Gôzô Yoshimasu , born in Tokyo in 1939, is still living and working as poet, essayist, photographer and performance artist in Japan’s capital city. Since the publication of his first volume of lyric poems, »Shuppatsu« in 1964, Yoshimasu has written countless collections of poems, stories and essays, some of which have been translated into, for example, English, French, Portuguese and Arabic. He has received important awards at home and abroad for his literary work, such as the »Takami Jun Prize for Literature« in 1971.
Together with Ryûichi Tamura, Makoto Ôoka and Mutsuo Takahashi, Yoshimasu belongs to that generation of Japanese poets who broke with the traditional syllable-counting short poems »haiku« and »tanka« in order to devise longer and, regarding style and content, more freely written texts. This followed from the acceptance of European and American literature and from the rediscovery of the epic form of the courtly »chôka«.
This modern Japanese poetry (»gendaishi«) is often published in journals as a continuation series (»renshi«), a form of publication which Yoshimasu, too, usually chooses.
His collection of poems, entitled »Oshirisu, ishi no kama« and published in 1984, is, for example, such a »renshi«, consisting of 21 poems, that is to say, parts. The parts make up a kind of steady flow of consciousness of a »speaker« in the first person who is on a journey through Japan. Impressions of the journey are linked to memories of childhood, to past encounters or other journeys. At the same time the text conceals numerous references to Japanese literary and musical traditions. The lyrical »I«’s journey takes a route identical to that of the famous »chôka« poet, Kakinomoto no Hitomaro who lived in the 7th century.
A feature of Yoshimasu’s poetic output, since the publication of the collection »Ogon shihen« in 1970 at the latest, is that he places just as great importance on the public reciting of his poems as he does on the written word. His readings, when he frequently works with musicians, are intended to be more than simply an oral repetition of already composed texts: individual passages are repeated in a refrain-like way, sections added, omitted and rearranged; parts of sections may be recited to music in an improvised interplay with an instrumentalist and/or singer. At the end of such sound-performances one has often completely new poems which cannot be re-read in this particular form. In this way, writing poetry becomes for Yoshimasu a potentially endless process which, in the interaction continously sought with other artists and the public, constantly produces new and unique speech and sound entities. In 2003 Yoshimasu was honoured by the Japanese government for his innovative contribution to Japanese culture. In the framework of artistic projects he made several journeys around the globe, for example to Ireland, New York City and Paris.
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