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Translated by William I. Elliott and Kazuo Kawamura
When I stroll along this field,
the kind and cunning sky hiding nothingness
behind its back,
I wonder what kind of wind blows in that forest?
from `Sonnet 52'
Shuntaro Tanikawa, the most inventive poet in Japanese poetic history, is also that country's most popular, and arguably its best, contemporary poet. Born in 1931, he published his first book of poems when he was 21, his most recent a year or two ago. This selection from the substantial bulk of his writings demonstrates his versatility and his originality.
One original feature of his work is that he does not write haiku. But haiku-lovers will not be too disappointed, because the poems have the compactness and the points of focus which the haiku form teaches. Original, too, are the ways in which Tanikawa has absorbed and transposed elements of European and American culture for his own distinctly Japanese purposes. He is at times like a philosopher in the game-room of language, at times a child let loose in the great garden of world poetry.
Praise for Shuntaro Tanikawa 'What poetry and protests have in common, perhaps, is that they are both a means to interfere with the noise of dominant culture. The poetic voice of the Japanese master Shuntaro¬ć Tanikawa allows us to perceive our life and take a break from it, when we are left at a loss to deal with it alone.'
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