Chuya Nakahara (1907-1937)

Chuya Nakahara was a Japanese early modernist of conflicting impulses: apolitical but iconoclastic; a progressive formalist. Dismissive of institutions, he was a successful auto-didact, and his mastery of waka (formal, 7/5-syllabic verse) combined with a competency in French to provide for his hybrid evolution. His English, however, was inadequate to an academic understanding of English-language poetry. He wrote in the wake of his Meiji-era predecessors, while straining towards those Symbolists and Surrealists he admired and translated, and he is recognized today as one of the most scrupulous pre-war Japanese writers of poems informed by European models, especially the Petrarchan sonnet. Chuya died of tuberculosis, having sold only a thousand books, but the 1967 edition of his collected works spans six volumes, and to date more criticism has been written on him than any other Japanese poet.