A Japanese poet and essayist, Masaoka Shiki was born in 1867 in Matsuyama, Japan. He attended University Preparatory College and Tokyo Imperial University, before dropping out from the latter due to illness. He worked for a newspaper and signed up as a war correspondent to China in 1895.

Masaoka Shiki was influential in developing a modern style of Japanese haiku and tanka, writing essays on the subject. He wrote a book on his poetics, Utayomi-ni-atauru-sho (A Book Bestowed on Composers of Poems) and also edited the journal Hototogisu (Cuckoo) that featured haiku. He proposed a realistic style of haiku featuring “sketches” of life. His own haiku described contemporary life: as he was dying from tuberculosis, he composed haiku depicting his illness.

Masaoka Shiki died in 1902. His works are available in Masaoka Shiki: Selected Poems (1988) translated by Burton Watson and featured in Janine Beichman’s Masaoka Shiki: His Life and Works (2002).

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