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Summer 2005, vol 3 no 2

Tanka ~  Kawano Yuko
                Translations by Amelia Fielden

From Like a Forest, Like a Wild Beast (1972):

on the afternoon
it was decided I should
take time off school,
my doctor suddenly, softly
told me "read the Book of Job"

giving him
an unripe apple,
the only positive thing
that I did
before we parted

in the evening
immersed to my lips
in lukewarm water,
I think of sexual desire
as a yellow summer flower

when you
approached me
of fresh-mown morning grass,
my nipples stiffened


From Bindweed (1976):

my heart full
I soak in the night bath
as in a spring,
this body which has born
a second life

light held close
I wiped a speck
from your eye
suddenly, vividly,
realizing I am a wife

throb, throb
as strongly as my pulse beats
detesting this man
I climbed out
of my hot bath

in the deep hush
the voice of a cicada
sings on and on --
after giving birth
in dawn light I hear it

dimly glowing
between night
and day
above the bindweed
was the moon

the bindweed flower
you put in my bashful hair
has faded
in the delicate light
of the evening

Editor's Note: Kawano Yuko (1946 --) is one of the leading tanka poets of Japan. The above selections are taken from a work in progress, 100 Excellent Tanka by Kawano Yuko, selected from her first ten collections by Manaka Tomohisa, in 2004, translated by Amelia Fielden with the assistance of Kozue Uzawa.

Amelia Fielden, who resides in Australia, is fast becoming one of the most prolific and accomplished translators of tanka in the English-speaking world. Her translations are noteworthy for their achievement as English-language poems, as well as faithful translations of the original. —MMcC

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