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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More About Songs of Death and Fumiko Nakajo

Jane Reichhold, whose book Breasts of Snow - Fumiko Nakajo: Her tanka and her life taught me everything I know about Nakajo and provided the poems that I set in my new mini-cycle Songs of Death, has very generously given me permission to use the transliteration that she and coauthor Hatsue Kawamura (who, alas, has been in a coma for seven years) produced for the book, and also to quote them here in their entireties.

And, in very good news for anyone interested in reading these soul-shaking poems, Ms. Reichhold confirms what I saw in a 2004 review I found online: the book can be bought from her directly. She can be emailed at jane(at)ahapoetry(dot)com.

Here are the poems I set to music for Songs of Death, along with their translations:

shi ni chikaki
ware ni fuhen no
ai chikau
chinkon ka wa
hayakumo hibikeri

close to death
for me an everlasting
vow of love
in a requiem song
has begun to ring

yo no kaze ni
magire kitarite
waga nodo wo
yakusu sono te ga
tareka wa shireri

lost under the cover
of the night wind
my throat
is grabbed by a hand
and I know whose it is

hi wo keshite
shinobiyakani tonari ni
kuro nomo wo
keraku no gotoku ni
ima wa narashitsu

with the light off
stealthily something
moves to me
I have tamed it now
as if it were a pleasure

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