Reading On Knowing Oneself Too Well

When I breathe,
I hear a sound rattling in my chest — 
A sound more merciless than a biting winter wind.


Ishikawa Takuboku died at an age of 26 from pulmonary tuberculosis. Sad Toys, quoted above, is one of the poems he wrote on his deathbed — dying penniless, hoping to buy more books to read. I am not sure how much he had read, but he sure has written more poems than most poets even dream of. It was not an unusual year if he penned a 1000 poems in it. In the most productive year, he also wrote 9 novels alongside the poems. Most nights he wrote at least 50 poems.

On Knowing Oneself Too Well collects his most well-known poems. What stands out is the immediacy he brings to all his poems. Based on what little Japanese poetry I have read — this seems to be a national trait. When Takuboku (Woodpecker) uses images, they are of scenes happening in the present — adding to the sense of immediacy. Reading him one feels a brutal commitment to being honest in his artworks.

Collected here are both Tankas and free-style poems. He preferred a 3-line tanka over the traditional 5–7–5–7–7 5-line structure, and employs it to great effect I guess — the form has not been preserved in the translations.

Go read.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.