Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Autumn 2005, vol 3 no 3

TANKA

Kawano Yuko
Translations by Amelia Fielden

 

From The Cherry Blossom Forest (1980):

is the child me
am I the child?
inseparable
child in my arms I bathe
child in my arms I sleep

 

from my willingly
rain-beaten hair
comes a smell --
I belong to no-one,
not then, not now

 

when contours
come to look clearer
in the twilight
" mummy, mummy"
calls my younger child

 

the child
having drawn a large oval
on white paper
steps into the oval
and plays by herself

 


From The Spirited Male (1984):


I can see
the faint, happy swaying
of dappled cattle
as they go to gather
in a sunny hollow

 

I am a living creature
with two children,
so even a little lizard
makes me feel
the pain of existence

 

From Koh (1991):

onto my face
someone else's face has come
and there are signs
it is ageing
independent of me

 

From Time Passes (1995):

the wife of his poems,
I am always
a mysterious wife --
an unfinished verse
lies on his desk

 

From Vital Forces (1997):

tiny voices,
lots of tiny voices
telling
of the February woods
coming into bud

 

From Home and Family (2000):

for a good-luck charm
I want one volume
of tanka poetry
so I can be a poet
for the next thirty years

 


From To Walk (2001):

selecting tanka
I grow sleepy, but
when I go downstairs
there is someone else
busy selecting tanka

 

From My Tanka Diary (2002):

the space between them
is so silent --
leaving those five lines
where he wrote of her death,
he began a new paragraph

 

placing both hands
on top of the heat from
the three hundred and sixty
tanka I've sorted through,
I stood up

 

though it's the fall-out
from his overwork depression,
what loneliness --
" don't use my dictionary",
he growls at me

 

they are valued
tanka manuscripts, so
putting brown rubber-bands
on cross-wise,
I place them on my knee


Editor's Note:

Kawano Yuko (1946–) is one of the leading tanka poets of Japan. The above selections are taken from the newly published book, As Things Are, 100 Tanka From 10 Collections by Kawano Yuko, 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. Look for an extensive and lively interview of Amelia Fielden, which I was privileged to conduct over the summer of 2005, in the next issue of Simply Haiku, v3n4, Winter 2005. — Michael McClintock


Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku