BE. Witter Bynner: Primary Materials

The ‘singing evidence’ of Bynner’s early travels in East Asia.

1. The Beloved Stranger: Two Books of Song & a Divertissement for the Unknown Lover. New York: Knopf, 1919.

William Reedy writes in a preface that ‘in this book we have the singing evidence of what [Bynner] saw’ during his trip to Japan, Korea, and China, ‘evidence in color, in sound, in scent—the windblown bells on temples, odors of wisteria, the statues of jade’, but insofar as explicit connection between these poems and Asia can be traced, the source is China, not Japan. Smith (25) suggests that some of the poems, especially Horses and The Fire Mountain, both of which are four lines and rely on a single sensory image, adopt something of the ‘manner’ of classical Japanese forms. Given Bynner’s sojourn to Japan and his acquaintance with Pound, Lowell, and their adaptations of hokku (see BK3-4, BK12, and BI5, for example), the suggestion is reasonable, though the same point might be made about many other poems in this and other collections by Bynner, and indeed about hundreds of poems written in the United States between 1910 and 1930. Horses is reprinted in 17 and 21.





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