Monday, July 9, 2018

One Man's Maple Moon: Motherland Tanka by Shuji Terayama

English Original

striking a match
momentarily
I see the foggy ocean --
is there a motherland
I can dedicate myself to?

Kaleidoscope, 2007

Shuji Terayama


Chinese Translation (Traditional)

點燃一根火柴
瞬間我可以看到
被霧籠罩的海洋 --
那裡存在一個祖國
是我可以獻身的嗎?

Chinese Translation (Simplified)

点燃一根火柴
瞬间我可以看到
被雾笼罩的海洋 -
那里存在一个祖国
是我可以献身的吗?


Bio Sketch

The avant-garde stage and film director, poet, critic, author and founder of the experimental theater group Tenjo Sajiki, Shuji Terayama was born in 1935 in Aomori, Japan. He started writing tanka in his late teens and received the Tanka Kenkyu Award for Emerging Poets. He published several tanka collections before he stopped writing at the age of 30. Many of his tanka read more like scenes from a movie scene or short story. He died in 1983. The first English language collection of his tanka, Kaleidoscope, was published by The Hokuseido Press in 2008 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of  his death.

1 comment:

  1. The first 3 lines are based on Kakio Tomizawa's haiku. Using Kakio's haiku as a background, he re-created a very dramatic scene. It's like a scene from an old cinema. This technique is called honka-dori (writing a tanka using a phrase or an image from a well-known haiku or tanka). However, when this tanka was published, some people accused him of plagiarism ...

    -- excerpted from "Tanka of Shuji Terayama (1936-1983)by Kozue Uzawa," Simply haiku, 5:3, Autumn 2007

    Terayama was rarely understood and not easily categorized, an avant-garde artist who viewed life from a perspective far removed from the conservative norm of his day. Purists criticized his tanka and accused him of plagiarizing parts of other people's poetry -- which he did, utilizing a technique the Japanese call honka-dori, that is similar to the practice by rap music writers of mixing (sampling) parts of famous songs and fusing them into their songs to form a multifaceted sound collage. In this case, Terayama borrowed a phrase or image from a well known poem to add to his own tanka, forming a poetic, textured collage. Take, for example, the following haiku by Kakio Tomizawa:

    ippon no / macchi o sureba / umi wa kiri

    striking a match / I see fog / upon the lake

    Borrowing "striking a match" from Tomizawa's haiku, Terayama builds a complex, poignant tanka that transcends Tomizawa's shasei descriptiveness (realism):

    macchi suru / tsuka no ma umi ni / kiri fukashi / mi sutsuru hodo no / sokoku wa ari ya

    striking a match / momentarily / I see the foggy ocean ---/ is there a motherland / I can dedicate myself to?

    -- excerpted from "Kaleidoscope: Selected Tanka of Shuji Terayama translated by Kozue Uzawa and Amelia Fielden," A Review by Robert D. Wilson, Simply Haiku, 6:3, Autumn 2008

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