Jacobson, David & Misuzu Kaneko. Are You An Echo: The Lost Poems of Misuzu Kaneko. Chin Music Press: Seattle, WA., 2016. ISBN 9781634059626
When Setsuo Yazaki reads a poem by Misuzu Kaneko, he sets off to find out about this mysterious poet. On his search, he finds her brother, who has over 500 poems written by his sister. This book is about Misuzu Kaneko’s life and bringing to light her forgotten poems.
This book is exceptionally beautiful. Half biography and half poetry anthology, this book is sure to capture its readers hearts. I was very moved by this book, you will be too. The narrative tells of Misuzu Kaneko’s life and eventual death. When Setsuo Yazaki set out in search of information on Kaneko, Kaneko’s brother shared with him her life story and the 512 poems that were contained in the diaries he had. Yazaki later went on to publish her poems. After the 2011 tsunami, a network aired Kaneko’s poem “Are You An Echo”. The poem reached millions and brought the country together during a horrible crisis.
The narrative is brilliantly written and very moving. It simply tells of her life, and how her poems came to be known to us, but it is very powerful prose.
Her poems are just as moving. The later half of the book is selected poems, both in English and Japanese. These poems are gorgeous. The imagery is very powerful. The smilies and metaphors are used very well.
“Let’s not tell anyone.
In the corner of the garden this morning,
a flower shed a tear.
If word of this spreads
to the ears of the bee,
it’ll feel it’s done wrong
and go back to return the nectar.”
This is called Dewdrop. I chose it because of it’s powerful personification of the bee and its ability to connect a human emotion, like regret, with an animal. I also chose it because of its beauty and connection with the natural world. All of her poems are like this, in that she uses all that is natural for her poetry. I also love the comparison of a dewdrop to a tear. I find it remarkable.
This would be a great book to use when talking about Japan or nature.