Better than sex? Shiki's Food Haiku
This is a video of a talk by J. Keith Vincent, Chair of the BU Department of World Languages & Literatures 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.
Vincent, J. Keith
Bedridden for seven long years with tuberculosis of the spine, Shiki never lost the ability to enjoy a good meal. He ate huge quantities of food even after the disease had ravaged his digestive tract to such an extent that it hurt to eat and food could pass through almost wholly undigested. Many of his best poems describe the taste and texture of food and the sensual and convivial pleasures of eating. Given that Shiki never married or had a relationship with a woman, some critics have argued that his ravenous appetite for food, and for poems about food, can be explained as a displacement of his sexual libido. In this paper, I read a number of Shiki's best poems on food and argue that they articulate an erotics all their own that may constitute Shiki's most important contribution to haiku poetics. If Shiki's famous advocacy of the "sketching from life" (shasei) technique in haiku has given him a reputation as a highly visual poet, he was also an intensely "gustatory" one, for whom food was a powerful mediator of his connections to others and a lively nexus of material, cultural, and social values that inspired him to imagine and inhabit novel forms of sociality and intimacy.