Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Salad Anniversary

Pushkin continue to excel in breathing new life into older titles with Salad Anniversary by Tawara Machi, a poetry collection that was a phenomenal bestseller, notching up sells that went into the millions of copies when it was published back in the late1980's, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter, Salad Anniversary was previously published in translation in an edition from Kodansha International, and has been given an attractive new jacket by artist Mio Matsumoto, (My Diary). Salad Anniversary contains fifteen poems in tanka style, many of which are concerned with the transitory nature of love, both attained, unattained and lost, that shift from the thematic to the literal. Tawara received the Kadokawa Tanaka Prize for her poem August Morning which is the books opening poem, the tone of the poems retain their freshness, although the tell tale mention on a number of occasions of the Southern All Stars, slightly displays and gives their age away, although this adds very much to the dimensions of the book and reflects the age of Tawara's poetry.

An aspect that prevails through the poems is a subtle sense of solitude, through the observations of relationships there are also many acute observations of the age which cast a glance to the generational gap between Tawara's generation with that of her father's, as in the short poem Morning Necktie, a tender portrait of her father with his half anxious criticism of her writing poetry, the poem remains not a harsh indictment but has an undeniable human, and in places tender quality to it, laced with a quiet humour, he sips his tea as if to say   "I'm not listening",  and observes how he continues to unhesitatingly call his wife mother, continuing the childhood domestic scene beyond it's need, the poem closes with forgiveness for her father's generation's  inability to express tenderness.   

The collection offers up many moments where Tawara's narratives are seeking to find their place in the bigger schemata of things or perhaps to realise their own form in relation to it and also in relation to the men that figure in the poems. In I Am the Wind, the narrator relates her relationship with a man who feels very much as being a political activist or with having political concerns, the poem observes the degrees of attention divided between her affections for him with that of his thoughts and relationship with his own political world view, these observations alternate throughout the poem as they study her thoughts of him, these at one point seem to congregate around a supposition of things seen through her contact lenses as she takes them out to clean them, the relationship teeters between existence and non-existence, diary entries kept blank filled in with pencil, the observations seem to plateau when the narrator visits a Van Gogh exhibition, stepping from picture to picture only to see her own image reflected in the glass in their frames. An added aspect that operates subtly in the background to the poems is that of the flowing of time, I Am the Wind starts with a letter written and of time beginning after the sticking of the stamp.  

The poem after this is Summertime Ship which relates a ferry trip to Shanghai, where things seen juxtapose the familiar with the unfamiliar, it too is a poem that is full of observations concerning the perceptions of the relationship between the narrator and the wider world. The poem takes in the sights and sounds of the visit, and ends with the narrator returning and setting off through the streets of Tokyo in the t-shirt worn which saw the Yangtze, the poem acts to document and witness the excursion. The title poem sees the narrative coming from a house wife whom it feels is in a marriage devoid of real love, a husband setting off for work, whilst carrying out domestic chores she dreams of Goa, the poem feels, as does most of the collection, to be tinged with the bitter sweetness of thwarted expectations, although they remain to question and reflect on standard demarcations of societal perceptions. Tawara's poems take their cue from first and last things, where the present day often or not acts as a spring board into reflections past and future, Pushkin Press have done a great job in making this landmark collection readily available again, Salad Anniversary is also accompanied with Juliet Winters Carpenter's afterword from 1989. Many thanks to Pushkin Press.     

Salad Anniversary at Pushkin Press

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