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.

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