I still don’t know exactly how I found her, but somehow, someplace, something most likely having to do with feminism lead me to her poetry.
I started reading more Japanese love poetry only recently because I bought a book at one of my favorite places for book shopping – Goodwill – and found a collection of poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mario Aratani titled The Ink Dark Moon. The ancient court was filled with women geniuses. It was expected then for the women to be more insightful and more gifted with words than the men. The poetry I found was both erotic and spiritual, sensual and insightful.
From centuries ago and now to the beginning of the twentieth century, I happened upon Yosano Akiko. She was very ahead of her generation in her intellectual thought and practice. She was a feminist, she was a social activist – she was a mother of 13, 11 of whom survived into adulthood.
She was married to another poet, Tekkan Yosano, who was also an editor. Some of their poetry intertwined with his poem starting a thread of tanka and her poem in response to his tanka.
She wrote more than twenty volumes of tanka in her lifetime.
Roger Pulvers, author, playwright and director who is also a Japan Focus associate had these words to say about Akika Yosano: “Had Yosano Akiko been writing in English or French or German, for instance, her influence on 20th-century poetry around the world would have been immense.”
A brief sampling of her Tanka:
Two stars deep into heaven
Behind the nighttime curtain
While down below, now, people lie
Their hair in gentle disarray…
= = =
The day lengthens...
I snap off wild roses
Grasp them, put them in my hair...
I am weary of waiting in the field
= = =
We leaned against the railing
That runs along the bright bank
Of the wide Oi River at night
Dressed in light blue
In our very own summer!
= = =
Perhaps it is my search for feminist quotes that brought me to this phenomenal poet. She declared in 1911, “All the sleeping women are now awake and moving.”
My 2013 self says, “Are we?”
I feel as if she is daring me to not only wake more completely, but to serve as an agent of awakening for the women in my life.
Are you awake?
Are you moving?
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© 2012 by Julie Jordan Scott