A. Critical and Comparative Studies


49. Rexroth, Kenneth. The Elastic Retort: Essays in Literature and Ideas. New York: Seaburg, 1973.

Two works in a ‘Japan’ section include notes about a Japanese influence in American poetry.

a. ‘Japan and the Second Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’. In this vigorous defence of Japanese industry and economic growth Rexroth asserts influences from Japan in American intellectual life and literature, focusing particularly on American interest in Japanese Zen and classical poetry. The claims are large—Zen has become ‘the American form of existentialism’ and post-war American poets are influenced by classical Japanese verse more than by the poetry of France or Britain—but specific examples are limited to passing reference to Hearn (see D9), Snyder (see CA14e), and the work of D. T. Suzuki (see D28). According to a note the work appeared first in San Francisco Magazine.

b. ‘The Influence of Classical Japanese Poetry on Modern American Poetry’. Miner’s Japanese Tradition (A25) is ‘close to definitive’, Rexroth writes, but while that work ends with discussion of Pound and Yeats, the Japanese influence in American poetry after the Second World War has been ‘far more pervasive’ than before, and ‘close to determinative’ for American poets born after 1940. Rexroth traces the reasons for this to a ‘distortion’ of culture in Europe and America, and the recognition by thousands of Americans during the post-war Occupation that the traditional literature and religion of Japan represents a ‘completeness’ of culture lacking in American life. Includes discussion of the use of Japanese materials by Corman (see CA14a), Pound, Snyder, Philip Whalen (see CA13), and others, reference to the importance of work by Hartmann (see D12), Hearn, Kitasono (see D29), Noguchi (D15), Mathers (D25), and Suzuki, and particular contentions of influence from the nô, Zen, Hitomaro, and sumie, particularly from the Muromachi-period (1392-1573). Originally a speech delivered at the International Conference for Japanologists in Tokyo, November 1972; first printed in Studies on Japanese Culture, vol. 1, edited by Saburô Ota and Rikutarô Fukuda (Tokyo: Japan PEN Club, 1973); reprinted in World Outside the Window: Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth, edited by Bradford Morrow (New York: New Directions, 1987). See also CA13 and 14d.





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