Shabdaguchha: Logo_new edited by: Hassanal Abdullah issue: 67/68

Shabdaguchha: Issue 67_68


Poets and Translators:

Kazue Shinkawa  
Rin Ishigaki  
Shinmin Sakamura 
Fumio Kataoka 
Kosaburo Nagatsu 
Jotaro Wakamatsu 
Naoshi Koriyama 
Hal Sirowitz 
Stanley H. Barkan  
Kelven Ka-shing LIT 
Peter Thabit Jones
Mike Graves 
Bishnupada Ray 
Hassanal Abdullah
Dhanonjoy Saha 
Matin Raihan 
Naznin Seamon
Anisur Rahman Apu 
Tushar Prasun 
Shiblee Shaheed

Book Review:
Nicholas Birns  
Caroline Gill 

William Heyen  
Bill Wolak

Cover Art:

Monique Ponsot

New Logo:

Najib Tareque

Shabdaguchha Title: Issue 68

Six Japanese Poets

Translated by Naoshi Koriyama

    Kazue Shinkawa (1929 -)

    Kazue Shinkawa (1929- ) was born in Yuki City, Ibaraki Prefecture. She started writing poetry under the guidance of Saijo Yaso, while she was a student at Yuki Girls’ High School. She has published many books of verse, and is one of the most popular poets in Japan. Her Complete Collection of Poems was published in 2000.


    Where am I going,
    I wonder?
    Life is a wilderness.
    Even so,
    one has to go along
    by walking on foot.
    On a windy day
    the thicket of shrubs rustled,
    ruffling my hair.

    Days and months pass,
    drifting away.
    Love too drifts away.
    Even so,
    we can’t live
    without love, can we?
    On a windy day
    old memories turned up,
    hurting my old wounds anew which I thought had healed.

    The white road continues on and on
    Life is a journey.
    Even so,
    there should be some branches
    on which one can alight like a bird.
    On a windy day
    I walked along,
    elling myself, “There are flowers in the fields far away.”


    I feel as if a new mountain arose
    somewhere . . .

    I feel as if a new river began
    to flow
    somewhere . . .

    I feel as if a new window opened,
    releasing a thousand pigeons
    somewhere . . .

    I feel as if a new love began to come
    toward me
    somewhere . . .

    I feel as if a new song is about to come out
    and the lip of the world is about to utter, “Ah!”
    somewhere . . .


    You have been flowing, haven’t you, River?
    You didn’t sleep last night, as always.
    You kept diligently washing
    the round moon reflected on your face.
    I saw the moon returning
    to the western sky at dawn,
    washed clean white by you
    and a little thinner.

    I have been staying at this old hotel
    by your riverside for three days now.
    On the desk by the window
    my writing paper remains open,
    not a line written in it.
    How can I ever hope to write a line
    in front of the wonderful line of yours?

    You have in your single line
    a thousand fish swimming.
    You have been singing songs since time immemorial,
    and moreover, singing a new song every day.
    You give moisture to rice paddies and gardens on either side,
    lighting lamps under the roof of each house.
    Your hand has a firm grip on the essentials
    of the lives of people living there.
    The hand sometimes
    runs errands elegantly,
    carrying a message of a young man of upper reaches of the river
    to a girl of lower reaches, entrusting his feeling to a flower.

    I am poor,
    dried up both in mind and body.
    It’s because I wanted to lie by your side
    and partake some portion of your fertility
    that I came to this hotel close by you.

    You keep flowing, don’t you, River?
    While flowing,
    you teach me
    that on the other side there is Nirvana.
    I wonder if I can ever get there,
    when I have never washed a moon’s shadow,
    nor carried a single flower.
    You, River.

    Translated from the Japanese by Naoshi Koriyama

    Rin Ishigaki (1920 - 2004)

    Rin Ishigaki (1920 - 2004) was born in Tokyo. Upon finishing elementary school, she started to work at a bank in 1934 as a maid. She started to be known with her poetry around 1950. One of her poems, “Hands,” is included in World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time (Norton, 1998).

    It is essential
    that you put a doorplate by yourself where you live.

    The nameplate other people post up for you
    where you stay
    has never been good.

    When I got in the hospital
    my doorplate was posted, saying “Miss RinIshigaki,”
    not just“Rin Ishigaki.”

    When you stay at a hotel,
    no doorplate is posted on your room.
    But when you get into the cremator in time,
    they will hang a nameplate
    on the closed door, saying “Miss Rin Ishigaki.”
    Can I ever refuse that?

    You should not put
    “Miss” or “Madam”
    before your name.

    It is essential
    that you post up your doorplate by yourself where you live.

    You should not let others put a nameplate
    to the place where your mind is, either.
    It’s good
    just as “Rin Ishigaki.”


    A war broke out.

    Two airplanes taking off from the two countries
    dropped their atomic bombs
    on each other’s enemy country at the same time.

    The two countries were completely destroyed.

    Only the crew members of the two planes survived
    of all the human beings in the world.

    How miserably
    or how happily did they live together, I wonder?

    This may become
    a new legend.


    They say
    that the time has come,

    and that snowslides occur
    because the season of snowslides has come.

    The vow for eternal peace and the peace of mind we had
    when our country had thrown away arms.
    When we got free from the power and conflicts
    of other countries of the world,
    the hibernation of our humble country
    was good in its own way,
    no matter how inconvenient it was in some ways.

    eternal peace,
    the silver-white world covered with the color of peace only.
    Yes, the word “peace”
    came falling like powder snow,
    piling up thick,
    on this narrow land of Japan.

    While patching up my broken stockings
    or knitting something,
    I would look out, taking a rest from time to time.
    And I felt relieved.
    No bombs exploded and there were no red fires here.
    And I occasionally felt
    that I was more comfortable in this country
    than in any other country seeking hegemony.

    But time passed quite quickly,
    and while the firewood I put in is still burning,
    they have now begun buzzing,
    saying that the time has come,
    and that they can’t resist the times.

    The snow stopped long ago.
    Under the pile of snow
    tiny buds of ambitions, falsehood, or greed are concealed.
    If an utterance: “As everyone else has come to behave like that,
    there’s nothing we can do to stop it,” begins to roll
    somewhere in a distant peak,
    other piles of snow are prompted to join,
    and all the snow now comes rolling down,
    saying, “It can’t be helped,” “It can’t be helped,”
    “It can’t be helped.”

    Look! The snowslide!
    The words gather more
    and more momentum,
    ever spreading out,
    ever approaching.

    I can hear it.
    I can hear it.

    Translated from the Japanese by Naoshi Koriyama

    Shinmin Sakamura (1909 - 2006)

    Shinmin Sakamura (1909 - 2006) was born in Kumamoto Prefecture. He went to Korea in 1934 and returned in 1946 to settle down in Tobe, Ehime Prefecture. Taught Japanese at a high school. His philosophy of life is based on Buddhism. Some of his poems are reprinted in school textbook anthologies in Japan.


    “You say you always get up at 3 or 4, don’t you?
    and what do you do?”
    the other guy asks me suspiciously.

    I just laugh, “Ha, ha,”
    but on some days I don’t do anything.
    On some days I just wait for daybreak blankly.
    On many days, I just sit,
    thinking of Rilke,
    or pondering on Cezanne.
    But for me,
    this vacant hour is most important,
    the tranquil hour before dawn.
    This pure hour is most pleasant to me,
    just sitting quietly,
    building up my own world.

    When van Gogh’s voice sounds
    like a divine revelation,
    I rise to my feet,
    moving from despair to hope,
    from death to life,
    from the present to the future.
    Give me a soul that won’t collapse.
    Give me an unyielding strength
    with which I can live for art,
    enduring poverty.


    Just because it’sheart-rending,
    don’t close your eyes on it.
    Just because it oppresses you,
    don’t hesitate to speak out.
    You should see what you should see.
    You should speak out what you should speak out.
    You should call out
    to every corner of the world.
    You should appeal
    to entire humanity
    for the anger,
    for the grief,
    for the lamentation
    of Hiroshima.

    Translated from the Japanese by Naoshi Koriyama

    Fumio Kataoka (1933 - 2014)

    Fumio Kataoka (1933 - 2014) was born in Kochi Prefecture. Graduated from Meiji University. He belonged to a poetry group, “Chikyu (The Earth)” While teaching at a high school, he wrote poetry, and won some poetry awards.


    The night seems to be like a boat made of plain wood.
    Each of us has not carefully looked at each other,
    and each one rides one’s own boat.
    We need to let the current drift us from now on.
    My wife and daughter, my father and mother, too,
    passing through me and out of me,
    go drifting each toward the distant nebula.
    Parting from each other’s life is not cruel.
    Like a hackberry tree nonchalantly swaying all the time,
    soaking its branches’ shadows in the surface of the river in the daytime,
    our parting
    is brought together
    in the nebula of human blood sadly swirling.

    I lie on the sideless boat,
    feeling rightly congenial.
    It seems I have reached the end of the current.
    At the village of cells that keep me awake,
    the air is clear,
    and I wish to drift on
    even farther to the endless expanse.


    At night
    cherry blossoms scatter toward heaven.
    The world is a retina
    and each petal quivers
    at the endlessness of its warm world.
    In time the petals become a flock of cranes
    and flutter
    away into the expanse of death.


    As for its color of light pink,
    in what part of the petal
    is the bashfulness concerning its consciousness

    In the cherry blossom season,
    the light falling on us obliquely
    sometimes urges the bright scenery to move
    toward the gloomy horizon.

    At that time, for a very short time,
    cherry blossoms’ petals light our feet
    with a special glint
    that we can’t find anywhere else.

    We are now invited
    toward dizzy tranquility,
    toward its fearful bank,
    by an invisible big hand
    silently placed around our back.


    What was a year anyway?
    A flood didn’t do much damage this year, did it?
    A winter sun is shining on the chicken coop
    in which five chickens have drowned.

    What was the ten years anyway?
    Our daughter is struggling with adverbs
    in the subjunctive mood in her grammar.
    Our son is still watching the bloody Abdullah the Butcher wrestling on television.
    What was the twenty years anyway?
    If I open the partition wall,
    my wife is still washing the underwear.

    What was the thirty years anyway?
    Invited, I rushed to the widower’s rented house,
    where my childhood friend is taking out his reading glasses.

    What was the forty years anyway?
    My father is now like an old game-cock,
    while my mother is still sewing the afterglow into the ground.

    Well, the Earth will take a nap.
    Eternity too may be as quick as a wink,
    and I’ll stay up like a night watchman.

    Translated from the Japanese by Naoshi Koriyama

    Kosaburo Nagatsu (1934 - )

    Kosaburo Nagatsu (1934 - ) was born in Hiroshima, but he was in Yamaguchi Prefecture at the time of the A-bombing. After graduating from high school in Hiroshima, he started to work for a bank and started to write poetry. He has written many poems about Hiroshima.


    Did you see Hiroshima?

    Have you been to Hiroshima?

    I beseech you to visit Hiroshima.

    The jumbles of barracks in front of the station have been developed
    and department stores have been built.
    The fields leading to the army’s drill ground have become the station buildings
    for the bullet trains.
    Things change in half a century.

    We don’t see any scars of war anywhere now.
    But people live quietly hiding their scars.
    Few are the A-bomb survivors who can talk about their experiences now
    and they keep silent, holding their sorrow for having survived.

    Soon the temporary barracks have been replaced
    with modern residential buildings.
    Streets are widened and newly built,
    a bit different from what we remember.
    New bridges have been built and vehicles are going over them.
    Now Hiroshima is a major city for the new century
    with a population of 1,200,000.

    On that day, high schoolgirls gathered to the first aid station
    around Nigitsu Shrine
    but now bullet trains dash by on the elevated railways
    through the station and a row of buildings.
    Am I foolish to try to remember the old Hiroshima?
    Or is it too natural that the image of old Hiroshima should fade away?
    Are these cries of the shadows in our hearts going to fade away?
    Please inhale the air of Hiroshima now!

    Did you see Hiroshima?

    Please come, visit Hiroshima now.

    Please inscribe the image of Hiroshima on your hearts.


    Has Hiroshima

    It has changed.
    Since that time
    survivors of the A-bomb
    have stopped
    talking about the A-bomb.

    Has Hiroshima

    It has changed.
    Young people
    are no longer interested
    in the A-bomb.
    They don’t want to know about it.

    The number of school excursions visiting Hiroshima
    has decreased every year, as I hear.
    People just shout for the Peace Movement,
    And survivors of the A-bomb who can talk about it are dying out.
    Memories of the poets too are fading, aren’t they?
    Their voices are getting thinner, aren’t they?

    Has Hiroshima

    It has changed.
    The streets have become much more beautiful.
    It’s a major city now with many green spots.
    There is a ferry for sightseeing boats around the Atomic Bomb Dome
    and pleasure boats are moored.
    But prices seem to be a bit high.

    Has Hiroshima
    It hasn’t changed.
    Things can’t change:
    the pains of the wounds of the ghosts;
    the remaining ruins in the hearts
    of those who have survived.

    Please, don’t forget Hiroshima.
    Please pass a piece of heavy thoughts on to others.
    Please don’t let the memories of Hiroshima fade away.


    I’m trudging wearily.
    On the other side
    Electric wires and utility poles are
    I’m trudging wearily. On the other side
    Now the i that is dead
    And the i that is faintly alive
    Are trudging wearily.

    Rags and
    Flesh and skin peeling off, hanging down with rags,
    Their faces swollen,
    Men and
    Women cannot be distinguished, they don’t care.
    They are faintly alive now,
    Just barely breathing.

    They are naked,
    But they don’t feel embarrassed.
    Where is their dignity
    Of being human beings?

    Views are simply flat.
    Broken concrete walls are barely visible.
    The beings that were human being a while ago are
    Now a mass of corpses.
    Only occasionally someone is found alive, breathing.
    Of skeletons of human beings are trudging
    Wearily . . .
    Just trudging wearily . . .
    Only god knows whether they are just walking.

    Translated from the Japanese by Naoshi Koriyama

    Jotaro Wakamatsu (1935 - )

    Jotaro Wakamatsu (1935 - ) was born in Oshu City, Iwate Prefecture. He lives in Minami-Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture. He visited Chernobyl in 1994, that is eight years after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl. Has written many poems about the tsunami of 2011 and the ensuing nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s No. 1 plant, in Fukushima.


    In an ordinary year
    it would have delighted many people’s eyes.
    But the blossoms of this 300-year old pink weeping cherry fell
    with no viewers admiring them this year.

    In the middle of the small grave yard on the hill
    the tree embraces the grave yard with its branches spreading.
    Shone on by the setting sun, the blossoms show a mysterious hue.
    The pink weeping cherry tree blooms for the dead.

    One can see the sea from the hill in the distance.
    From the seaside which the tsunami has attacked
    one may see the pink weeping cherry tree’s mysterious blossoms.

    It blooms only to comfort the dead.
    It blooms on the hill with no viewers around,
    because no one is allowed to come due to the nuclear disaster.


    Man has learned to raise crops.
    Man has learned to keep animals.
    Both raising crops and keeping animals
    are the proof that man is man.

    If man hasn’t been able to raise crops, when he has farm land,
    and if he hasn’t been able to keep animals, when he has animals,
    and if he hasn’t been able to catch fish, when there are fish in the sea,
    since that certain time,

    man can’t be called man,
    can he?


    When I was a child, I thought,
    “I’d like to live till I’m sixty-six.
    If I lived till I’m sixty-six,
    I could see the 21st century.”
    The 21st century in my imagination was
    an age of Utopia,
    when there will be no war;
    when everyone will have a rich life.
    But the age I lived in
    was an age of indiscrimination, huge massacres,
    an age which was haunted by Death,
    beginning with the air raids of Guernica.

    Am I a god of Death
    by any chance?
    If I die,
    will an age like this come to an end?

    I’ll die before long,
    but I’d like to see if we can dispose of
    the foolish thing called “nuclear energy”
    which our foolishness has invented.

    Translated from the Japanese by Naoshi Koriyama

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Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah