Poetry has always played an integral role in Japanese literature. From the earliest introduction of the Chinese writing system, Japanese language poetry was being collected and written in such works as the eighth-century Man’yoshu (Collection of Myriad Leaves, ca. 760) and the 10th-century Kokin wakashu (Collected Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times, ca. 920). Lyric verse was written in both Chinese and Japanese, but over time the native waka form of 5–7–5–7–7 syllables came to predominate. From the 12th century onward, a new form of poetry called renga (linked verse) appeared, involving waka chains composed by multiple poets. During the Tokugawa period, a 5–7–5 syllable form called haikai, an offshoot of renga, emerged as well, and both waka and haikai continued to dominate the lyric tradition into the Meiji period. During the late 19th century, writers such as Mori Ogai and Ueda Bin published anthologies of translated Western poetry that had a profound effect on new poets. Some experimented with free verse, others sought to breathe new life into the waka and haikai forms. Waka underwent a transformation and became known as tanka, and haikai was transformed into the now-familiar haiku. Poets in the 1920s and 1930s experimented with other modernist forms, including expressionism, symbolism, and Dadaism. All three genres have flourished during the modern period, and poetry circles and contests are ubiquitous in Japan today.

Historical dictionary of modern Japanese literature and theater. . 2009.

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