Roger Pulvers' translations - with detailed notes and commentary - of Japan's greatest tanka poet, Takuboku Ishikawa, is now available here for the first time in this volume. Each tanka - a poem that in Japanese has thirty-one syllables - is a microcosm of the human psyche, revealing astounding insights into human behaviors, love (and hate) relationships, as well as social and political circumstances that presage our own times.
In his short life (1886-1912) Takuboku experienced many loves, a tumultuous marriage, fatherhood of three children, one of whom died shortly after birth, a brilliant career as a journalist and wildly popular poet, not to mention a political awakening that was leading him onto the path of the revolutionary.
In "Old Love Letters," he writes ...
There are so many spelling mistakes
In those old love letters.
I never noticed until now.
In "The New Year" ...
Will this year be like all others
With my mind conjuring only things
That the world will not accept?
And in "The Patient" ...
One push of the door, a single step
And the corridor seems to stretch
As far as the eye can see.
Pulvers writes in The Illusions of Self ...
Takuboku puts every aspect of his character on the line for us to judge. Japan today craves writers who have the integrity of self-expression and the clarity of vision on their society that Takuboku expresses to us. In the mirror of his works, we are compelled to see our own face in a clear and honest light.
Of these translations, distinguished author and translator of American literature Motoyuki Shibata has written: "These masterful translations will be a revelation for lovers of Takuboku's poetry while, at the same time, comprising a stylish introduction to those who wish to know it."