Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shinkichi Takahashi is the Zen Wallace Stevens

Check out this poem by Shinkichi Takahashi, translated by Lucien Stryk:

Snow Wind

There's nothing more to see:
Snow in the nandin's leaves
And, under it, the red-eyed
Rabbit lies frozen.

I'll place everything on
Your eyeballs, the universe.
There's nothing more to see:
Nandin berries are red, snow white.

The rabbit hopped twice in the cool
Breeze and everyone disappeared,
Leaving the barest scent.
The horizon curves endlessly

And now there's no more light
Around the rabbit's body.
Suddenly your face
Is large as the universe.

Holy crap!!! I feel like this is the best translation from Japanese I've ever read. It sounds like Wallace Stevens! The line breaks (by which I mean the lines) are so perfect in English, and the sounds carry meaning -- see "I'll" and "eyeballs." Plus I feel like this encompasses ideas of nature that are both ancient/timeless ("snow in the nandin's leaves") and postmodern, post-Einstein (light, the universe, fractals, etc.) WOW. Good poem.


  1. I like the ending! It brings together big and small, general and specific.

    1. Doesn't it remind you of "A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts"? And not even just because of the rabbit? I wonder if this guy read Stevens.

  2. Replies
    1. Makes me want to write more poems about rabbits.

  3. Excellent poem--agreed! Wouldn't be surprised if the poet reads Stevens, but then again it could be that some of WS is emerging out of East Asian poetics. Is this author currently writing, or is S/he deceased?