Maruyama Kaoru is read little today in Japan or abroad, in part because of Japanese readers' dismissal of him as an "intellectual" poet and because much of his work has been unfairly labelled as "sea-poetry." Maruyama did attempt to check lyricism and sentimentality in his work, and due to his life-long fascination with the sea, he wrote a great many poems about the ocean and voyages; but his work overall is quite varied and the controlled surface of his works often are belied by highly emotional content.
Born into a family of a high ranking bureaucrats, Maruyama spent much of his early years adapting to new surroundings, as his father was transferred numerous times to different locations. In the tightly-knit social structures of Japan, such displacement obviously had its effects; throughout his life Maruyama felt separated and apart from the Tokyo-centered poetry circles.
Living in the port of Yokohama in 1911, he was taken on class trip to see the ships in the harbor. The blue eyes of the Scandinavian sailors amazed the young boy, and from that incident, Maruyama dates his fascination with the sea. Despite strong opposition from his family, he sat for the entrance examination to the Merchant Marine Academy. Failing the examination, he enrolled in Tokyo preparator school in order to retake the tests the following year. In 1918 he passed the exam and entered the Academy.
However, at the academy his dreams of becoming a ship captain were dashed as he discovered his fear of heights; the intense physical activity of the Academy, moreover, caused his legs to swell, and he received a medical release. Under his mother's guidance, he took the examination of the Third Higher School in Kyoto, where he entered in 1921 in French literature. By the time he entered Tokyo University in 1926, he had already determined to become a poet. Influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde and others, including the Japanese master Hagiwara Sakutarô, Maruyama determined to use his education as literary stimulus rather than as a goal towards a bachelor's degree.
During this period he met Takai Miyoko, with whom he fell in love and married in 1928. Upon their marriage he rented a luxurious residence in Tokyo and later invited his mother to move in with them. He also dropped out of the university to concentrate on writing.
The collapse of the Japanese economy in 1930, meant difficult times for the family. Forced to move again and again, Maruyama found it difficult to concentrate on writing. But in 1931, his wife found a job in downtown Tokyo with sufficient pay to support his concentration on his art. His first collection, Ho—Ranpu—Kamome (Sail—Lamp—Gull) appeared in 1932. Soon after, he joined with other poets in publishing Shiki (Four Seasons), which involved him, for the first time, in the Tokyo poetry circles, and helped in the development of his poetic aesthetic. In particular, the theory of his fellow university student and poet Hori Tatsuo (1904-1953) and the writings of Rainier Maria Rilke highly influenced him in his attempt to balance objective observation and intellectual truths of the mind.
In 1935 he published two books, Tsuru no Sôshiki (Funeral of the Crane) and Yônen (Infancy). The second book won the Bungei Hanron poetry prize, which brought much needed money and request for new manuscripts.
The following year, however, tragedy struck as his sister-in-law, with whom had developed a close friendship, died of consumption. His fourth collection of poetry, Ichinichishû (A Single Day) contains a section devoted to her memory.
An invitation to write on midshipmen's experiences at sea, finally realized Maruyama's boyhood dream in 1941. Those experiences were collected in poetry in 1943 in Tenshô naru Tokoro (Hear the
BOOKS OF POETRY:
Ho—Ranpu—Kanome (Daiichi Shobô, 1932); Tsuru no Sôshiki (Daiichi Shobô, 1935); Yônen (Shiki Sha, 1935); Ichinichishû (Hangasô, 1936); Busshô Shishû (Kawade Shobô, 1941); Namida shita Kami (Usui Shobô, 1942); Tenshô naru Tokoro (Ooka Sha, 1943); Tsuyoi Nippon (Kokumin Tosho Kankôkai, 1944) [author refused to acknowlege this work]; Kitaguni (Usui Shobô, 1946); Senkyô (Sapporo Seiji Sha, 1948); Aoi Kokuban (Nyûfurendo Sha, 1948); Hana no Shin (Sôgen Sha, 1948); Seishun Fuzai (Sôgen Sha, 1952); Tsuresarareta Umi (Chôryû Sha, 1962); Tsuki Wataru (Chôryû Sha, 1972); Ari no iru Kao (Chûô Kôron Sha, 1973); Maruyama Kaoru Zenshû (Kadokawa Shoten, 1976-77).
ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS:
Self-Righting Lamp: Selected Poems , translated by Robert Epp (Rochester, Michigan: Katydid Books, 1990).