* jamming with Yosano Akiko

Around the same time that I read Takuboku Ishikawa (see last week’s post), I also delved into the work of Yosano Akiko – famed tanka poet and friend to Ishikawa.

I was so taken up by her work that I couldn’t help but respond to her in several tanka.  Here’s one:

she speaks of the River of Stars
outside her window
and I cannot
but listen
on the other side


* Miya Masaoka *
* Miya Masaoka *

In the selections below, Akiko refers to an instrument called a koto (see photo).  I got to hear someone play one of these in the evenings while I waited for my train back when I worked in New York City.  Like most stringed instruments, its power is derived from tension.  When Akiko talks of destroying one with an ax, it is more than a metaphor – it is music.


from River of Stars – Yosano Akiko

While mother begins
chanting a deathbed sutra,
beside her, the
tiny feet of her infant,
oh so beautiful to see.


From her shoulder,
falling over the sutra,
a strand of unruly hair.
A lovely girl and a monk.
The burden of early spring.


The gods wish it so:
a life ends with a shatter –
with my great broadax
I demolish my koto.
Oh, listen to that sound!


And now you must ask
whether I’ve written new songs.
I am the mythic
koto with twenty-five strings,
but without a bridge for sound.


Happy sounding!


* photo found here.

One response to “* jamming with Yosano Akiko”

  1. […] week I’m sharing tanka by Yosano Akiko as translated by Roger Pulvers.* In a previous post about her work, I focused on the role of tension in her poems. This time around, I have selected […]

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