Though every elementary school student in Japan is familiar with Misuzu Kaneko’s poetry, relatively few in the English-speaking world are familiar with her work.
Marked by a refreshing ingenuousness, curiosity, and extraordinary empathy for the world around her, Misuzu’s poems resonate with people of all ages, demonstrating that quiet, gentle words have their own special power.
Let’s not tell anyone.
In the corner of the garden this morning,
a flower shed a tear.
If word of this spreads
to the ears of the bee,
it’ll feel it’s done wrong
and go back to return the nectar.
Thanks to this breathtakingly beautiful picture book, a new audience of North American children can now read a selection of Misuzu’s poetry in English, learn about her short tragic life and the fascinating backstory of how her work was lost for half a century before being rediscovered in 1982.
In Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko (Chin Music Press, 2016), author David Jacobson frames the story of Misuzu’s life with an account of how young student poet Setsuo Yazaki read one of her poems and was so impressed by it that he spent the next 16 years searching for more.
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 sea, they will hold funerals
for the tens of thousands dead.