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From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 67/68: OUTCRY FROM THE INFERNO: ATOMIC BOMB TANKA ANTHOLOGY, edited & translated by Jiro Nakano

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 9:46 PM


From Issue 67/68:

     “For the past twelve centuries, the Japanese people have expressed their intense pent-up emotions in tanka, one of the most unique and shortest forms of poetic expression in the world. Most Japanese samurai wrote jisei (deathbed tanka) at the site of their hara-kiri. It was natural for many hibakusha to write taka during the time of their suffering prior to death. Several years after the end of World War II, the literary editor of a newspaper in Hiroshima invited its readers, many hibakusha and their relatives, to submit tanka concerning their experiences about the bombing. The responses were overwhelming; more than 6,500 tanka poems were submitted. One of the master tanka poets and hibakusha, Seishi Toyota, and his friends pasinstakingly selected approximately 1,000 poems published in the tanka anthology, Kashu Hiroshima.
     Toyota noted that the best tanka poems on the atomic bomb were not written by the famous master poets but rather by the hibakusha themselves, the amateur poets. It seems that well-known poets sought to depict the immeasurably destructive energy of the atomic bomb by hyperbole. By contrast, the hibakusha wrote their tanka using simple words and achieved success.”

Here are the first five poems of our collection:

A crying girl
whose face is covered
with keloids,
we can only wipe the tears
off our own faces

Like a demon or ghost,
a man runs away –
staggering –
with both hands
hung loosely in front of him.

Your souls
that have fallen
in the turbid waters,
may they rest
in the river of man.

Tonight again,
the only light to aid me
as I write my nursing notes –
the luminous flames
from the burning of the corpses.

Keloids!
Unbearably grotesque
on human faces.
Walk into the crowds
and display them.

The triggers are:
1. once again
2. is there a message?
3. denial of death
4. true words
5. college students
6. mothers, wives, sisters, and grandmothers
7. in her eyes
8. I walk aimlessly

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