September 11, 2014

Takahashi Shinkichi

Takahashi Shinkichi [Japan]


 Takahasi Shinkichi was born in a fishing village on the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku, in 1901.

     Self-educated, he left his village as a young man seeking a literary career in Tokyo, which resulted in a period of great difficulty, ultimately forcing the young man to return to his home village penniless. Reading an essay on Dadaism, however, he again grew excited about a writing career and returned to Tokyo, working as a waiter and a “pantry boy” in a newspaper office.

     In 1923 he published his first major work Sekai daihyakka iiten (Dadist Shinkichi’s Poetry), receiving the first printed copy behind the bars of a police cell, where he had been imprisoned after what he described as his early “impulsive actions.”

     By 1928, Takahashi sought out the advice of a Zen Master, and became a disciple of Shizan Ashikaga, a figure known for his severe discipline. The poet spent 17 years training and studying under the Zen figure.

     The poet visited Korea and China in 1939, where he was deeply impressed by the Zen writers he met. Now surviving through his writing, production several books from 1936 to 1943; in 1944 he began working for a Tokyo newspaper, but left it when it was bombed in the following year.

     In 1951 he was married, living with his wife and two daughters in great serenity for the rest of his years.

     Takahasi’s work began to be translated in the United States and English in 1970.

     Like all awakened Zenists he found no separation between art and life, knowing the achievement of no-mind led not to right art but to right living. The world, he claimed, is always pure, we with our “dripping mind-stuff,” foul it. In 1979, Takahasi wrote Zen and Aesthetics.

     The poet died in June 1987.




Sekai daihyakka iiten (Tokyo, 1923); Hakkyo (Tokyo: Gakujishoin, 1936); Ezo tōbai shikō (Tokyo: Shōwa, 1936); Shishū amagumo (Tokyo: Shōwa, 1938); Jinja Sanpai (Tokyo: Sangabo, 1941); Kirishima (Tokyo: Reimeichosha, 1943); Chichi Haha (Tokyo: Reimeichosha, 1943); Yamatoshimane (Tokyo: Youshokakuakamonshobou, 1943); Dōgen: sono shisō to gyōjitsu (Tokyo: Hōbunkan shuppan, 1969); Zen to bungaku (Tokyo: Hōbunkan, 1970)


Afterimages: Zen Poems after Shinkichi Takahasi (London: London Magazine Editions, 1971) / (New York: Doubleday, 1972) / Knotting, Bedforshire, United Kingdom: Sceptre Press, 1977; Triumph of the Sparrow: Zen Poems of Shinkochi Takahasi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986) / (New York: Grove Press, 2000); Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter. Translated and Edited by Lucien Stryk and Tahahasi Ikemoto. (New York: Grove Press, 1997);

For a selection of poems in English, go here:

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