Autumn Night by Nagata Hideo and Yamada Kosaku (秋の夜 / 長田秀雄 x 山田耕筰)

Silently illumined  In the moonlight
The sorrowful crying  Sound of insects
Silently darkening  The autumn night
Inviting loneliness  Sound of insects

しづかに照らす 月かげに
あはれなきよる 虫の聲
しづかに更くる 秋の夜の
さびしささそふ 虫の聲

NOTES:

Nagata Hideo (1885 – 1949) was a Japanese poet, playwright and scriptwriter.

Yamada Kosaku (1886 – 1965) was a Japanese composer who left behind approximately 1600 pieces of music.

The words were written by Nagata, and Yamada set them to music. You can hear a performance of the song here.

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Still Life by Tomioka Taeko (静物 / 富岡多恵子)

Your story has ended
By the way, have you
Eaten anything today
Yesterday your mother said
I wish I were dead

You took your mother’s hand
Went outside and walked around
And looked at the sand-colored river
And the landscape around the river

In France they say the willow weeps
And sometimes so do Bonnard’s women

Yesterday you said
Mom, when did you give birth to me
Your mother said
I never gave birth to a living thing

きみの物語はおわった
ところできみはきょう
おやつになにを食べましたか
きみの母親はきのう云った
あたしゃもう死にたいよ

きみはきみの母親の手をとり
おもてへ出てどこともなく歩き
砂の色をした河を眺めたのである
河のある景色を眺めたのである

柳の木を泪の木と仏蘭西では云うのよ
といつかボナールの女は云った

きみはきのう云ったのだ
おっかさんはいつわたしを生んだのだ
きみの母親は云ったのだ
あたしゃ生きものは生まなかったよ

NOTES:

Tomioka Taeko (b. 1935) is a major Japanese poet, novelist and critic. She also wrote the screenplay to a famous film, Double Suicide (心中天網島, 1969). She was born in Osaka, and she graduated from Osaka Women’s University with a degree in English literature.

Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947) was a French artist.

Sunset by Yoshihara Sachiko (日没 / 吉原幸子)

 Clouds sink
 I want to be with you
 
 Birds burn
 I want to be with you

 Tides fall
 I want to be with you

 Soon now
 Everything will be one

  Fingers trace
  Between the odorless hours
  Death trembles

 Ants sleep
 I want to be with you

 Winds stumble
 I want to be with you

 Soon now
 My dreams will end

 Everything is
 Silent

* * *

 雲が沈む
 そばにゐてほしい

 鳥が燃える
 そばにゐてほしい
 
 海が逃げる
 そばにゐてほしい

 もうぢき
 何もかもがひとつになる
 
  指がなぞる
  匂わない時間の中で
  死がふるへる

 蟻が眠る
 そばにゐてほしい
 
 風がつまづく
 そばにゐてほしい

 もうぢき
 夢が終わる

 何もかもが
 黙る  

NOTES:

Yoshihara Sachiko (1932-2002) was a major 20th-century Japanese poet.

In An Instant by Yoshihara Sachiko (ふ と / 吉原幸子)

In An Instant

Some   very important word
was on the tip of my tongue
when out of the corner of my left eye
white peonies
suddenly   unbearably
scattered   in such a tragic way
and when I turned back
along with the flower petals
just like that   the word went away
It always happens   like this
important things just   slip away
like love
and moments of beauty
and even secrets   never revealed
All around me
there are spies
so I’ve started working   on a new cipher
to hide the bodies   of my dead words

ふ と

なにか とてもだいじなことばを
憶ひだしかけてゐたのに
視界の左すみで
白い芍薬の花が
急に 耐へきれないやうに
無惨な 散りかたををしたので
ふり向いて
花びらといっしょに
そのまま ことばは 行ってしまった
いつも こんなふうに
だいじなものは 去ってゆく
愛だとか
うつくしい瞬間だとか
何の秘密も 明かさぬままに
さうして そこらぢゅうに
スパイがゐるので
わたしはまた 暗号をつくりはじめる
ことばたちの なきがらをかくして

Yoshihara Sachiko (1932-2002) was a major 20th-century Japanese poet. I first discovered her voice several years ago through nine of her poems that were translated by James Kirkup in Modern Japanese Poetry (1978). Some of her poems have also appeared in other Japanese poetry anthologies, including Women Poets of Japan (1977), translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Atsumi.

Yoshihara Sachiko graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1956 with a degree in French literature. In 1964, her first book of poetry, Childhood Litany (幼年連祷), was published. Other collections include Fish, Dogs, Girls (魚たち・犬たち・少女たち, 1975), The Day I Saw the Blackbird (ブラックバードを見た日, 1986), and Luminescence (発光, 1995).

A Swing After Rain: Free-Form Haiku by Sumitaku Kenshin (住宅顕信)

どこまでも寒い青空が続く

the cold blue sky goes on
as far as I can see

青空に並んで冷たい墓となる石

lined up against the blue sky
cold graves made from stone

淋しさきしませて雨あがりのブランコ

loneliness
creaks
a swing
after rain

誰もいない壁に近くすわる

there’s no one here
I sit close to the wall

握りしめた夜に咳こむ

in the seized night
a coughing fit

自殺願望、メラメラと燃える火がある

wanting to kill myself,
an all-consuming fire

さめて思い出せない不安な夢

I wake up
and can’t remember
my anxious dreams

手が汗ばんでいる夢を見ていた

my hands are sweating
from the dream I had

聞こえない鳥が鳴いているという

unable to hear
it is said
the birds still sing

春にはと思う心に早い桜

spring is I think
early cherry blossoms
in the heart

窓に病人ばかりが耐えている冬空

the window is full
of sick people enduring
winter sky

冷たい朝をゆく健康な人の背ばかり

going away in the cold morning
the backs of healthy people only

NOTES:

Sumitaku Kenshin (1961-1987) was a haiku poet who practiced free-form haiku (自由律俳句). He died of acute myelocytic leukemia before his 26th birthday. In his lifetime, he only self-published one volume of poetry, but the free-form haiku magazine Kaishi (海市) published a number of his poems. After his death, much of his work was collected in a volume called Unfinished (未完成).

Poems taken from kaishi-haiku.com.

Lonely Sounds: Free-Form Haiku by Sumitaku Kenshin (住宅顕信)

月、静かに氷枕がくずれる

moon,
silently
my ice pack
collapses

病んでこんなにもやせた月窓に置く

sick as I am
thin
the moon in my window

エレベーターの顔の中のひとつの顔

a face
inside the face
of the elevator

面会謝絶の戸を開けて冬がくる

open the door that says
NO VISITORS
and winter comes in

窓に雨がけむる明日への不安

rain fogs up the window
anxiety about tomorrow

病んでいる耳に死を告げられた

I am ill
death ringing
in my ears

一人だけの淋しい物音たてている

all alone
lonely sounds
surround me

ひとかたまりの影を離れる

letting go
a cluster of shadows

病室を出て秋の山呼吸している

leaving the hospital room
autumn mountains
breathing

朝月残る昨日のこと考えている

morning
the moon is still here
thinking about yesterday

雨音、夜の池深く落ちる

sound of rain,
falls deeply in
the night pond

NOTES:

Sumitaku Kenshin (1961-1987) was a haiku poet who practiced free-form haiku (自由律俳句).

Picture and poems taken from kaishi-haiku.com.

Images: Free-Form Haiku by Sumitaku Kenshin (住宅顕信)

ずぶぬれて犬ころ

soaking
wet
puppy

春風の重い扉だ

spring wind’s
heavy door

月が冷い音落とした

the moon let fall
a cold sound

水音、冬が来ている

sound of water,
winter is on its way

一人の灯をあかあかと点けている

one person’s light
brightly lit

立ち上がればよろめく星空

when I stand
staggering
starry night

焼け跡のにごり水流れる

muddy water flows
from the burned out rubble

風ひたひたと走り去る人の廊下

wind rushes
down
the corridor

月明かり、青い咳する

moonlight,
pale coughing

冬の長い影おとして歩く

winter’s long shadow
falls
and
moves

NOTES:

Sumitaku Kenshin (1961-1987) was the pen-name of Sumitaku Harumi (住宅春美).

In the seventies, he read a lot of poetry and books about religion and philosophy, and, interested in Buddhism, he started taking correspondence courses through the Central Buddhism Academy (中央仏教学院) in 1982. After completing the coursework the following year, he became a monk at Nishihongan Temple (西本願寺), where he changed his name to Kenshin.

In 1984, he was hospitalized with acute myelocytic leukemia (急性骨髄性白血病). Four months later, his wife gave birth to a son, but, because her husband’s illness was incurable, she soon divorced him at the request of her parents, and Kenshin took responsibility for the boy and began raising him in his hospital room.

That October, he discovered free-form haiku, and he decided to start writing his own. He was especially fond of the work of Ozaki Hosai.

In 1985, Kenshin self-published The Experimental Notebook (試作帳), but his condition grew worse over the next year.

At 11:23 p.m. on February 7, 1987, Kenshin passed away. He was 25 years old. Although he was a haiku poet for less than three years, he left behind 281 poems. The year after his death, a collection of his work, Unfinished (未完成), was published.

All poems translated here were found at kaishi-haiku.com.