Poetry after March 2011

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source : Happy Haiku Forum - Larry Bole

Japanese Book News No. 71, Spring 2012, published by
The Japan Foundation, from an article titled

"Japanese Literature in the Post-3/11 Era,
Is the “Future’s Door” About to Open?"
by Numano Mitsuyoshi 沼野充義

The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Tôhoku last March and the nuclear crisis that followed continue to affect every aspect of Japanese life. Literature is no exception. Struggling against a despairing sense that this was no time for literature, contemporary writers have responded in a variety of ways since disaster struck on
March 11.

Almost immediately, a number of poets responded with lines that were plain, poignant, and fierce.
Wagô Ryôichi 和合亮一, (Wago Ryoichi)
a Fukushima-based poet previously known for rather abstruse contemporary verse, suddenly shifted gears after the disaster, using Twitter to publish a succession of short pieces that rapidly gained a substantial following.

"In the end, there are only tears. I want to write furiously,
like a man possessed."

"Radiation is falling. The night is quiet."

"Every night has its dawn."

These pieces could hardly be classified as poetry in the conventional sense—the author himself refers to them as "pebbles of poetry"
(Shi no tsubute [Pebbles of Poetry], Tokuma Shoten).
But they moved people with their straightforwardness.


Hasegawa Kai 長谷川櫂, one of Japan's leading haiku poets, turned to tanka to express his feelings on the catastrophe, responding to what he described as an "irresistible urge" to write with a relentless surge of poems (Shinsai kashû [A Collection of Poems About the March 11 Disaster], Chûô Kôron Shinsha, see JBN No. 70).

Do not speak lightly
Of twenty thousand deaths
Each one of them
A parent or child
A brother or sister

An impressive word and brave
Those who have been lost
Will not return again.

What drove this haiku poet to shift to the slightly longer tanka form? Heian-period tanka poet Ki no Tsurayuki famously wrote in the introduction to the Kokinshû, the first imperially sponsored collection of verse in Japanese: "Which of all the creatures of this world does not sing?" If we take these words as referring to the universal power of poetry, perhaps we can conclude that the shock of last year's disaster awoke the spirit of poetry that was lying dormant in Japanese hearts.

Hasegawa Kai

Born in 1954. A poet who has served as a judge for the haiku competition of the
Asahi Shimbun newspaper. After working as a journalist for the Yomiuri Shimbun,
he dedicated himself to writing haiku full-time. His book Haiku no uchu [The Universe of Haiku]
won the Suntory Prize. A collection of his haiku titled Koku [The Void] won the Yomiuri Prize for Literature in 2003

. Hasegawa Kai 長谷川櫂 .


Meanwhile, Henmi Yo 辺見庸 published a series of vivid, almost
grotesque poems titled
"Me no umi—Watashi no shisha tachi ni"
[Sea of Eyes: To My Departed]

(Bungakukai, June 2011).
For the author, who grew up in one of the Tôhoku towns devastated by the tsunami, the work is at once an act of mourning, a requiem, and above all, a poet's desperate attempt to summon the power of poetic expression and pit it defiantly against the violent forces of the universe.

My departed dead:
You must sing your poems alone.
Let the shore daisies keep from flowering,
Let the yellow plants that cling to the cliffs refrain
from mourning—
Until the right words have been found, each one unique
and singular,
And assigned to the lungs
Of my departed dead.

[end of excerpt]

The rest of the article discusses the responses of writers of prose, in essays, short stories and novels.


Last month the world observed the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. As time passes since the Great East Japan Earthquake (2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami) some important and interesting records of this event are being added to the collection to support research.
The National Diet Library has generously sent us some materials as part of their gift and exchange program, including in-depth studies of previous earthquakes and tsunamis in Japanese history. Recently I have also started to collect creative writings, such as poetry, fiction and literary essays, as well as personal accounts of those who survived.

(Japan Foundation) includes an article by
Numano Mitsuyoshi, “Japanese Literature in the Post-3/11 Era: Is the “Future’s Door” About to Open?”
which introduces some notable writings by:

•poets Wagō Ryōichi, Hasegawa Kai, Henmi Yō,
•novelists Furukawa Hideo and Takahashi Gen’ichirō,
•physicist Yamamoto Yoshitaka‘s Fukushima no genpatsu jiko o megutte,
•religious scholar Nakazawa Shin’ichi,
•essayist Ikezawa Natsuki‘s collection: Haru o urandari wa shinai,
•Kawakami Hiromi’s Kamisama 2011 (which was published in 1993, but attracts new attention).

source : library.osu.edu


Facing the Wave:
A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami

Gretel Ehrlich

A passionate student of Japanese poetry, theater, and art for much of her life, Gretel Ehrlich felt compelled to return to the earthquake-and-tsunami-devastated Tohoku coast to bear witness, listen to survivors, and experience their terror and exhilaration in villages and towns where all shelter and hope seemed lost. In an eloquent narrative that blends strong reportage, poetic observation, and deeply felt reflection, she takes us into the upside-down world of northeastern Japan, where nothing is certain and where the boundaries between living and dying have been erased by water.

The stories of rice farmers, monks, and wanderers; of fishermen who drove their boats up the steep wall of the wave; and of an eighty-four-year-old geisha who survived the tsunami to hand down a song that only she still remembered are both harrowing and inspirational. Facing death, facing life, and coming to terms with impermanence are equally compelling in a landscape of surreal desolation, as the ghostly specter of Fukushima Daiichi, the nuclear power complex, spews radiation into the ocean and air. Facing the Wave is a testament to the buoyancy, spirit, humor, and strong-mindedness of those who must find their way in a suddenly shattered world.
source : books.google.co.jp


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