksbeneath the seanever seen,even at low tide.Lady Nijo
If you'd like to get a unique copy of your very own, here is the info you need. The price is $12.50 (+ 2.50 shipping) to be mailed to:
Unicorn Press, Inc.
The poetry is timeless and the craftsmanship unique. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
This week's selection from the archives comes from Lilliput Review, #148 and is by the very fine poet of the short form Dorothy McLaughlin, whose work has graced the pages of Lillie many times over the years. Here is one of her little beauties:
leaving homeleaving the shadowof homeDorothy McLaughlin
at your house
the sparrow, too
makes a home
translated by David G. Lanoue
Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.