Kuki Shuzo: A Philosopher's Poetry and Poetics
376pp. May 2004
Kuki Shuzo: A Philosopher's Poetry and Poetics
Editor: Marra, Michael F.; Translator: Marra, Michael F.;
Kuki Shûzô (1888–1941), one of Japan’s most original thinkers of the twentieth century, is best known for his interpretations of Western Continental philosophy. His works on and of poetry are less well known but equally illuminating. During his eight years studying in Europe in the 1920s, Kuki spent time in Paris, where he wrote several collections of poetry and many short poems in the tanka style.

Included in this volume are these Paris poems as well as other verses that Kuki appended to a long essay on poetry, "Rhymes in Japanese Poetry," written in 1931. Included as well are translations of two of Kuki’s major critical essays on poetry, "The Genealogy of Feelings: A Guide to Poetry" (1938) and "The Metaphysics of Literature" (1940).

Michael Marra, one of the West’s foremost authorities on modern Japanese aesthetics, prefaces his translations with an important essay that gives an account of the current state of Kuki studies in English and presents an intriguing and original interpretation of Kuki’s writings. Marra argues that there is an unresolved tension in Kuki’s thought between a desire to overcome the rigid schemes of metaphysics, garnered from his knowledge of French and German philosophy, on the one hand, and a constant hesitation to let those schemes go, which is expressed in his verse.

"A most welcome addition" —Journal of Asian Studies (February 2005)

"Hermeneutics (a big word for "interpretation") in the Heideggerian mold is here applied to a single phenomenon—a butterfly scrutinized by an entire philosophical apparatus. But so light is the touch of Kuki, the first Japanese cultural anthropologist, that it lies there before us, its wings shimmering, still quite alive." —Donald Richie, Japan Times (12 September 2004)

"The principal delight of Kuki’s own poetry (pp. 45–121) lies in the highly personal Paris poems: they are nervous, quirky, with a raw alertness to circumstance." —Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (68, 2005)

Editor: Marra, Michael F.; Translator: Marra, Michael F.;
Michael F. Marra is professor of Japanese literature, aesthetics, and hermeneutics at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Read the table of contents and/or the introduction (PDF).