Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Celebration In Darkness/Stranger's Sky

Another book in Katydid's Asian Poetry in Translation series was Celebration in Darkness/Stranger's Sky, from 1985, collecting together two selections of poems from Yoshioka Minoru and Iijima Koichi.Translated from the Japanese by Onuma Tadayoshi,Ooka Makoto writes an introduction and Tsuruoka Yoshihisa gives a commentary on both of the poets.Yoshioka Minoru's Celebration in Darkness opens with the well anthologised poem Still Life, from 1955, at it's centre, an observation of decomposing fruit, which Yoshioka applies many different metaphors and twists of interpretation, time, light and darkness exist and then come to an end. The poems rarely escape to two pages, but Still Born a larger poem is told in eight parts, another longer poem Monks (1958), is told in nine parts,the everyday duties of four monks intertwines with morality and mortality, as the monks go about their daily ablutions, parade like as the poem seems to dance past the reader, Tsuruoka Yoshihisa notes that there lies a 'bitter humor' to this poem.Spindle Form Parts 1 and 2 display Yoshioka's more automatic approach to his poetry, as in an excerpt from his essay 'How I write poems?', he stated that 'I start my poems with no premeditated themes or structures. For me a blank sheet of paper is always the best place for poetry'. In Saffron Gathering, a poem based on a recollection of seeing the fresco The Gathering of Saffron,contains some fantastic lines depicting scenes observed from the fresco, 'in the night that even virgin skin cannot resist', a boy collects saffron from among a rocky landscape, in the poem the narrator contemplates what events might transpire within the fresco next.

Iijima Koichi's Stranger's Sky primarily contemplates life in post war Japan, starting with the poem American Symphony, it looks at the before and after of the war, in the opening segment, a plane is referred to as an object dropping incendiaries, then later the object lands with a visit from Eisenhower, there's a sense of the impermanence of history,'The war that ended like a kite whose string suddenly snaps-Where had it blown away to now?'. There's a sense of relief of the wars end, but also a bitterness and a greater sense of confusion and questioning of the future. This sense of unease seems to appear in many of Iijima's poems, Obstinate Anxiety being one where a heady unease transfers to physical sickness. Cut-Out Sky takes us into different territory, dreamlike, a woman delivers pieces of jigsaw like sky, pieces of her memories to the narrator of the poem, who sees in them a school child at a station, 'Among pieces of the sky now lost,There have been much clearer ones'. Streams and Rivers a longer poem in thirteen parts seems possibly drawn from Iijima's own experiences,starting from 1939 to the war's end, when Iijima was fifteen, and then jumps to just after Mishima Yukio's suicide, where the narrator examines an unnamed person's feelings, maybe addressing the collective consciousness, about Mishima Yukio, before and after his suicide. This collection similar to that of Dead Languages is in it's dual text, I'm not sure if this book is still in print, Asian Poetry in Translation was a really excellent series, number four in the series, Treelike: The Poetry of Kinoshita Yuji another I'd like to read.

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