'Projections in the Haiku Manner': Richard Wright and transpacific modernism
This is a video of a talk by Anita Patterson (Boston University, English) for the "Haiku as World Literature: A Celebration of the 150th Birthday of Haiku Poet Masaoka Shiki", which took place on October 12 & 13, 2017 at Barristers Hall, Boston University. Recorded on October 12, 2017 by the Geddes Language Center.
In the months leading up to his death in 1960, the African American author Richard Wright composed over 4,000 poems, 817 of which he selected for This Other World: Projections in the Haiku Manner, a collection that was not published until 1998. I hope to show how these experiments with haiku mark a significant advance in a tradition of transpacific interculturality in American literature that includes T. S. Eliot. Wright's systematic study of scholarship on Buddhism and haiku, most notably by R. H. Blyth, helps to explain why his haiku-inspired poems are best understood in light of his early, formative encounter with Eliot's transpacific modernism in The Waste Land, and the abiding memory of Eliot in prose published throughout Wright's career. As we shall see, Wright's turn to haiku and revisiting of Eliot's poetry fundamentally reshaped his style and perspective in This Other World.