December 8, 1875|
Tsushima, Aichi, Japan
|Died||July 13, 1947
|Pen name||Yone Noguchi|
|Occupation||Poet, essayist, literary critic|
Yonejirō Noguchi (野口 米次郎 Noguchi Yonejirō?, December 8, 1875 - July 13, 1947), was an influential Japanese writer of poetry, fiction, essays, and literary criticism in both English and Japanese. He is known in the West by his pen name Yone Noguchi. He was the father of noted sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
Noguchi was born in what is now part of the city of Tsushima, near Nagoya. He attended Keio University in Tokyo, where he was exposed to the works of Thomas Carlyle and Herbert Spencer, and also expressed interests in haiku and Zen. He lived for a time in the home of Shiga Shigetaka, editor of the magazine Nihonjin, but left before graduating to travel to San Francisco in November 1893. There, Noguchi joined a newspaper run by Japanese exiles associated with the Freedom and People's Rights Movement and worked as a domestic servant. He spent some months at Palo Alto, California studying at a preparatory school for Stanford University and working as a journalist before determining, after a visit to the Oakland hillside home of Joaquin Miller, his true vocation of poet. Miller welcomed and encouraged Noguchi and introduced him to other San Francisco Bay area bohemians, including Gelett Burgess (who published Noguchi's first verses in his magazine, The Lark), Ina Coolbrith, Edwin Markham, Adeline Knapp, Blanche Partington, and Charles Warren Stoddard. Noguchi weathered a plagiarism scandal in 1896 to publish two books of poetry in 1897, and remained an important fixture of the Bay Area literary scene until his departure for Chicago in 1899. He submitted articles for the evening edition of the New York Post, and moved on to the East Coast in 1900.
From 1900 to 1904, Noguchi's primarily base was New York City. There, with the help of editor and future lover Leonie Gilmour, he completed work on his first novel, The American Diary of a Japanese Girl, and a sequel, The American Letters of a Japanese Parlor-Maid.
Noguchi then sailed to England, where he self-published and promoted his third book of poetry, From the Eastern Sea, and formed connections with leading literary figures like William Michael Rossetti, Laurence Binyon, William Butler Yeats, Thomas Hardy, Laurence Housman, Arthur Symons and the young Arthur Ransome. His London success brought some attention on his return to New York in 1903, and he formed productive new friendships with American writers like Edmund Clarence Stedman, Zona Gale, and even Mary MacLane, but he continued to have difficulty publishing in the United States.
This changed with the onset of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, when Noguchi's writings on various aspects of Japanese culture were suddenly in great demand among magazine editors. He was able to publish a number of seminal articles at this time, including "A Proposal to American Poets," in which he advised American poets to "try Japanese hokku."
Having (he thought) ended a brief, secret marriage to Léonie Gilmour in the early months of 1904, Noguchi made plans to return to Japan, with the intention of marrying another romantic interest, Washington Post reporter Ethel Armes. He returned to Japan in August 1904, and became a professor of English at his alma mater, Keio Gijuku, the following year, but his marriage plans were spoiled when it became known that Leonie Gilmour had given birth to Noguchi's son (the future sculptor Isamu Noguchi) in Los Angeles. He purchased a house in the Koishikawa neighborhood of Tokyo in November 1905, and published an anthology of Prose poetry in English The Summer Cloud shortly thereafter.
In 1907, Léonie and Isamu joined Noguchi in Tokyo, but the reunion proved short-lived, mainly because Noguchi had already acquired a Japanese wife before their arrival. He and Leonie separated for good in 1910, although Leonie and Isamu continued to live in Japan.
Noguchi continued to publish extensively in English after his return to Japan, becoming a leading interpreter of Japanese culture to Westerners, and of Western culture to the Japanese. His 1909 poem collection, The Pilgrimage, was widely admired, as was a 1913 collection of essays, Through the Torii. In 1913, he made his second trip to England (via Marseille and Paris) to lecture on Matsuo Basho and haiku at Magdalen College, Oxford at the invitation of poet laureate, Robert Bridges. He was hailed in the pages of Poetry magazine as a pioneering modernist, thanks to his early advocacy of free verse and association with modernist writers like Yeats, Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, and John Gould Fletcher. While in London, he met with George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Edward Carpenter and other noted literary figures. In April the following year, while in Paris, he also met with Tōson Shimazaki who happened to be travelling in Europe at the time. Noguchi returned to Japan via Berlin and Moscow using the Trans-Siberian Railway. In 1919-20, Noguchi made a transcontinental lecture tour of America.
By the early 1920s, however, Noguchi’s work had fallen into critical disfavor, and he subsequently devoted his English efforts to studies of ukiyoe, while beginning a somewhat belated career as a Japanese language poet. Noguchi's success as a Japanese poet has been questioned by Japanese scholars; Norimasa Morita states that Noguchi "struggled to make a literary reputation for himself in Japan" and that "most of his Japanese poems received no critical or popular recognition." Other scholars including Madoka Hori point to evidence of Noguchi's success such as the May 1926 Noguchi Yonejiro special number of the magazine Nippon Shijin (The Japanese Poet). All of Noguchi's later books, in both Japanese and English, were published in Japan, for Noguchi encountered stiff resistance from American publishers in the 1930s, despite the support of a few sympathetic editors like Marianne Moore.
Noguchi's politics tended to follow prevailing Japanese tendencies. In the 1920s, following the leftist turn of Taishō democracy, he published in leftist magazines like Kaizō, but the 1930s, he followed the country's turn to the right. Partly as a result of his friendship with leading Indian intellectuals like Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, and Rash Behari Bose, Noguchi was sent to India in 1935 to help gain support for Japanese objectives in East Asia, but by the time of the infamous exchange of letters between Noguchi and Tagore in 1938, there seemed little hope of gaining international understanding for Japan's increasingly militant imperialism. During the Second World War, Noguchi supported the Japanese cause, advocating a no-holds-barred assault on the Western countries he had once admired.
In 1943, Noguchi was awarded a prize by the Imperial Art Academy. In April 1945, his house in Nakano, Tokyo was destroyed in the American Bombing of Tokyo. After the war, he succeeded in reconciling with his estranged son Isamu before dying of stomach cancer on July 13, 1947.
Critical evaluations of Noguchi, while varying drastically, have frequently stressed the enigmatic character of his work. Arthur Symons referred to him as a "scarcely to be apprehended personality." Arthur Ransome called him "a poet whose poems are so separate that a hundred of them do not suffice for his expression." Ezra Pound, on first reading The Pilgrimage in 1911 wrote that "His poems seem to be rather beautiful. I don't quite know what to think about them." Nishiwaki Junzaburo wrote, "Most of his earlier poems have always seemed to me so terrific, so bewildering, as to startle me out of reason or system."
Noguchi may be considered a cross-cultural, transnational, or cosmopolitan writer. His work may also be considered, albeit somewhat more problematically, within the national literatures of Japan and the United States (see Japanese literature, American literature). Noguchi has recently gained attention in Asian American studies due to the increasing interest in transnationalism.
Books in English by Yone Noguchi
- Seen & Unseen, or, Monologues of a Homeless Snail (1897, 1920)
- The Voice of the Valley (1897)
- The American Diary of a Japanese Girl (1902, 1904, 1912, 2007 )
- From the Eastern Sea (pamphlet) (1903)
- From the Eastern Sea (1903, 1903, 1905, 1910)
- The American Letters of a Japanese Parlor Maid (1905)
- Japan of Sword and Love (1905)
- The Summer Cloud (1906)
- Ten Kiogen in English (1907)
- The Pilgrimage (1909, 1912)
- Kamakura (1910)
- Lafcadio Hearn in Japan (1910, 1911)
- The Spirit of Japanese Poetry (1914)
- The Story of Yone Noguchi (1914, 1915)
- Through the Torii (1914, 1922)
- The Spirit of Japanese Art (1915)
- Japanese Hokkus (1920)
- Japan and America (1921)
- Hiroshige (1921)
- Selected Poems of Yone Noguchi (1921)
- Korin (1922)
- Utamaro (1924)
- Hokusai (1925)
- Harunobu (1927)
- Sharaku (1932)
- The Ukiyoye Primitives (1933)
- Hiroshige (1934)
- Hiroshige and Japanese Landscapes (1934)
- The Ganges Calls Me (1938)
- Harunobu (1940)
- Hiroshige (1940)
- Emperor Shomu and the Shosoin (1941).
- Collected English Letters, ed. Ikuko Atsumi (1975).
- Selected English Writings of Yone Noguchi: An East-West Literary Assimilation, ed. Yoshinobu Hakutani, 2 v. (1990–1992).
- Collected English Works of Yone Noguchi: Poems, Novels and Literary Essays, ed. Shunsuke Kamei, 6 v. (2007)
- Later Essays, ed. Edward Marx (2013).
Contributions to periodicals
Noguchi contributed to numerous periodicals in the United States, Japan, England, and India, including: The Academy, Blackwood's, The Bookman (London), The Bookman (New York), The Calcutta Review, The Chap-Book, Chūōkōron, The Conservator, The Dial, The Double-Dealer, The Egoist, The Graphic, The Japan Times, Kaizō, The Lark, Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, Mainichi Shinbun, The Modern Review (Calcutta), Myōjō, The Nation (London), The Nation (New York), The Philistine, Poetry Magazine, Poet Lore, The Poetry Review, The Reader Magazine, Sunset Magazine, T'ien Hsia Monthly, T.P.'s Weekly, Taiyō, Teikoku Bungaku, The Visva-Bharati Quarterly, The Westminster Gazette, and Yomiuri Shinbun.
- Noguchi, Yone, "A Proposal to American Poets," Reader 3:3 (Feb. 1904): 248.
- Marx, Leonie Gilmour, 236
- Norimasa Morita, "Yone Noguchi (1875-1947)" in Britain and Japan: Biographical Portraits, v. 8, ed. Hugh Cortazzi (Folkstone, Kent: Global Oriental, 2013), 415.
- Noguchi Yonejirou kinengou [Noguchi Yonejiro special number], Nippon shijin 6:5 (May 1926).
- Noguchi, Later Essays, 3-4.
- [Symons, Arthur], "A Japanese Poet," Saturday Review 95 (7 Mar. 1903): 302.
- Ransome, Arthur, "The Poetry of Yone Noguchi," Fortnightly Review 94 (Sept. 1910): 527-33.
- Pound, Omar and A. Walton Litz, eds. Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear, Their Letters, 1909-1914. New York: New Directions, 1984.
- Nishiwaki Junzaburo, "A Note on the Poems of Mr. Noguchi," Mita Bungaku 12:11 (Nov. 1921): 105-08.
- Duus, Masayo (2004). The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey without Borders. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691127828.
- Marx, Edward (2013). Leonie Gilmour: When East Weds West. Santa Barbara: Botchan Books. ISBN 978-1939913012.
- Noguchi, Yone; Ikuko Atsumi (ed) (1975). Collected English Letters. Yone Noguchi Society.
- Sueyoshi, Amy (2012). Queer Compulsions: Race, Nation, and Sexuality in the Affairs of Yone Noguchi. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0824834975.
- Yone Noguchi Project
- Yone Noguchi, Japan, and English Language Verse
- Short radio episode The Falls from The Story of Yone Noguchi Told by Himself, 1915. California Legacy Project.