Buddhist-influenced waka poems are focus of lecture

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KALAMAZOO--The waka poets of medieval Japan and their work will be examined later this month when a Japanese scholar visits Western Michigan University.

Dr. Stephen Miller, assistant professor of Japanese language and literature at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, will speak about the poets and the intersection of their work with Buddhism at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 22, in Room 3025 of Brown Hall. His presentation, titled "The Wind from Vulture Peak: Japanese Buddhist Poetry and the Heian Aesthetic," is free and open to the public.

Miller is regarded as an expert on medieval waka poetry, a genre of classical Japanese verse and one of the major genres of Japanese literature during the Heian period from 794 to 1185. In his presentation, he will explain how and why the Japanese poets of the Heian period utilized the 31-syllable form of waka poems to speak about the topic of Buddhism, as well as the problems of compiling and translating these poems into English.

Miller's book, "The Wind from Vulture Peak: The Buddhification of Japanese Waka in the Heian Period," is forthcoming from the Cornell East Asia Series in 2012. He has also published translations and edited a collection of Japanese literature about same-sex love and eroticism called "Partings at Dawn."

Miller's visit is sponsored by the WMU Soga Japan Center, the foreign languages and comparative religion departments and the Haenicke Institute for Global Education.

For more information, contact Dr. Jeffrey Angles, associate professor of foreign languages, at jeffrey.angles@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3044.