ARE YOU an ECHO: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko
Misuzu Kaneko (1903-1930) Japanese Poet and Songwriter
By chance I came across her ‘Snow Pile’ poem which draws me further into her remarkable yet tragic life and poetic legacy which is now being revealed around the world.
Born around a sardine fishing village and reared by her loving mother who worked in a bookstore, and later met her husband there, Misuzu became a very soulful and literary person, writing about the hardships, loss and death around her in simple poetry, especially for children. Fraught with her husband’s infidelities and contracting venereal disease from him, she suffered greatly; her only hope was her daughter, yet her despair deepened when her husband forbade her to write, took her child away after divorce and she ended her life at age 27.
In her short life, she composed 512 poems which are now translated in 11 languages. Most famous are these poems:
At sunrise, glorious sunrise, it’s a big catch! A big catch of sardines!
On the beach, it’s like a festival but in the seas, they will hold funerals for the tens of thousands dead.
I wonder why the rain falls from black clouds shines like silver.
I wonder why the silkworm that eats green mulberry leaves is so white.
I wonder why, everyone I ask about these things laughs and says, “That’s just how it is.”
Suddenly, I recall that town…the red rooftops along the river bank;
and then, on the waters of that broad blue river a white sail–quietly, quietly moving;
and on the grass of the riverbank a young man, an artist, idly staring at the water.
And I? What was I doing? When I think I can’t remember, I realize it was all a picture in a borrowed book.
The Japanese government aired “Are You an Echo” to encourage volunteers after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Misuzu Kaneko’s inspiration lives on in this museum
…Thankfully, this astonishingly beautiful poet is no longer forgotten…