BJ. William Plomer


16. ‘Poems Written in Japan’. In Collected Poems. London: Cape, 1960. Enlarged ed., 1973.

Reprints Two Hotels (4e), The Paulownia Avenue (4i), Japonaiserie (4j), and, slightly emended, Captain Maru: A Nationalist (formerly Captain Maru, 7), along with the poems noted below. Others in the section have no internal connection with Japanese subjects. See 33 and 41.

a. White Azaleas (formerly Japanese Love, 4c). Plomer’s revision emphasises the Japanese syllabics by omitting a line and breaking the remaining fifteen into three-line stanzas that appear on the page like period translations of hokku. Other revisions tighten imagery, and the work is altogether more satisfying than the original.

b. At Lake Chuzenji (formerly LAKE, 4g). Plomer’s emendations are substantial. LAKE lampoons the foreign community at play, but here Plomer’s focus turns to the resignations of an individual character, and the farcical tone of the original darkens considerably.

c. Autumn Near Tokyo. A significant revision of 4h. The fourth stanza is new, and the focus in closing lines has shifted. Plomer was twenty-seven when the poem first appeared, and the pastoral landscape he evoked in opening lines led to a sympathetic rendering of the losses felt by the old as winter approaches. Here, nearing sixty himself, his sympathies are with the young and their hopes for the future, ‘Arrows into the night / That bowstring song lets fly, / [Their] longings to be strong!’ Plomer reads the work in William Plomer Reading His Poems With Comment at the Recorded Sound Studios, London, England, December 1, 1961 (Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, Library of Congress, 1962).





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