December 17, 2022

Kusano Shinpei (Japan) 1903-1988

Kusano Shinpei (Japan)

Kusano was born in Nagano in 1903, and at the age of 18 moved to Canton, China. It was there he graduated from Lingnan University, where he learned his English. The stay in China brought a closer relationship to Chinese literature than perhaps for any other Japanese poet, and Kusano drew upon Chinese words throughout his writing career. 
     In 1935, he and friends founded the monthly magazine Rekitei (Historical Process), which grew eventually into a poetry group of over one thousand members. 
       He returned to Japan in 1939, but because of World War II, published very little new work until the late 1940s. Among his many works from 1948 to the time of his death were Botan En (1948, Peony Garden); Kowareta Orugan (1968, The Broken Organ); Zenten (1975, The Entire Firmament); Ken'kon (1979, Heaven and Earth); Unki (1980, Cloud Passage); Gengen (1981, Pitch Pitch); Genjō ((1982, Mysterious Lake); Mirai (1983, The Future); Genten (1984, Northern Frimament); Genkei (1985, Dreamscape); and Jimon Tamon (1986, Asking Myself/Asking Another). 
     His collected writings appeared as Kusano Shinpei Zenshū in 1978-84. Kusano became a very popular poet throughout Japan, and Japanese school children all knew his poems about frogs. 
     He was a frequent talk show visitor, and the Royal family often sought him out for occasional poems. 


Daihyaku Kaikyō (1928); Botan En (1948); Kowareta Orugan (1968); Zenten (1974); Ken'kon (1979); Unki (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1980); Gengen (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1981); Genjō (Toyko: Chikuma Shobō, 1982); Mirai (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1983); Genten (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1984); Kusano Shinpei Zenshū (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1978-1984); Genkei (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1985); Jimon Tamon (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1986). 


Frogs & Others, trans. by Cid Corman (New York: Grossman, 1969); Asking Myself, Answering Myself, trans. by Cid Corman (New York: New Directions, 1984); Mt. Fuji—Selected Poems 1943-1985, trans. by Leith Morton (Rochester, Michigan: Katydid Books, 1991)

Aki no yo no kaiwa

cold, isn’t it?

ah, it’s cold.

the insects are crying, aren’t they?

pretty soon they will go inside the earth, won’t they?

inside of the earth is bad, isn’t it?

you lost weight, didn’t you?

you too lost a lot of weight, didn’t you?

where do you think it hurts?

in the stomach, you suppose?

if we take our stomach out we will die, won’t we?

we don’t want to die, do we?

cold, isn’t it?

ah, the insects are crying.


-Translated by Haider Ali Khan

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