Tada Chimako


Tada Chimako 多田智満子


One of Japan's most important modern poets, Tada Chimako (1930-2003) gained prominence in her native country for her sensual, frequently surreal poetry and fantastic imagery. Although Tada's writing is an essential part of postwar Japanese poetry, her use of themes and motifs from European, Near Eastern, and Mediterranean history, mythology, and literature, as well as her sensitive explorations of women's inner lives make her very much a poet of the world.

"Forest of Eyes" offers English-language readers their first opportunity to read a wide selection from Tada's extraordinary oeuvre, including nontraditional free verse, poems in the traditional forms of tanka and haiku, and prose poems.

Translator Jeffrey Angles introduces this collection with an incisive essay that situates Tada as a poet, explores her unique style, and analyzes her contribution to the representation of women in postwar Japanese
source : www.amazon.co.jp


Hiroaki Sato has written an essay about her with some of her haiku translated, for the journal "Roadrunner."
source : www.google.com

Here are some excerpts from Sato's essay:

In the last year of her life, the poet Tada Chimako (1930-2003) wrote haiku under the guidance of another poet, Takahashi Mutsuo (born 1937). This came about not just because the two poets admired each other... . It also came about because Takahashi is one outstanding exception in Japan. THere the reverence to specialization holds in poetry-writing as well, so that those who write tanka are called 'kajin', those who write haiku 'haijin', and those who write "poems" that belong to neither genre 'shijin', and each of the kajin, haijin, and shijin do not usually pursue the others' genre. In this milieu Takahashi, who started out as a shijin, went on to cover the genres of tanka and haiku, and won major prizes in all three branches.

....it was only after [Tada] was found to have cancer, in November 2001, that she decided to try her hand in haiku. We do not know why she did so, but the haiku she composed over a period of about a year while she was heading toward death turned out to be what Takahashi calls a "sickbed diary." ... [Tada] had a fine sense of style backed up with erudition and a solid grasp of what was possible in the sharply confined genre of haiku.

A selection of about 160 of Tada's haiku, edited and arranged by Takahashi, was published in two formats after her death: one as part of a memorial booklet and the other as an independent haiku book, titled
'Kaze no katami' (A Wind's Mementos).


The following are all translated by Hiroaki Sato:

'Cancer' that is Crab and also Cancer [headnote]

Shishi-za ryuuseiu hatete Kani-za no byooto e

Constellation Leo meteor shower ends and I to Constellation Crab Ward

Sato's footnote:
Heading to the first haiku. It refers to the fact that 'cancer' is the name of a constellation and as a sign in the Zodiac is the Latin for "crab," and is also the disease so named. The haiku that follows is hypersillabic, with "Shishi-za," Constellation Leo, adding three syllables.

Mi no uchi ni shi wa yawarakaki fuyu no ibo

Inside my body death is a soft wintry wart

Fuyu no hi no urete kozue ni furueori

The winter sun having ripened trembles at the treetop

Tsuwabuki no kage ya koneko no sarekoobe

In the shadow of a crested leopard lies a kitten's skull

Sato's footnote:
['Tsuwabuki'] 'Farfugium japonicum': a plant with bright yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom over roundish, fleshy leaves.

Hootai o hodokeba haru no miira kana

The bandages undone I am the very mummy of spring

Shunshuu ya Kusurimizu choo eki arite

Vernal melancholy: here's a station named Medicine Water

Sato's footnote:
['Kusurimizu'] A train station in Nara. So named because it is near a well-spring named after Kusurimizu Daishi, one of the names of the Buddhist proselytizer Kuukai, Kooboo Daishi (774-835).

Manazashi no ataru ya hata to tsubaki otsu

My eyes hit it and the camellia falls with a thump

Nami wa nami o kurunde marobu haru no suna

The waves roll up the waves and tumble over the spring sand

Komu haru ha haka asobisemu hana no kage

Come spring I'll play with my grave under cherry flowers

Mizusumachi mizu o fumu mizu hekomasete

A water strider treads the water denting the water

[my footnote: compare to a haiku by Murakami Kijoo:

Mizusumachi mizu ni hanete mizu tetsu-no gotoshi

A water-spider
bounces on the water, and
the water is like steel.

Tr. Ueda]

Mukashi chichi ariki asafuku Panama-bo

There once was a Father in a hemp suit and a Panama hat

Mukashi hana sudare makiaguru ude shiroshi

Once upon a time Mother rolled up blinds her arms white

Wasuretsukushite karoki kashira ya kagomakura

Having forgotten all my head is light on a basket pillow

Sato's footnote:
['kagomakura'] A pillow made of wicker or bamboo.

Inabikan shibuki ketatete ame hashiru

Lightning: kicking up splashes the rain runs

Tani kururu tagichi shiroki wa shiroki mama

The valley darkening the water boiling up white remains white

Nagareboshi ware yori ware no nukeotsuru

A shooting star: from my self my self drops away

Umi osoroshi nami ga tsugitsugi te o agete

The sea frightens, the waves raising their hands one after another

[my footnote:
Tada was a teacher who taught in Japan, and in the United States as a guest lecturer.]

Ha o nuide keyaki surarito tsuki no naka

Having shed its leaves
the zelkova stands svelte
in the moonlight

. keyaki 欅 伝説 Legends about the Zelkova tree .

Garandoo no yogisha akaruku meshiitaru

A totally vacant night train bright, is blind

Aki fukaki tonari ni tare ka tsume o kiru

Autumn deep someone next-door clips his nails

[my footnote:
perhaps an answer to Basho's haiku:

aki fukaki tonari wa nani o suru hito zo]

Tamanegi ya naka-kawa mukeba nani mo nashi

An onion: peel away seven layers and nothing is left

[my footnote:
Tada attended Tokyo Women's Christian University, and later taught European Literature.
Is this an allusion to Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils?]

Shiwa no te ga shiwa no shiitsu o nobasu fuyu

This winter my wrinkled hand smoothes out a wrinkled sheet

Yamihokete hato o namisuru karasu kana

Totally sick and silly a crow looks down upon a dove

Byooa tsui ni byoosu no naka ni sugomoramu

The sickly crow must finally nestle in her sickly nest

Kusa no se o noritsugu kaze no yukue kana

Riding from one blade of grass to another the wind goes where

- Compiled by Larry Bole
Translating Haiku Forum



The mirror is always slightly taller than I
It laughs a moment after I laugh
Turning red as a boiled crab
I cut myself from the mirror with shears


When my lips draw close, the mirror clouds over
And I vanish behind my own sighs
Like an aristocrat hiding behind his crest
Or a gangster behind his tattoos


Oh traveler, go to Lacedaemon and say that in the mirror,
Graveyard of smiles, there is a single gravestone
Painted white, thick with makeup
Where the wind blows alone

Tr. Jeffrey Angles


source : shimirin/blogs

From Kaze no Katami 風のかたみ

kame umemu kageroo kuraki tsuchi no naka

She wrote this haiku shortly before her death.


Japanese Reference

多田 智満子
1930年4月6日(戸籍上は4月1日) - 2003年1月23日

Related words

***** Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets 



Anonymous said...

Thank you. I enjoyed learning of and reading this imaginative kajin, haijin, and shijin. An important modern voice.

Gabi Greve said...

Thanks for stopping by, Donna!