If you’re heading to the Ledbury Poetry Festival this weekend you have a very rare opportunity to hear a reading by one of Japan’s most celebrated poets.
Machi Tawara‘s first book of poems, Salad Anniversary (1987), combined the classical tanka form with the subject of a modern love affair. It became a sensation, selling over 2.5 million copies; the ‘salad phenomenon’ in Japanese culture was comparable to the ‘bananamania’ that followed the publication of the first novel by Tawara’s contemporary Banana Yoshimoto.
She has since published several more books of tanka, translated classical Japanese poems and stories into modern Japanese, and hosted TV and radio shows bringing tanka to a wide audience.
As editor of Magma 34 I was delighted to feature the first UK publication of Tawara’s poetry in the issue: a selection of translations from Salad Anniversary, and her later collection Pooh’s Nose, about the first months of motherhood.
Tawara-san will be reading with Sinead Morrissey at 2.30pm this Sunday 14th July at Ledbury. Details on the Ledbury website.
Here is a brief selection of Machi Tawara’s tanka published in Magma 34, by kind permission of the poet and the translator, Quentin S. Crisp:
Three tanka from Salad Anniversary (1987).
Lunch on a sandy beach.
An egg sandwich left untouched
bothers me somehow.
“Phone me again,” you say
and put down the receiver.
And I want to phone you again
A sea that seems to say
all the lies I have told in my life
don’t matter one bit.
Three tanka from Pooh’s Nose (2005)
There is a music to crying.
Again today I carry a newborn baby
like a guitar.
Living is reaching out with one’s hands.
The ﬁngers of an infant
close upon the nose of Pooh Bear.
Rocking, but not moving forward.
Childrearing is this rocking horse-time
that you have given me.